These 4 Books Changed My Writing
They made writing cool again.
Writing seemed new and fresh after I started understanding it.
I used to think writing was boring. In grade school we are taught writing in a rigid way that makes it a chore. I did just enough writing to scrape by. I was good enough to get A’s and that was enough for me.
If I wanted to improve, I had to think differently.
I used to think that writers writing about writing was foolish. Now I know that I was the foolish one, and that others teaching their skills is how we learn. I needed to learn from them, not only to make writing in school less of a chore, but to improve my personal writing.
I began to devour anything and everything about writing. I became obsessed with it. I studied books from academics, professionals, and creatives. I watched videos, and read articles. Something cool started happening.
Everything began to click. I started to understand writing.
The more I read, the more I was able to separate the tactics from the principles. I started noticing patterns. I started developing my own writing process, I realized how modular writing really is. No longer am I stuck with following the rigid process, and writing frameworks I was taught. I can design my own techniques and frameworks with the principles I learned.
I want you to be able to do the same. That’s why I’m sharing the resources that influenced my writing the most. I want you to realize that any of the principles in these are not unique and could be found elsewhere. The tactics and explanations are what differs.
1) Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
This book is a classic. Campbell uses psychological principles to boil myths from around the world into a singular structure he dubbed the Monomyth. The Monomyth is basically the Hero’s journey.
It helped me realize that stories can be reduced to their principles.
It helped me realize that stories are ingrained in the human psyche.
It is useful as a basis for story frameworks.
However, the book is very dry and not entirely helpfull. I admit that I only scanned the book to find and read the useful parts. I recommend reading one of the books that are based on this work, but have been applied more practically for writers. Understanding the Hero’s Journey is a pretty important concept in writing circles. Here is a link to the wikipedia page if you want to learn more.
2) Jordan Peterson Essay Writing Guide.
It may not be a book, but this is probably the most value-to-word ratio of any of the writing resources I have read. It covers in detail Jordan Peterson’s essay writing process. Among many useful tips, he suggests a brutal rewriting process that I enjoy.
Learn to view your writing at different resolutions.
Proper writing workspace setup.
Proper nutrition for writers’ brains.
Have writer’s block? You don’t have speakers block, so write what you say.
I would read this guide if you do any non-fiction writing. You can find the guide here.
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3) Story Genius by Lisa Cron
If I could only read only one book before I had to write a novel, it would be this one. On the cover it advertises brain science, but it was pretty light on actually citing scientific sources.
Readers care most about the main character.
Each event in the story should futher it’s progression while relating with the chachter’s goals.
Explains how to build a story blueprint, which is sort of like loading all the story into your brain.
A notecarding method to organize the scenes in the story.
This book is really practical, and an example story is developed throughout. Although, I would caution you that Cron seems to care more about getting readers hooked on your story than making it high quality prose. Having the elements of a good story is more important to her than polish.
I would also like to point out that there are many books claiming to have the secret story sauce, so choose a few and start reading.
4) Dan Koe’s 2-Hour Writer
I took liberty on this one, it’s not a book but I had to include it. It’s an online course centered around the idea of writing for 2-hours daily as a creative writing career centered around a newsletter.
Tells you that your writing niche is you, and you need to develop content pillars around that.
A system for noting down every idea you notice throughout the week for your newsletter. (I realized that this is similar to David Allen’s GTD productivity system.)
How to break down your newsletter into short form content to drive traffic to your newsletter.
His course is really good, and had a lot of food for thought. It’s a bit pricey, but I thought it was worth it. Koe has a lot of free resources available on his site as well.
Resources that didn’t quite make the cut:
The Art And Business of Ghost Writing by Nicholas Cole Really good insights on modern online writing.
The Art and Business of Online Writing by Nicholas Cole Really good insights on writing voice and the ghostwriting business.
StoryBrand by Donald Miller Storytelling in marketing.
StorySpeak by Nicholas Boothman Storytelling in public speaking.
Getting Things Done by David Allen Useful once modified for creative endeavors.
After reading all of these books about writing, I have way too many ideas swirling around in my mind. Writing is how we make sense of things, so what better way to make sense of writing than to share what I learned with you? In the coming weeks you can expect more posts on this topic here.
You won’t have to spend the money, time, brainpower, and probably hours of pacing that are going into this endeavor. I am also developing my own writing course, that is going to teach the principles of writing that I am learning.
I will be developing it in public so stay tuned.
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