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Are there books you turn to again and again to inspire your muse or strengthen your writing?

This post (and a few to follow) is about those books I most often recommend to my creative writing students. Why? Because each of these books covers a lot of ground in an easy, accessible way. You won’t have to search through dozens of densely-written paragraphs or pages to find the information you need.

Give these titles a chance. Give your writing a chance.

If you’re lacking in inspiration, curl up with a copy of If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland. This classic retains its value, especially for the overly self-critical writer. It gives you delightful permission to write as yourself. It’s sincere, spiritual, and wise.

No writer should be without the Beginning Writer’s Answer Book, edited by Jane Friedman. Published by Writer’s Digest Books, this book is a nearly complete reference for newbies and experienced writers, alike. It covers writing and selling novels, nonfiction, and short fiction; how to market scripts; and addresses how to write a book proposal and find an agent. It contains hundreds of questions, and more importantly, their answers.

The next on my list is The New Writer’s Handbook: A Practical Anthology of Best Advice for Your Craft and Career, edited by Philip Martin. It comes in two volumes, both superb resources. They contain helpful essays on a variety of writing topics. Don’t miss essays by This American Life‘s Ira Glass (whose brief advice on writing stories applies to both fiction and nonfiction) and by Stephen Moran, who could be billed as the literary Simon Cowell.

These are the first books I recommend to my students. Got any you’d like to share?

For more tips on being a better writer, see How to Become a Writer and Calm Down! It’s Just a Draft.

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10 Responses to “3 (or 4) Terrific Books for Aspiring Writers”

  1. The Brenda Ueland book is my all-time favorite writing book. I love her essays (columns) and her autobiography, as well. I’m going to check out the other two you mention. Thank you!

  2. Great, Kelly. They’re fantastic books.

  3. I’ve read none of those, will add to my to-read list, order at least one for now. Thank you for your suggestions, Lynette.

  4. Shirley says:

    I too love Brenda Euland. I think I first was inspired by her in the 1980’s. I did not know the other two books on this list, but I have created a genre-related list that might help anyone interested in memoir specifically. Anything Jane Friedman does is excellent!

    You can find all posts I’ve done on this subject at this link. Readers have added more.

  5. Shirley says:

    Oops. That’s Ueland, not Euland.

  6. Thank you, Shirley. As always you’re a font of wisdom and information! I’m going to check out your link. I know it’ll be excellent, so I’ll tweet it, too!

  7. Yay! Four more titles to add to my craft TBR list. I’ve read so many over the past two years, but there’s still a lot to learn. Thanks!

  8. As long as reading them doesn’t keep you from writing, Jolyse! ;-)

  9. I love “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg. That book really put some serious fire in my writing. I’ll check out the books you suggested. Thanks!

  10. Hope you find them helpful, Janelle. (I like Writing Down the Bones, too. If you’re writing memoir, check out Goldberg’s Old Friend From Far Away.)

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