Writer Shaun Levin shares a list of seven books written by established authors to inspire your next writing project
In the age of sordid literature, there’s never been more incentive to be an author. The boundaries to publishing success have never been easier to climb; the rewards have never been glitzier or more lucrative.
But writing can be a decidedly tricky business. Unlocking our creativity, and then channelling it into a piece of work that is structured and coherent, is a task that continues to baffle millions of writers. When we’re short on inspiration and desperate for ideas, writing a successful book appears about as easy as solving a rubik’s cube while riding a unicycle.
Thankfully, there are plenty of resources out there that can help us get started. Below, Shaun Levin (@shaun_levin), writer and creative writing proffesor, shares a list of his favorite books, all of them written by established authors. If you dream of penning the next great novel but don’t know where to begin, these books will all point you in the right direction.
Writing Down The Bones, by Natalie Goldberg
Goldberg is a doyen of New York’s creative scene, having penned 15 books during her long and illustrious career. Her work is dedicated to the art of writing and helping all of us unlock the talent that lies within us.
Writing Down The Bones, published in 1986, is arguably Goldberg’s most famous work, having sold over 1 million copies and been translated into 14 languages. The book’s strapline is ‘Freeing The Writer Within’ and it provides a manual for the modern author, based on the enduring genius of simplicity.
Goldberg shows us how to strip writing back to its core principles, and harness the disciplines of Zen meditation to get into the ideal creative zone. Rather than bombarding us with nostrums and jargon, Goldberg tells us that writing is a fundamentally simple art; only by relaxing, and thinking with true clarity, can we scale our creative heights.
Steering the Craft, by Ursula Le Guin
‘Sailing The Sea of Story’ is the essential proposition of this book, and the voyage of discovery features a number of fascinating stop-offs, each of them providing a practical takeaway for those who want to chart the choppy waters of literature.
The late Ursula Le Guin, an acclaimed master of science fiction, shares the lessons she has gleaned over a lifetime of success. The book drills down into the nuts and bolts of writing, discussing practical issues such as passive v active voice and present v past tense. As a technical guide for the modern author, it has few parallels.
The Practice of Poetry, by Robin Benn and Chase Twichell
These two published poets map out a series of exercises to help you channel your inner Larkin or Chaucer, and back up their advice with essays that give the reader food for thought. Both Benn and Twichell teach poetry themselves, and this comes through in their clear, accessible instructions.
If you want to start experimenting with stanzas and rhyming couplets, or you want to teach the art of poetry to students, this book provides an invaluable reference-point.
Writing From the Inner Self, by Elaine Farris Hughes
If you like working in groups, or with friends, this is an ideal choice for you.
Like many of the other books on our list, Writing From the Inner Self provides practical tutorials, rather than abstract theory. Its advice is broken down into a series of prompts and tips, and the writing advice is augmented by meditation exercises that will help you smash through the dreaded writer’s block and get into the zone to create.
The 3AM Epiphany, by Brian Kiteley
It’s one of the most frustrating things about being a writer: when you want an idea, it never arrives. Then, when you’ve already submitted your assignment, suddenly the creativity starts flowing like a 1959 Chateau Lafite.
Brian Kiteley’s book purports to solve this problem. Through a series of relevant, down-to-earth tips, the book will help you uncork your creativity whenever you need it. Rather than bricking up your talent behind a wall of pressure and anxiety, you’ll be able to tap into your inspiration without having to wait, and produce works of genuine quality at times that suit you.
We can’t guarantee this book will turn you into the next JK Rowling, but at least you’ll be able to produce your best work –- without having to wait for those magical moments of inspiration to show up.
The Writing Book, by Kate Grenville
This book is based on one simple rule: there are no rules (at least when it comes to writing).
Author Kate Grenville, who has 15 published books to her name, doesn’t burden her readers with diktats or instructions. Instead, she helps her audience make their own rules by guiding them through the writing process, explaining all the building blocks that go into a successful work of fiction.
This isn’t a book of whys. Instead, it focuses on the hows, helping readers move towards their final work in a way that is structured and easy to follow.
This Year You Write Your Novel, by Walter Mosley
The writing world can be brutally arrogant, a place where pseudo-intellectuals rip into one another’s work with furious abandon. But Walter Mosley’s book is having none of that.
Mosley is a best-selling author in his own right, with a particular flair for crime fiction. But the advice he provides in The Year You Write Your Novel is friendly and down to earth, offering a series of brilliant insights on essential topics such as how to weave a narrative, how to hook your reader, and how to get to the meat of your story without being sidetracked in the preamble.
Mosley combines his literary career by teaching his art to upcoming students, and this experience comes through in this book, which is as practical and down-to-earth as one of his fictional detectives.