One of the best ways to learn to write is to read. This sounds simplistic, but it’s not because reading to learn how to write means not reading for pleasure, at least, not entirely, but reading for analysis. If a work moves you, whether poetry, fiction, memoir, or any other kind of writing, how does the author do it? What techniques does s/he use to achieve the goal of engaging you, the reader, and moving you emotionally? If you can answer that, you’re on your way to fulfilling your writing life.
In addition, you can also read books about writing for inspiration, for craft, for solutions to your own writing challenges. Below, I’ve begun a list to which I hope my readers will contribute. What books inspire or help you in your writing life? Let me know and I’ll add it (with credit) to my list.
Several Short Sentences About Writing, by Verlyn Klinkenborg: Amazing insights to apply to any type of writing. Divided into small sections that you can “dip” into or work your way through systematically, this book covers everything from “making sentences” to “noticing” to “reading out loud” to “flow.” The heart, the pleasure, and the challenge of writing. Try reading a one to two page section every day. Revisit often.
Any work by John Gardner: I began with The Art of Fiction when I was a new writer. The sub-title of this work is Notes on Craft for Young Writers. I wasn’t “young” when I came to fiction (I’d written poetry for years), but I was “new” at fiction and found his cogent, practical advice very helpful. I still do. After that, I moved on to On Becoming a Novelist, where Gardner reveals his love of writing, his joy and satisfaction in the writing life, tempered with his straightforward discussion about the challenges a writer faces.