I keep three books (besides a dictionary and an old Roget’s thesaurus) near at hand when writing. These are the three I reach for when the words become a slog, when I lack inspiration, or when my self-confidence flags.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Discovering this book a few years ago was an epiphany — a bolt from the blue that served as an explanation for some of my worst habits, in terms I could easily understand. Pressfield laid out the wily foe all artists and creative sorts face and gave it a name: Resistance. The enemy is us, our subconscious, and we can only push through the minefield it has prepared for us by hardening our resolve and doing the work. I go to this book a great deal, sometimes daily.
The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner
I don’t really gravitate toward “nuts-and-bolts” writing books, books that show you how to write the actual words. I prefer those that delve into the psychology of the writing mind. That try to put into words the why behind writing. This one does it in spades, and with a very keen and observant eye. Ms. Lerner has been an editor and an agent and a writer herself. She can describe what perhaps makes us tick, and the last part of the book is a wealth of information on what happens AFTER the sale. I recommend this one highly.
The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian by Robert E. Howard
Wait-a-minute! This isn’t a book on writing! No . . . and yes. REH’s iconic barbarian, Conan, is one of the cornerstones of modern fantasy; these stories, written in the 1930s, range from rough gems to polished diadems that are the pinnacle of the fantasist’s art. From these tales, I learned — and continue to learn — how to spin a good yarn, how to use language and imagery to effect, how to craft fight scenes, how to use dialogue. In short, this is my go-to book for the nuts-and-bolts of writing.
What three books do you keep handy?