By Allyson Vaughan
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
King is most notorious for his classic horror/suspense tales such as The Shining, Cujo, Salem’s Lot, and countless other novels. His books have sold over 350 million copies, making him a commercial success. But King remains humble as his writes about his childhood, his later struggles with addiction, and the accident that nearly killed him. The first part of the book tells the story of how King became the man who would go on to become a legend, while the second King explains the mechanics of writing by describing what he calls “The Toolbox.” The tools and lessons King believes every writer should have in their box by telling readers what is in his. It’s a fantastic read that will leave you aching for a pen in your hand.
“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribblers heart, kill you darlings.”- Stephen King
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
Lamott writes expertly on her days of in-expertise in another memoir/craft hybrid. Lamott’s writing is intimate and revealing, peeling back the layers of her own psych in order for the reader to get into theirs. She offers advice based on her dark days of self-doubt, inadequacy, and later the joy and peace she finds in writing. By owning to her own past, Lamott chronicles the journey of creativity and self that many writers must undergo in order to find their voice.
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”- Anne Lamott
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
Bradbury’s book is unique in that it’s a series of essays that all cumulatively add up until the final title essay. Bradbury’s message is less about mechanics and more about keeping true to the heart of why most writers start; they find joy in the act of creation. The book gives philosophical advice on how to rediscover that joy and let go of the negativity and self-doubt that often plagues writers. All of this comes in true Bradbury fashion, each essay being filled with wisdom and humor to guide you back to the heart of why you write.
“You must stay drunk on writing so that reality cannot destroy you.”- Ray Bradbury
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Every wonder what it was like to be a young Hemingway in Paris in 1921? Ever wonder what craft secrets died with the legend of Ernest Hemingway? You can find that answers to both of those questions in Hemingway’s memoir of his time in Paris, in which he captures the essence of what it was to be an artist as part of the Lost Generation. Not specifically a book on craft, there is still much to be learned from Hemingway’s time abroad about how writer’s translate experience into their art. It’ll make you want to eat a baguette and grab you passport and a notebook.
“This book may be regarded as fiction. But there is always the chance that such a book of fiction may throw some light on what has been written as fact.”-Ernest Hemingway
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath by Sylvia Plath
This book is rather expansive, but it is worth the commitment for the insight it brings into Plath’s mind, and the numerous bits of writing wisdom she penned. Plath struggles with self-doubt will resonate with many readers, and her musings on what it takes to be a writer are to be cherished. Plath also offers a look at how writers take pride in the details with her succulent descriptions of everything she sees, tastes, and the people who came in and out of life. Another book to comfort you in the shared experiences and doubts of living as a writer.
“Perhaps some day I’ll crawl back home, beaten, defeated. But not as long as I can make stories out of my heartbreak, beauty out of sorrow.”-Sylvia Plath