Part memoir, part how-to writing guide, On Writing is a must-have for all aspiring authors. Stephen King lays out the bare bones in his writing process as well as the story of how he became one of the world’s biggest authors. Each section will leave you feeling inspired to write… and also to hunt down Stephen King books to read or re-read. The one thing I remembered most about Stephen King when I was a child was how his books, or the movies his books were based on (Langoliers, anyone? It?) left me with scared of bathrooms and dark hallways for days on end. Unfortunately, I was born an inveterate scaredy cat and an addict to horror movies and books. Not a good combination.
I picked up the 2006 edition in a secondhand bookstore, but it’s still a great and pretty much timeless guide for any aspiring/beginning writer. Your First Novel is written by both a literary agent/bestselling author team and offers great directional basics to starting, as the title says, your first novel! For me, I found the book provided a great guide to figuring out how to structure my writing process so I don’t get too lost and bogged down in the inevitable quicksand that writing a book can be. (What, structure? You mean, like taking notes and planning chapters, scenes, et cetera? You mean, lose the spontaneity and passion that comes with writing off the top of your head?) Yup. Like everything else, it’s good to keep a balance of both structure and spontaneity in your writing. Balance is the key to everything!
Stuck on the motivation/driving force behind the characters in your first novel? Look no further than The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. Here, Campbell takes a look at the Hero’s Journey, the psychology and character transformations behind almost every hero in traditional mythology fables. Still unconvinced? Amazon cites The Hero with a Thousand Faces as the inspiration behind George Lucas’s Star Wars and the influence behind dozens of creative artists from writers to game designers and filmmakers.
I must admit, The Hero with a Thousand Faces is a little hard to slog through, a little more textbook-ish than the other books on this list, but it’s definitely worth reading to get to the heart of this book, especially if you love mythology stories as much as I do (and who doesn’t??!). Plus, the third edition hard cover copy is gorgeous.
I have yet to get my hot little hands on this book, but the word in publishing and writing circles is this is the book to read for aspiring authors hoping to land themselves a literary agent and a publisher. Literary agent extraordinaire Donald Maass has waded his way through many a slush pile and knows a good book when he sees one – so what better way to fine tune your manuscript to make it a book that will rise above the hundreds of submissions agents receive every day?
A couple of other books to look at: the 2013 Writer’s Market and the 2013 Guide to Literary Agents. It’s a bit of a hard call on whether to actually buy these books because new editions come out every year, and books are updated annually. However, from the reviews I’ve read, they seem to be fairly comprehensive guides for any writer looking to get published. Still, there is a plethora of very good, free resources on query letters, literary agents and how-to guides on writing on the Internet (and I’m going to give you a list of these links in a post coming soon). But as with all things on the Internet, it can be an effort wading through Google Search to pick out the good resources from the bad, and there can be some outdated information not to mention web links that don’t follow through to where they should go. These books have already done the research for you, so if you have the money to spend and you’re looking to land a publisher/agent in 2013, go right ahead and make the purchase – or try hitting up your local library, which is an awesome resource for writers’ resources!