Painters learn what a good painting looks like by studying other paintings. Film makers learn how to structure a movie by looking at other movies. It would stand to reason then, that writers learn to write by looking at other writers works (AKA books).
Today I wanted to talk about books that not only inspired to be a writer, but books that have made me a BETTER writer.
The first novel I ever remember reading that made me think: This is what I want to do, was Double Identity by Margret Peterson Haddix. I read it in third grade and after that I started writing my first novel… or book with ‘chapters’ which I thought was a novel at the time! After that I just knew it was what I wanted to do. I wanted to make an experience for people just through a few words. I still have my copy and keep it up on my shelf for when ever I need inspiration. I still read her newer books.
Next, many years later, I read WAKE by Lisa Mcmann. I checked it out at my local library, and was totally hooked! I can’t tell you how many times I read that novel. After checking it out for the fifth time my mom finally just bought it, because she got tired of its reappearance every-time we went to the library. That was me at 13. Lisa taught me a lot about novel structure now that I’m thinking about it. Anyone who has ever read anything by her knows her style is very sparse, and almost choppy, in its bluntness. Lisa is a no frills kind of gal. And that was really beneficial to me as my 13-year-old writer self. At the time I was ALL frills. I never finished anything I started, and got lost in globs of purple prose that would make your eyes burn if you saw them. Wake showed me I didn’t need all that, and it made for easy display of how plot was supposed to be set up. Their were no extra words to muddle what she was saying, and that’s when I really started understanding how novels really worked, or in my case didn’t work.
At the point I started taking writing more seriously, and I got into reading non-fiction writing books. That brings us to The Forest For the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner. This novel really put publication, and writing for readers into perspective for me. Up until this point I was just writing for me, and while that’s always great, if you plan to get published you have to write for the public too. This is an awesome novel for any writer who wants to improve their craft, or just learn about the publishing world.
Finally, and most recently is Shades of Grey by Jasper FFordes (no the two F’s are not typos). I read this just a few months ago. Shades of Grey is an Adult dystopian novel. Until then I’d (this is embarrassing) always been a bit afraid of modern adult literature. The only thing I’d seen of it was my Father’s Clancy novels, some really boring biographies. After I read this novel the line between Adult and YA fiction really blurred for me. Even though you are technically writing for two different “groups” you are still writing for PEOPLE, and it made me realize that a good story is just a good story no matter who is reading it!
These novels were big turning points for me as a writer. What about you guys? Anything change you in a writerly way?