Wednesday, 6 February 2013

ISWG - Inspiration From Successful Writers

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.
‘Stein On Writing’, Sol Stein.
‘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?


  1. It's always inspiring to read how other people have dealt with the same problems. I think Margaret Atwood has written a book on writing, I keep meaning to look that one up.

    1. Yes -I have that one too! It's called 'negotiating with the dead.'

  2. That list of books sounds damn good...especially the ones by Frey. Have you seen my Progressive Book Club? It's just getting underway with its first book on Feb. 20. We'll be doing a couple of craft books and throw in a work of fiction every third month.

  3. Hey, Pat!

    I do this too! Mostly, I surf the web and type in stuff, like...famous authors who were rejected. That's a good list you have. I love Sol Stein. No matter how many times I go over his book, I still find something. :)

  4. I love On Writing as well, wonderful book! I'm not familiar with some of these though, I will need to check them out. I always need writing inspiration. Thanks for sharing these, great idea for the IWSG!

  5. Stephen King is awesome. I've read several of those books, and they were all a comfort.

  6. Odd how even though we struggle we still imagine that other writers don't, or at least that they don't so much as we do. I suspect that many of them struggle harder and that's how they've become successful.

  7. Great post! As writers, we should never stop learning. I'm a huge fan of ON WRITING, it's undoubtedly my go-to favorite of all the how-tos. And I'm a brand new fan of the just released ART OF CHARACTER by David Corbett—fabulous if you want to plunge the depths of your character's psyche.

    ~VR Barkowski

  8. I'm not a 'how to' reader. I know a lot of people read 'how to' books, but reading what someone says just doesn't do it for me. I try to learn from reading my fiction books. When I read books, I'm able to see what they did good and what they failed at. It's my way of learning the craft.

  9. I agree, it's incredibly encouraging to read about the less-than-easy path faced by many successful writers.
    I haven't read these, although I do of course 'keep meaning' to read Stephen King's. And I'm interested to see several Frey books in your list.

  10. When I started reading this, I was hoping you'd list the books you liked out of your collection! I've only read On Writing, and have been meaning to read it again, as I haven't done so since it first came out. I read Writers Digest, but need to get some more quality writing books.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

  11. Those are some really great books. When I get down, I like to read how other famous writers had a hard time but in the end succeeded as well. Great post.

  12. Pat, you pretty much covered all the great book that I've read while looking for inspiration. Stephen King's book "On Writing" really struck home with me in a time period where I went to the library every week to check out 5 more books on writing. I still visit that same section every time I visit the library. Another thing I've been doing lately to try to learn and increase my reading intake it listen to books on CD while commuting back and forth to work. Great Post!

  13. All the list of books sounds soo good...especially the ones by David Morrell.I always inspire to live and entertain simply.The Equation