12 Books to Help Writers Move to the Next Stage

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Children’s book writer Katherine Paterson, author of Bridge to Terabithia, once wrote that she had finished a draft of a novel and dramatically announced to her husband that the draft was awful and she was quitting. He calmly said, “Oh, you’re at that stage.”

Yes, there are Stages of Writing that we go through. Recently, a new writer bemoaned his lack of progress and someone suggested that he read Ann Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, which talks beginning writers through some of the emotional stresses of learning to BE a writer.

OK. You’re at the Bird by Bird stage, too. Here are some other books to help you through this stage.

Help for Fiction Writers

Help for Revising Your Fiction

If you make it past the first draft, sorry, but you’re not done yet. Now, it’s time to move to the next stage and revise.

Help for Poetry Writers

Writing Metrical Poetry: Contemporary Lessons for Mastering Traditional Forms by William Baer. Sure, I know that not many of you will be doing poetry. But this book is too good to pass up. On pp 12-17, Baer analyzes the famous line from Hamlet, “To be or not to be, that is the question,” and it’s the most succinct explanation of voice I have ever seen.

Help for Self-Published Writers

Help for ALL writers

To improve your writing skills, there are a couple of books that I always recommend. They aren’t for the faint of heart–learning to improve your writing takes time and attention to detail. Take it slow, doing a lesson a week or so. But I guarantee your writing will improve if you work at it.

  • Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussion on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew by Ursula K. LeGuin.
    This master of science fiction crafts a book on the craft of writing that will stretch you, whether you write fiction or nonfiction. Take the time to DO every exercise she suggests. Then, do them again.
  • The Art of Styling Sentences by Ann Longknife Ph.D. and K.D. Sullivan.
    Do semi-colons confuse you? Do complex-compound sentences scare you? Then you simply MUST work through these twenty sentence patterns. When I worked through this book with a friend, I found it made more difference in my writing than anything else I had ever tried. It freed me to express my thoughts in complex ways–and get it right.

1 Comment
  • Barbara Storey
    August 24, 2012

    Great book suggestions here! I really want to get the “Writing Metrical Poetry” book – only available used, that I’ve seen so far, but I’ll keep looking! Thanks!

    Barbara