Many of you have asked me how I have learned to write, and how you may learn to write as well. In the future, I plan to post short pieces on advice I have for new authors (of course, as a HUGE disclaimer, I am an amateur and everything I say should be taken with a grain of salt).
But until then, I can assure you that one of the best ways to learn to write is to read. Study the craft, learn from those who are better than you, and then develop your own style.
Remember, Einstein supposedly said that the secret of creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. Reading books provides the seeds for growing your creativity.
Below, I’ve listed books that have personally inspired me and had an influence on my writing, as well as how they affected me. As a disclaimer, these are affiliate links, but each of these recommendations are from my honest opinion.
NOTE: This page is still being built.
Life of Pi – I don’t want to say too much, but Life of Pi is in my top five books of all time. There are SO MANY Easter Eggs hidden between its pages, which is something I love to emulate in my own writing. The imagery is fantastic, the flow gripping while hardly anything happens for much of the book, and the author sure knows how to sock you in the stomach. I’ve read this book at least three times, and I learn something new each go through.
East of Eden – A bear of a book, but one of my favorites. Great symbolism, great biblical parallels, great imagery, great sheer depth. I’m not even that much of a Steinbeck fan, but damn, East of Eden is nothing short of a masterpiece. Read it nearly ten years ago and quotes still bounce around my head from time to time – it had an enormous impact on me.
Great Expectations – In no way did I enjoy this book. But I learned a ton from it. Great wordplay, great symbolism, great characters for hating. Reread “A Christmas Carol” first to help pick up on some of the themes.
Narnia – Many of you know that I love to work mythology into my writing, specifically the Christian mythos. Narnia does it constantly (though, now that I’m far older than when I originally read it, CS does it a little over the top). Additionally, I think Narnia is a great way to look at structuring a tale that can be enjoyed by a wide age range of children, and has an incredibly imaginative and uplifting world. Yes, it’s old fashioned, yes, it’s very Catholic slanted, and yes, it can be a bit childish/cheesy, but Narnia will always be one of my favorites. Of course, if you haven’t read the Lord of the Rings, Tolkein is the opposite side of this coin, providing far more subtle insertions of Christian (and Norse) mythologies. Also, many of the Narnia audiobooks are available for free on youtube, though I don’t know the legality behind this.
Foundation – If you want to write Science Fiction, read Asimov. Google “The Last Question”, an extremely short story, for a taste of his writing.
I won’t link one, because it’s been a while since I’ve read a good one and I don’t want to mislead you, but pick up a good book on mythology – not just greek and roman, but multicultural. Also, look into Joseph Campbell.
I’m going to go off the beaten path of “reading” here, but I highly recommend The Far Side Gallery and Calvin and Hobbs to learn how to quickly express an out of the box idea.
I don’t have time to link them, but you should read:
-Hitchhiker’s Guide, for the humor, tone, and the “sci fi”
-Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman for the humor and how “reality can be stranger than fiction”. It’s an autobiography
-Pillars of the Earth, great for world building and threading plot lines, and disasters
-Stephen King, Horror and writing advice
-If you like fantasy, pick up some Rothfuss and Sanderson ASAP. Tons to be learned from them, though it is lighter
-Jim Butcher for easy (but pretty good, though corny at times) casual reading and well done action scenes (IMO). Again, you won’t learn a ton, but I liked them!
-The Devil in the White City- GREAT for creating a chilling villain, movie is coming out soon, based on a true serial killer story
-For fantasy magic systems, they might be a bit juvenile but I used to love Garth Nix in Abhorsen (7th tower was good, but I’m sure if I go back and read it the level would be extremely low). Rothfuss also has an amazing magic system because it ties into science so well (at one point, he describes how to make LEDs with magic and it’s somewhat accurate as far as I can tell, which is incredible detail), yet manages not to be corny in my opinion
-The Life and Times of The Thunderbolt Kid for SO many reasons, Bill Bryson in general
-If you want to do serious world building, study how our world was created with Guns, Germs, and Steel. This is probably over the top but there is a ton to learn in that book about how our civilization came to be that you can apply to fake worlds- for instance, what type of livestock and natural resources you would want a successful society to have in your book so that they could have a killer economy.
-Rocket Boys for how to create hope, failure, and lost love. True story.
-Psychology books, I had a good one but I forget it and will come back with it. Particularly, you want to read BODY LANGUAGE so that you can accurately describe your characters while they speak. For instance, if someone is lying, they tend to build immaterial barriers- such as stacking napkins, folding their arms, or creating miniature walls. Incorporate that into your book, it’s a great “show don’t tell”! I know it is outdated, but there is a good book on Meyer’s Briggs called Please Understand Me that can help you define your characters and create reasonable actions for their personality types. Also, if you want to know how to make likable or manipulative characters, read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Carnegie and have them follow his rules
Currently Leo is reading infinite jest, and it’s taking infinitely long 😦
That’s it for now, but I promise more will be coming later!