Our book inc Team Members Reveal Their Favorite Craft Book
October is National Book Month! Not NaNoWriMo. That’s “National Novel Writing Month” during which intrepid writers attempt to write an entire novel in a month, and that’s next month! No, October is just about our love of books in general.
We are celebrating National Book Month with book inc, Project Write Now’s book-writing community. And what better way to celebrate books than to ask book writers what is their favorite book ABOUT writing? We surveyed our book inc team members, including this year’s and next year’s Peer Artist Leaders. Here are their responses:
Current Memoir Incubator writer Donna Beriont tells us:
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by the brilliant Stephen King gave me the best advice on writing, thus the title. He starts by saying you have to write what is in your heart. King says writing starts with a word, then a sentence, and finally a paragraph. He tells his wanna-be writers to part with all useless adjectives and to know that when you put it all together it can become a divine accident. That is what propelled me to write my debut memoir Our River House Days with raw honesty and a dose of hope.
Tina Goodyear, who will be our 2023 Memoir Incubator Peer Artist Leader, says:
For motivation and inspiration, I always turn to a tiny little hardcover book called Thinking About Memoir by Abigail Thomas. The book just feels good in my hands and never fails to oil up the rusty wheels in my brain. Through a series of funny, poignant, and often slightly inane stories based on her memories, Thomas takes us into her mind (and heart) in order to help generate our own ideas. Every so often, and always well-timed, she provides an unusual prompt to start or continue the writing journey. In just over 100 small pages, she conveys the sense that we all have something of value to say and provides some tips and structure to do so. Most important, she reminds us that we can’t skirt around the messy stuff of life in memoir. Somehow, Thomas is able to deliver a punch—”Be honest, dig deep, or don’t bother”—while making the reader feel completely safe to do so.
While writing my memoir this year, I kept The Emotional Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Becca Puglisi nearby on my desk. I would turn to it when I needed help thinking of creative ways for my character to express feelings. Are they feeling lonely? Then they might give a heavy sigh. Elation? Then they might break into a run. It’s such an amazing tool for writers!
Dorothea Brande’s seminal Becoming a Writer is my touchstone when I’m in that unsettling in-between place after finishing a work and beginning a new one or when I’m totally stuck. Brande brings me back to the elemental aspects of writing—consistency, developing the muscles to write anytime anywhere, and most important, writing immediately upon awakening to tap into the unconscious. (Confession: I don’t listen to her mandate to do so before morning coffee!)
To become a writer, the one thing you must do is write. No amount of craft knowledge will help you if you do not have the material to apply it. James Clear’s book Atomic Habits is not about writing but about building habits. He writes, “Your identity emerges out of your habits.” I read and listened to his practical tips. I made tiny changes in my life that added up to a writing routine that has made me a writer.
I would say a book I turned to frequently when writing my first novel was Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. This book describes the 15 structural elements or “beats” used to drive a story forward and develop character arcs. These beats, often written into screenplays, should appear at certain points in the overall timeline of the story. Save the Cat breaks down several popular stories into these beats to help readers and writers analyze them by looking at examples. It also includes a visual of a storyboard that helped me arrange my scenes into a story with three proportionate acts. Since I am writing young adult fiction, I am looking forward to the release of Save the Cat Writes a Young Adult Novel, scheduled for May of 2023.