Writing

Three Books that Helped Me as a Writer

Anyone who does anything has a mentor or some sort, whether it’s a person, a group, or even a motto. This mentor encourages you to improve your skills and helps you find your way in a moment of weakness or anger. Personally, I have three special books that serve as my mentors for different reasons, all of which revolve around the central theme of helping me as a writer:

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Inkspell by Cornelia Funke

This book is very special to me because it is the one that got me writing in the first place. Upon finishing it and strongly disliking the ending, I decided to re-write the last few chapters so that it better matched what I thought it should have been.

As with all of our first pieces, it was terrible, but it lit the spark that got me to where I am today. This book in particular (the second in a trilogy) is what transformed me from a reader to a writer.

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Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

This is a very basic novel plot that uses its simplicity to share a very important message. The main storyline focuses on a girl who is forced to relive her last day alive over and over again until she finally figures out out what she has to do. It sweeps you along in a mesmerizing fashion that keeps you hooked until the last word.

This book was very helpful when I hit a rough patch in my writing, caused by massive plot holes and uncontrollable characters. The simplicity of the plot and the elegant writing style helped me recognize the fact that I was just taking my writing too seriously and that I didn’t have to make everything quite so complicated. I learned to trust my gut and go with the flow. After all, the characters know best.

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Hourglass by Myra McEntire

Before reading this book, I didn’t really have much of an idea of how to have fun with the narrator of the story. I kept thinking that s/he had to essentially be invisible and simply tell the story. It made for some boring scenes.

The narrator of this story, however, is anything but quiet. She doesn’t hesitate to make observations or insert little quips that make the serious scenes lighter and easier to read. It helped me understand that the narrator is intended to be a character, too. So, using this book as my point of reference, I got used to creating a 3D narrator that helped me move a scene along. I really was able to understand that narrators are people, too.

There are so many books out there that have made a great impression on me, both as a reader and as a writer, but these three are definitely the best of the best. Feel free to share some of your own below!

Writing

Writer Quirks

You hear a lot about gamers or comic book enthusiasts being characterized and stereotyped based on some “strange” characteristics that they have. As far as I’m concerned, we all have quirks that make us individual. When you read those “relatable” posts, however, it’s scary how accurate some of them are – no matter the label. Here are a few writer quirks that I think fit the bill:

Strange conversations

No matter what genre you’re writing, getting together with other writers always leads to strange conversations. Some writers will argue that there is no such thing as a strange conversation in the writer community; no topic is abnormal, and overhearing a snippet at random can be equal parts entertaining and terrifying. For example:

If I kill off the crush too fast, she won’t be crushed enough, so he has to stick around for a few more chapters. Maybe I could, like, cut off his leg or something in the mean time…she’d have to fall in love with him then, right?

That’s one of the mild examples of ordinary conversations. Anyone else would be confused or perhaps freaked out, but us writers get it.

Scolding your characters out loud

When a chapter, intense scene, or plot twist just isn’t going well, it’s usually because a character isn’t behaving correctly. When we’ve re-written the same sentence five times and it still isn’t right, our characters tend to get yelled at or scolded, and sometimes just doing it in our heads isn’t good enough:

Just cooperate, will you?!”

“Stop complaining, I’m working on it!”

“Okay, that’s enough. Go to your room!

It doesn’t always work, but it makes us feel better most of the time.

Grief at saying goodbye to our characters when we finish the novel

These characters are our creations, children that we watch over as they grow up and get their fairy tale endings (or not). When the time comes to type “The End” on the last page, a real grief leaves us in a funk for a while. These characters are real people to us, so living without them can be really sad and hard, even when the time comes to move on to new characters and plots. Saying goodbye to our characters is the same as saying goodbye to family or close friends. It hurts!

These are some of the quirks I find to be universal amongst short story and novel writers, If you’ve got some of your own, feel free to share them in the “comments” section!

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