My Writing Library

I’ve been waiting for this week on the Debutante Ball! I love to read craft books. They’re not a substitute for actually doing the work of course, but I turn to them whenever I need an extra boost or perspective shift. In no particular order, here are my current favorites:

  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – This book taught me about shitty first drafts, and without Anne’s wise words on the subject, I might still be stuck trying to make the first page of my first book perfect.
  • How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittelmark & Sandra Newman – This is a hilarious guide about common missteps for beginner writers, and how to avoid them. It will make you feel better about your own writing in some ways, while also shining a glaring light on your worst habits so you can cringe and then cut that shit out.
  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert – I’ve referenced this book a ridiculous amount of times already in my Deb Ball posts so here I’ll just say: read it. Yes, even if you hated Eat Pray Love. Then listen to Liz’s amazing (though sadly now defunct) Magic Lessons podcast, where she helps artists of all ages and experience levels get over themselves and get to work.
  • Real Artists Have Day Jobs by Sara Benincasa – This one isn’t a craft book, it’s a collection of hilarious and inspiring essays about art and adulting. It came into my life right when I needed it most, and so it will always have a place of honor on my shelf.
  • Story Genius by Lisa Cron – This book blew my freaking mind when I first read it. Probably the best guide you’ll ever find for unpacking character psychology and how it propels plot. I don’t bother with the complicated index card scene planning method Cron recommends, but even if you ignore that part, this book is full of truly genius tips.
  • Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody – I’ve plotted my work using the Save the Cat screenplay beats for awhile now, but this book (just released a couple months ago) took my plotting to the next level. If you’re trying to write something pacey and commercial, you need Save the Cat in your life!
  • Your Book, Your Brand by Dana Kaye – This book is not for beginners. Not because it’s complicated, but because the knowledge it drops is really only relevant if you’ve already written a book and are gearing up to market it. I suspect I’ll be returning to this one a lot in 2019 as the Temper release draws closer.
  • On Being Stuck by Laraine Herring – Another book that came into my life right when I needed it. Herring’s advice on tapping into the creative power of writer’s block gave me the kick in the ass I needed to finish my manuscript in time for Pitch Wars last year. If you’re feeling stuck, I can’t recommend this book enough.
  • The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron – This is the book that’s changed my life the most, not just as a writer, but in general. The first time I read it, I scoffed at all of Cameron’s woo-woo spirituality. Then I tried her morning pages exercise (3 pages of longhand writing first thing in the morning, every day), and now I’m a true believer. I’ve been doing morning pages since July 2016 (right around the time the idea for Temper came to me – coincidence? I think not), and the practice has changed everything about my life for the better. It forces me to examine myself and my work in new ways, to get clear about what I really want and then go for it. I’ll be doing morning pages until the day I die (and then I’m gonna put in my will that all my journals should be destroyed unread, there is some embarrassing shit in those pages y’all!).
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Layne Fargo

Layne Fargo is a thriller author with a background in theater and library science. She’s a Pitch Wars mentor, a member of the Chicagoland chapter of Sisters in Crime, and the cocreator of the podcast Unlikeable Female Characters. Layne lives in Chicago with her partner and their pets.

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