You probably have that story you wrote that’s so terrible just thinking about it is embarrassing. Letting anyone read it is unthinkable. It’s probably the first book you ever wrote. When I started writing, there were a lot of things I didn’t know how to do. Even now, I’m still learning but back then I didn’t even have the basics down. I was especially terrible at writing not telling emotions.

Here are a few books that helped me improve my writing.

On Writing Horror by The Horror Writers Association

I love this book. It’s a collection of essays by well-known horror authors. My copy is a little mangled. I used this one a lot.

 “Find the single facet of that thing that frightens you–that which most everyone can relate to–and use that one facet as a weapon to frighten your readers.” (Michael Marano)

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

I read this book much later in my writing career but it’s become my second favorite. I bought it thinking it would just be an interesting read but it’s more than that. Bradbury drops some serious wisdom.

“We never sit anything out.
The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.
We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled.”

On Writing by Stephen King 

This one is tied for number two. I didn’t particularly care for autobiographies but this book Zen in the Art of Writing helped me appreciate them. Like Bradbury’s book, On Writing gives some amazing advice. It’s also encouraging to reading about King’s early years.

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

Characters, Emotion and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress

Here’s another book that’s gotten a lot of love, as you can tell from the ripped corner. It gives you a nice deep dive into perspectives. It’s also one of the books that taught me how to write emotions.

“When you write emotional dialogue, consider whether it’s being said at an emotional moment or after the moment has passed. The latter can be more abstract, naming emotions directly (‘I loved that dog,’ ‘I’m grateful’). Keep the former as direct and visceral as the character’s temperament allows.” 

Breathing Life Into Your Characters by Rachel Ballon

Another book that taught me about writing emotions and generally crafting well-rounded characters. It also talks about Jung’s concept of the Shadow, which I’ve always been interested in.

“In essence, as you make friends or enemies, people learn more about your backstory, just as they learn about your character’s backstory through his [or her] relationships.”

These are a few of my favorite writing books. What are yours?



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