One of the things that makes me feel less insecure when I am struggling to stay positive is learning about how other famous authors struggled early in their careers and how they mostly just pushed on regardless... Enter the world of 'how to' books! During my own writing adventures I have gained great insight and been grateful for those (usually) famous authors who have shared their knowledge of craft to help other would-be thriller writers.
In the beginning I read these books for their insightful advice on developing all the usual writerly skills – this in the days before writers blogs took off. And it wasn’t as if I was ignorant about writing, I studied for a creative writing degree at University and went on numerous writing courses/conferences etc where I not only learnt from lecturers but could also talk to those who had written successfully.
But always I came back to my 'how to' books. After all ,that is the bedrock of our profession – books. When I look at my bookshelves I can see I have amassed quite a collection of writing books over the years – some good, some not so good. But the interesting thing for me is that they still provide me with inspiration! Whenever I feel a bit down – usually after a rejection or a fit of self doubt - I pull out one of my favourites and re-read. it always lifts me and fills me once again with a sense of enthusiasm. As does taking part in ISWG !
I also turn to my books when I am struggling with a particular issue like the setting, characters or editing and revising. In the planning stages of a book my approach has been different with each project, (taking advice from my how to books) but the plus side is I now know what works best for me. So here’s some of my gems:
My all time favourite:
Stephen Kings ‘On Writing’
‘How to Write a Damn Good Novel’ James N Frey.
‘The Key’, James N Frey.
‘How to Write a Damn good Thriller’, James N Frey.
‘How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy and Speculative Fiction’ J.N Williamson.
‘Hooked’, Les Edgerton.
‘Lessons From a Lifetime of Writing’, David Morrell.
‘Writing the Breakout Novel’, Donald Maas.
‘How Fiction Works’ Oakley Hall.
‘The Techniques of the Selling Writer’, Dwight Swain
And for a light-hearted read:
‘Wannabe a Writer’, Jane Wenham Jones.
So who are you favourite ‘how to’ authors?