The Novelist’s Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes by Raymond Obstfeld. This is an important guide even if you write nonfiction. Everyone needs to know how to craft a soul-stirring, page-turning scene, with an inciting incident, obstacles, and a climax. This book has been invaluable to me as a novelist. I need to study and re-study it. My favorite, amazing fiction editor, Andy Meisenheimer, made me read this book so I could understand what in the world he was talking about. Smart guy, that Andy.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I think every. single. writer. recommends this book, and rightly so. It’s highly amusing, practical, and laugh out loud funny in a sardonic, ironic way. No one can talk about the neurosis of writers quite like Anne Lamott.
Rumors of Water By L. L. Barkat. Barkat’s writing stuns me. Her writing about the deeper workings of the writer as artist bless me. This is a beautifully written writing memoir, worthy of several reads.
Scribbling in the Sand by Michael Card. This book helped me get my head on straight in terms of art and fame and making much of God when you have a very public ministry. (Yep, writing on the internet is public, folks.) His wisdom guided me through some internal struggles about what it means to love Jesus through our art. Beautifully written book.
At the Crossroads by Charlie Peacock. This is actually a book written during the change in the music industry. Where there was a cataclysmic shift in the way music was distributed, we are now seeing those same things in the publishing industry. That’s why this book really helped me navigate the now. Plus he has much to say about the art that I loved.
Mockingbird by Charles Shields. This biography of Harper Lee really helped me see that pulling from my own life was certainly okay when writing novels. Lee mined her childhood quite a bit to write the classic, and she had great community around her to help her write what she did. This underscored the importance of having writing friends. An enjoyable, informative book.
The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. Whether you write nonfiction or fiction, this book is utterly important. Your job as a writer is to grab your reader by the throat and not let go. It’s to agonize them, tempting them to want to turn the page. You can’t start your book slow. It has to wow. If you struggle with slow beginnings, read this book.
On Writing by Stephen King. Great writing advice here, delivered in such a wooing, conversational way that you’ll want to hang with Stephen King. I mean it! When you put this book down, you will want to sit down and start a novel. So inspirational. This book and Lamotts do have “language,” so be forewarned.
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. This book serves not as a manual, but as inspiration. It showed me it was okay to write the way I did: poetry + suspense. I could almost cry at Enger’s turns of phrase, and yet the pages kept turning. Lovely, lovely. And he wove the gospel into the story unashamedly. Love it.
The Secret by Michael Smith. This book will probably not mean anything to you, but it means the world to me. I met Mike in our Life Group a year before he died. He told me he’d written a book. It’s rough. It’s messy. But it’s so packed full of Jesus that it makes me cry. It’s just Mike’s story, from a hard-hitting life to a follower of Jesus. After he passed, the Lord said to me, “When you write, remember Mike.” So I do. I try to remember radical life change, the power of Jesus, and the importance of our words, no matter how they’re delivered. I remember humility and Mike’s sweet, sweet spirit. He still inspires me today.