Writing Giants

Surf the web and you will see that the subject of writing is well-charted territory. No matter what your goal, a how-to manual is there to support it. Need to write grant proposals, company newsletters, technical manuals, instructional design or academic materials? Industry experts abound to provide a sea of knowledge about any aspect of writing imaginable. For advice on how to create fiction, it seems logical to consult some of the successful authors and writing giants among us.

As I began researching books on writing by authors, Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft kept appearing on the horizon. I extrapolated all that I could from that book and have started recommending it to other writers. Some of his tips include writing the first draft of a manuscript with door closed, consulting an ‘ideal reader’ that represents the audience, writing consistently each day (1,000 words or more), and writing about what the writer really knows, because that is what makes a writer unique. I’ve been applying King’s techniques into my writing regimen whenever possible. With over fifty worldwide bestsellers in his wake, clearly he knows what he’s doing.

Another writing giant willing to share his techniques is Ray Bradbury, who still cuts quite a swath. The Illustrated Man, Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine and his other stories will forever swim in the waters of literature.  Bradbury’s book for aspiring writers Zen in the Art of Writing is full of sage advice. He suggests that people write about what they love or what they hate because that conviction and passion is crucial to the story. He advises authors to run after life with fervent gusto, to pursue their interests, and write about the things that make them happy.

Starting out, even surfing small literary waves can feel like riding giants. I’m getting more comfortable with what lies beneath (although it’s harder than it looks).  King and Bradbury cared enough to show the rest of us that it’s possible to conquer the sea, and when you do, an ocean of opportunity awaits. Besides, what one person can do, another can do.

Are you ready to paddle out?

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17 thoughts on “Writing Giants

  1. I do believe it’s important that we find and keep the passion in our writing, taking care not to edit it out of our work. In answer to your question, are you ready to paddle out?… the ocean’s a pretty scary place, but yeah.

  2. Kimberly,

    I think good books on the writing craft can help you get out of a writing slump too. I like anything by James Scott Bell and Donald Maass. I’ve been hearing a lot about Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird– that’s on my TBR list.

    • I’ve read Bird by Bird, and it was a good narrative – motivational and encouraging. My go-to book for writing suspense novels is How to Write Killer Fiction by Carolyn Wheat. It’s easy to read and well laid out, which makes it very easy to go back and find sections when I need help.

  3. Thanks for this post Kimberly! There are some great standards out there that I’ve used often and successfully in teaching undergrads and grads. The faithful stand-bys: Bird-by-Bird (Ann Lamott), Writing True (for creative nonfiction) Writing Life Stories (Bill Roohrbach). If you want to read about the theology of art and writing Leland Ryken’s collection The Christian Imagination is superb.

  4. Kimberly, the most important book I read when I first started writing columns for newspapers was Writing the Creative Article Today by Marjorie Holmes. It’s a classic resource. Another book I use when I’m stuck is a book I found in a clearance rack outside a Barnes & Noble store years ago, and it has proven to be a goldmine for my writing craft: Fiction Writer’s Brainstormer by James Smith.

  5. It’s wonderful to have this collection of suggestions. There are so many books available on writing, that it can be overwhelming. We’ve sure saved each other a lot of time flipping through sample pages on Amazon 🙂

  6. Thank you for this post, and the list of books to read. I’ll need to find some of them. A friend of mine once told me of her favorite book, ‘The Transitive Vampire’, which she claimed was a delightful read and an excellent primer on grammar.

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