No one can be a writer alone. Friends, editorial teams, focus groups/victims, mentors, and mentees are all necessary for the process of writing. We cannot expect to be great narrators of humanity without actually interacting with people and being open to their opinions. Writers must share, be told they’re wrong, grow, learn, and continue to listen. And in turn, seasoned writers should then lift up emerging writers to speak into another wave of creators and consumers.
We all have to take care of each other.
So, all affirmed or suggested by my personal and writerly mentors, here are five books on craft to revise your work and advise your soul.
Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular by Rust Hills
This “informal textbook” gives an expert editor’s perspective on short fiction. It has depth and wisdom to satiate an experienced writer, but also a welcoming, guiding hand to help beginners. If you ever want to get inside your editor’s head, beat them to their critiques, and turn in a more polished, well-organized draft: this is the book to get you there.
Tell It Slant by Brenda Miller
Creative nonfiction is more than spitting out “real” stories: it gives the writer the power to make more sense of the past. Miller provides new prompts, makes research less daunting, and reminds writers that they have the authority to use their own voices. And yes, it does address ethical concerns regarding nonfiction writing.
A Stranger’s Journey by David Mura
If identity is a theme you’re itching to explore: Mura has you covered. It is anchored in the concept of race and diversity (or sometimes the lack thereof) in American literature. The text asks what our place is in the world without filling us with too much existential dread, and also explores how to tell a story. For both craft advice and literary criticism, writers of any skill level can benefit from this one.
The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr
I have yet to meet a soul who doesn’t love Mary Karr. Witty and raw, this book tears apart Karr’s own work (as well as other classic memoirists’) and explains piece by piece what made it work. It celebrates the messy stories in life that we don’t want to cop to, because they make up the best bits of writing. It feels like sitting in on a lecture as a prospective student: giddy, uninhibited by the grading aspects of the class, and a little precocious.
Burn This Book by Toni Morrison
Still quite broken about literary hero Toni Morrison’s recent passing, I recommend her curation of essays. As editor of the text, Morrison notes the power and necessity of writers in the world, making sense of the world and all of its flaws. This book tears into literary censorship as well as our basic human need for stories. It will remind you that day by day, slouched in front of your desk with forgotten cups of coffee beside you, writing and rewriting the same sentence for hours, you’re doing something worthwhile.
By Elena Ender