Thursday, January 6, 2022

The Case for Re-Reading Writing Books


by Lynn H. Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

For many writers, the transition from one year to the next is a time filled with evaluation and planning. We consider what we did the year before and look to the future, sketching out our goals for everything from the number of pounds we’ll lose to the number of books we’ll read. 

I tend to set my goals based on areas of weakness, not strength, which is why I rarely set a reading goal. I read a lot, so I don’t need any incentive to encourage this behavior! 

I also don’t have a true TBR (to-be-read) list. I have books all over my house, and if I haven’t read them, then they count as TBR! As a mood reader, I rarely make a list of books that I need to read. I pick them up when I feel like it (and usually do absolutely nothing else until I finish them).

But this year, I did something I’ve never done before. I made a list of books that I would like to re-read. Specifically books related to writing that I have frequently cited as being some of my favorites, but haven’t read in years.

I did this for two reasons:

1. It’s been a while since I read these books. I started intentionally studying the craft of writing twelve years ago. There is no way I could possibly remember everything that is of value in these books. It’s time for a refresher.

2. I’m not the same writer I was when I first read these books. I read some of these years before I was published. I was new and soaking up everything I could get my hands on. I can’t help but wonder what insights and wisdom I’ll glean from these books now that I’m reading them from the perspective of a published author deep in the throes of deadlines and revisions. 

Here are 5 I chose to re-read first. 
My mood reading applies here. I’ll pick up whichever one jumps out at me and read them in the order that feels most natural. But I’m excited to dive back in and see what they have to teach me. 

1. On Writing by Stephen King. This one is part memoir, part writing guidance. Entertaining and full of tools for writers of all levels. It makes all the “best books on writing” lists for a reason. I’m not a fan of horror and have never read any of Stephen King’s fiction, but this book made me wish I could enjoy everything he’s ever written. 

2. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Another book that melds the author’s own journey with writing advice and wisdom. I remember that I adored it when I read it the first time and I can’t wait to see how it resonates now.

3. Story Trumps Structure by Steven James. As an organic writer, I find outlines to be the destroyers of my creative joy. This book walks pantsers through non-plotted story creation and I’m excited to revisit it.

4. Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. I know, I know, I just said I don’t plot/outline. And I don’t. But that doesn’t mean I don’t find it highly valuable to understand story structure. There are also sections in here about brainstorming that I put to good use years ago when I was pitching my first series. I always recommend this book to new writers - plotters and pantsers alike so it’s due for a re-read. (I own every JSB book on the craft. They are all excellent.)

5. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. This book kicked my rear the first time I read it. It’s time to give it another opportunity to whip me into shape.

Note: Several of these books contain language/content reflective of their secular nature. 

Have you read any of these? What books would you add to your own “writing books I need to read these again” list? I’d love to chat about this in the comments. 

Grace and peace,



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Lynn H. Blackburn loves writing romantic suspense because her childhood fantasy was to become a spy, but her grown-up reality is that she's a huge chicken and would have been caught on her first mission. She prefers to live vicariously through her characters and loves putting them into all kinds of terrifying situations while she's sitting at home safe and sound in her pajamas! 

Lynn’s titles have won the Carol Award, the Selah Award, and the Faith, Hope, and Love Reader’s Choice Award. Her newest series kicked off in March 2021 with Unknown Threat, a 2021 Christy Award finalist. 

She is a frequent conference speaker and has taught writers all over the country. Lynn lives in South Carolina with her true love and their three children. You can follow her real life happily ever after by signing up for her newsletter at LYNNHBLACKBURN.COM and @LynnHBlackburn on BOOKBUB, FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST, and INSTAGRAM.

8 comments:

  1. Lynn,

    I have shelves of how-to writing books that I've read but your encouragement to re-read them is a terrific suggestion--and something I'm going to do in the coming days. I've got a signed copy of On Writing Well by William Zinsser on my shelf from 1990 will be one of those books.

    Terry
    author of Book Proposals That $ell, 21 Secrets To Speed Your Success (Revised Edition)

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  2. What a timely article. I remember Karen Porter’s advise on reading so many craft bookseach year. I just started reading Stein on Writing. Thank you for your encouragement and suggestions of other books to reread.

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  3. Lynn, I plan to do the same.

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  4. I needed this reminder. I have many writing books on my shelves and need to go back and read them. Only one have I kept handy and that is the one on writing in deep point of view, Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Nelson. Time for re-reading.

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  5. JSB's "Plot and Structure" was one of the first books I read when I began this journey, and it was a huge influence on me. I just finished "Bird by Bird" and enjoyed Lamott's talented description of being a writer.

    There are so many great craft-of-writing books. I also recommend "Self-editing for Fiction Writers" by Renni Browne and Dave King and "Fire Up Your Fiction" by Jodie Renner.

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  6. I have many books on writing as I would purchase any suggested when I took an interest in writing. Once I progressed, I decided to focus on ones from individuals I "trusted" more than others (for lack of a better way of saying). I plan to read these particular books since I mainly gleaned and/or skimmed particular portions as needed.

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  7. My favorite of these books is On Writing by Stephen King. It's so practical. I've read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Thanks for other suggestions. I'll check them out. I'm currently reading Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland. I think it will help me not chase rabbits in my new manuscript.

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  8. I tried reading "On Writing" but two-thirds of the way through put it down, and do not expect to pick it up again, no matter how many recommended lists the book is on. The plentiful foul language Mr. King used got in the way of my receiving the message he was communicating. He is a secular writer, but not every secular writer uses such language.

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