Losing your writing mojo? It happens. Boy, does it ever happen. You’re on a roll, you’re loving what you’re working on, then BAM! Gone. Or, perhaps it’s a slower, more slippery slope where you start second guessing yourself and every word you’ve ever typed on the page.
Been there, done that.
Perhaps what you need is a book to inspire, to kick-start that creativity and to get the writing flowing again. Here are what I consider to be the best writing books to jump start your creativity.
1. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
No surprises here, I shared my love of this book last week on the blog. Gilbert’s advice for Living a Creative Life Beyond Fear is spot on. She hits the nail on the head for all the areas that writers, or creative people in general, struggle with. What I love about her? She doesn’t let you wallow. Wallowing is for the suffering artists of days gone by. What we need now is action. Done is better than perfect. Motion is better than inertia. Ideas come if we let them, and if they don’t, just put your butt in the chair and keep writing.
She also has you do some deep thinking about why you’re a writer in the first place. If it’s to make a living, perhaps you’re putting far too much stress on the act of creating and not enough creativity into it. Write because you love to write, then see what happens.
I adore this book. Five stars. It’s going to sit on my book shelf for a long, LONG time.
2. Writing the Bestseller: Romantic and Commercial Fiction
Edited by Jane Porter and Rebecca Lyles
Elizabeth Boyle called this book “an apprenticeship between the covers,” and I couldn’t agree more. When I was stuck with my novel, trying my hardest to figure out why parts did or didn’t work, this book was all the fuel that I needed.
It’s geared towards the action-oriented writer, thanks to the many writing exercises within. The phenomenal authors give you plenty of opportunities to try out new tools and skills, to test the waters in creativity. They should know! The many authors of this book include a bevy of bestselling romance and commercial fiction authors, so they know their stuff.
3. The Virgin’s Promise by Kim Hudson
How many writers have tried and failed to fit their novel into the Hero’s Journey model? *scans for how many hands are raised in the virtual world* Okay, lots, myself included. Kim Hudson argues that there’s another journey, The Virgin’s Promise, that a huge number of stories fit into. The hero is going out into the world to solve a problem facing his community. The Virgin, it’s more of an internal journey, and she takes her community with her.
Hudson outlines many of the critical scenes that you see in The Virgin’s Promise (or heroine’s journey), which I’ve found incredibly helpful when I feel that something is missing.
Before you get scared, The Virgin’s Promise isn’t for female protagonist’s only. Who knew that macho-movie Rocky actually follows The Virgin’s Promise structure? Not I, before reading this book. Such a great tool.
4. Elements of Fiction Writing – Conflict and Suspense by James Scott Bell
All you need to do is peruse James Scott Bell’s Goodreads reviews to see how well loved his books on writing are. Conflict and Suspense is one of many that he’s written, but it’s an element of writing that many writers struggle with. You submit to an agent, an editor or even your beta readers and you hear, “there just wasn’t enough conflict.” What to do?
I had many great takeaways from this book, including the Doorways of No Return. Bell describes these as the forces that push the lead character into situations of choice or change. It can be an internal or external battle. For example, in The King’s Speech, one of his doorways of no return is when he hears himself speaking clearly, for the first time, on recording. He was about to give up, to throw it all in, but once he hears what is truly possible, there’s really no going back.
Another element that I loved was where Bell talks about your villains. You have to love your villain and understand their backstory. Think of the movie Maleficent, for example. This was the evil sorceress, but an entire movie was made about her backstory and what made her evil. Or Wicked, where we delve into the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz. Great villains have great motivations, building the conflict and suspense.
5. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
I have a love-hate relationship with this book/workbook. Maass is the literary agent genius we’ve all heard of, but I found that many of his examples were not helpful or mainstream enough for me to grab onto. That said, the concepts he outlines to amplify your story, they absolutely make sense.
For me, the workbook was a great tool to use both in planning my second novel and in reviewing my first. Did my novel have line by line tension? How was my characterization? Was I layering properly?
Turns out I’m not the only one with a love-hate relationship, as you can see through Goodreads reviews. This book gets very mixed reviews, but many agree that it gave them solid tools to work with, but take them with a pinch of salt. Does every novel need every element? Probably not, but play with them until you find what works. There might just be that tidbit of information that you were waiting for.