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The Library, The Writer's Desk

F is for Five on Friday

In keeping with the A-to-Z Blog Challenge, today’s “F” is for our weekly “Five on Friday”. This week, it’s our five favorite writing books for established and aspiring writers alike.

Bird by BirdThis classic memoir on writing by Anne Lamott must be on every writer’s bookshelf. It’s inspirational, self-deprecating, and provides not only a loose framework for your writing career, but for life, as well. Our favorite piece of advice? Embrace the “shitty first draft”. Realizing that the first thing you write is probably going to be shitty is liberating. The point is to just get writing. Revision comes later.

On Writing. This is Stephen King’s memoir on writing. As ardent fans, we enjoyed the stories of his youth (especially the time he lived near our own hometown in Connecticut!), when he was starting his craft. He received rejection after rejection after rejection. Look at him now! While the chances are probably slim that most of us will be as successful as King is, he gives hope to the discouraged. He also includes pragmatic advice, such as how the editing process works and the “toolbox” that every writer should have (which includes tools such as grammar and vocabulary, and elements of style). Like Lamott, he provides useful advice to the writer just getting started with his “Door Shut” analogy. It’s advice we use to this day—write your first draft with the door closed. This frees you to write what you want, how you want, without the spectre of the reader in your mind. When you’ve revised and edited, then you can open the door.

Writer Mama: Raising a Writing Career Alongside Your Children. Christina Katz gets it. She knows what it’s like to be a mother trying to nurture a writing career. Her practical, hands-on advice help writer mamas get organized and get serious. She provides a guide from taking your writing from idea to publication. At the end of each chapter are exercises for the writer to keep you on track. We’d also suggest following her on Twitter and reading her blog, which inspired Lynn to write this about her own writing experience.

Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Writer Within. Barbara DeMarco-Barrett’s memoir/creative writing guide is another must-have for your writing shelf. The chapters are bite-sized nuggets of wisdom, each ending with a  15-minute exercise to get your creative juices flowing. Our favorite chapter is on “Harvesting Words”, because like DeMarco-Barrett, we just love words. (What writer doesn’t?) Her exercise for that chapter includes writing down five words a day for a week that you’ve read or heard spoken and that move you. It’s one of the reasons we follow the Twitter feed for @everyword, a project to tweet every word in the English language. (As of this writing, they are on “plenitude”.)

The Writer. Ok, so technically it’s a magazine, not a book. But we look forward to our monthly The Writer fix.  There’s always something interesting to read. Author interviews, writing book reviews, step-by-step guides, just to name a few. We especially love the “Breakthrough” feature, which highlights how a new author broke into the market for publication. At the back of the magazine is something critical for all writers—a listing of current markets. If you only subscribe to one writing magazine, we would recommend The Writer.

What are some of your most trusted writing books? Where do you turn to for advice on your career?



7 thoughts on “F is for Five on Friday

  1. For someone who is just trying to get those shitty first drafts churned out, I feel like there’s good help now 🙂 Thanks!

    Posted by mel | April 6, 2012, 11:34
  2. I have a few of those books and I currently get writer’s digest mag. Sounds like I should add the writer as well. Thanks 🙂

    Posted by mshatch | April 6, 2012, 19:03
    • I used to only get Writer’s Digest, but then they changed the format a few years ago and it didn’t appeal as much to me. So I started The Writer. I did have both subscriptions concurrently last year, but had to cut back. I may re-subscribe to WD digitally if I get a tablet this Easter!

      Posted by A Common Sea | April 6, 2012, 22:18
  3. I have a couple of those but I’ve never seen the one for mothers. That’s what I need! But does it also tell you how to juggle a 60 hour a week job on top of kids and writing?

    Posted by Kate Larkindale | April 6, 2012, 21:51


  1. Pingback: J is for Just Do It! « A Common Sea - April 11, 2012

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