Reading and Writing, Tip 7 of 7

by Annie McCormick

When you’re not writing, I would encourage you to spend time each week reading about writing.

There are several books I love.  They look like the textbooks (and cookbooks) I’ve had over the years.  When you put them down, they fall open to a key page, there are endless notes in the margins, you will find post-it tabs on important pages for quick reference, and the all-important take-me-back-to-the-80’s neon highlighter capturing the most important of the thoughts shared. I have a system that I’ve deployed since my days in undergrad and it continues to serve me well.

When I’m not reading these books, they sit on a bookshelf as if watching over me.  If you have read some of these, good for you. Read them again.  If not, they are worth space on your nightstand. I’ve referenced them in past posts, but thought I’d summarize the what and why for you:

Write Away by Elizabeth George is my favorite. I love her novels and her insights in this book are smart and super relatable. She leads a writers’ conference in Italy periodically.  #bucketlist

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott was the first book I ever picked up when I decided to make a life choice to write.  She’s inspiring, witty, encouraging and whip smart. If you don’t follow her on Twitter, start today.

Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody; this is not only a book title, it’s a phrase you’ll hear often in presentations, conversations, and in meetings with your writing coach. “You need a ‘save the cat’ moment here” they will say to you, assuming you know exactly what that means. And you should. She has another book on screenplays as well as several resources, built on the Save the Cat premise, that are great tools for a writer when you want to organize your thoughts, find your way forward and imagine how to get yourself out of a situation.

On Writing by Stephen King is another must-read.  I will admit to being terrified at the thought of just picking it up. It is written by Stephen King after all.  But no nightmares, no unsettling scenes, no terror… just great insights, stories, and humor.

Dryer’s English is a great celebration of word nerds and Benjamin Dryer is super cool.  I also bought his calendar and have decided that a lesson a day is an easier way to digest this content.

Story Genius by Lisa Cron frames out strategies for storytelling and grabbing your reader. You need to know how people read, so you can write.

Every industry has thought leaders and voices of wisdom. The profession of fiction writing is no different. My habit is to set aside 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week to be inspired, find a solution, and learn something new.

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