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Is there a killer idea for a novel gnawing at the back of your mind? Are you stuck inside with some extra time on your hands? While quarantine isn’t exactly conducive to creativity with all the anxiety and lack of privacy it can bring with it, it is a good time for self-evaluation and getting some extra projects done. Here are five of the best books on writing from some of the world’s top authors to get you inspired and FINALLY at work on that novel you’re always talking about writing!
1. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Where else could we start than with the King himself? The master of horror keeps things thoroughly down to earth in this engaging memoir about writing and life. King’s advice is simple; sit down in the chair every day and do the work. “Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world,” he says. “The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible.”
2. Daemon Voices: On Stories and Storytelling by Philip Pullman
Most famous for His Dark Materials, Pullman writes books for children that appeal just as much to adults. This is a rambling book of essays on everything from art and religion to German marionette theatre and fundamental particles, but most of all it is a book about stories that makes you fall in love with them all over again. Pullman says that writing “feels like discovery not invention. It feels as if the story I’m writing already exists, in some Platonic way, and that I’m privileged from time to time to gain access to it. The curtain twitches aside for a while; the moon comes out from behind a cloud, and illuminates a landscape that was previously invisible.”
3. The View from the Cheap Seats: Selected Nonfiction by Neil Gaiman
This one isn’t technically a book on writing but it shows Gaiman’s love for stories and approaches art in a fun, comfortable way. It reveals a lot of the anxiety that comes from sitting in front of a blank page. It’s a motley assortment of articles from various publications and it’s a grab bag of treasures. Go ahead, reach in. Did you get a piece on how porn and musicals are basically the same thing? A touching essay on how to deal with pain through making art? A strange, dreamy tale about Gaiman’s future wife dying over and over again? (It’s not as dark as it sounds, I promise.) Whichever you pick, you will be vastly entertained and hopefully inspired.
4. Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings by Shirley Jackson
The writing section of this book doesn’t come until page 374 and only lasts for forty-two but those contain enough good advice to fill a library. The essay ‘Garlic in Fiction’ alone is worth the price of admission. Jackson is one of my favorite writers of all time and an absolute pro at creating subtle suspense and gut-wrenching twists. “I cannot find any patience for those people who believe that you start writing when you sit down at your desk and pick up your pen and finish writing when you put down your pen again,” she says. “A writer is always writing, seeing everything through a thin mist of words, fitting swift little descriptions to everything he sees, always noticing.”
5. Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer
This one is geared specifically towards speculative fiction though much of the advice applies to all genres. Entirely illustrated and thoroughly fun, this one is a bit bonkers in the best way possible. VanderMeer uses other authors plentifully to map out (literally) the process of writing. Full of writing exercises and ideas that will call out to the child inside you, this is an excellent way to get those creative juices flowing.
Featured Image via Hindustan Times