I thought it was going to be an easy choice. In fact, I thought maybe I might have to cut the list to seven, or even just five, because I don't read that many of those books... do I? Well, a quick look at my Amazon 'Your Orders' page for 2015 soon put that notion to bed. As it turned out, picking just ten from the stack I've read this year was the hard part. I've read loads of 'em - usually a chapter or two over breakfast, as a motivational bum-kick before starting a day's writing session. It's surprising how many you can get through in a year when you do it like that.
They haven't all been hits with me, of course. Some just left me feeling depressed and useless - not because they were inherently 'bad,' but because they just weren't suited to me or the way I naturally roll when it comes to writing. Which is why I wanted to give a massive shout-out to the ones that did rock my world, since I'm reasonably sure I'm not the only writer out there who loves to make characters that build plots for you, falls at the more organised end of the Pantser Scale and prefers to encourage other writers whatever their level of experience or skill. So let's dispense with the ado-ing and get started - in no particular order...
2 - 5 Editors Tackle the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing (C.s Lakin, Linda S. Clare, Christy Distler, Robin Patchen, Rachel Starr Thompson.)If you have dreams of being published, no matter how good a writer you think you are you need this book. I challenge any writer of any level to read this and not find at least one of the chapters highlighting one of their own guilty weaknesses. The good news is, the examples of each flaw, the reasons why they are flaws and the fixes for them are all clearly explained, in depth and in a way that's easy to understand. I learned a lot from this book, and would recommend it as a go-to for when you hit the Draft-Two-and-beyond stage of any fiction project.
5 - How to Be an Imperfectionist: The New Way to Self-Acceptance, Fearless Living, and Freedom from Perfectionism (Stephen Guise)I know I know - that title just screams 'happy-clappy self-help let's all go hug a tree,' doesn't it? Don't let it put you off though - it's about as far from crystal-clutching and mantra-chanting as you can possibly get. Stephen Guise is a writer himself and the advice he gives, while applicable to any area of life, is particularly useful to other writers. If you're a procrastinator, a harsh self-editor, or you've ever beaten yourself up about your puny daily word count/lack of motivation/inability to focus, this book might just hold the cure. If you've read other books about letting go of perfectionism and found they did zero to help you I especially recommend this book, because his tips and suggestions really are different from anything offered before, showing ways to work with and 'trick' your inbuilt perfectionism into playing ball rather than striving to eliminate it from your psyche altogether. And best of all, he sounds like a friend who's been there and done it, rather than some therapist with psychology degrees and wind chimes hanging in his window.
9 - Nine Day Novel-Authorphobia: Laugh at Your Fear of Writing: Suck Less for Author Success (Writing Fiction Basics Book 0) (Steve Windsor)Normally, if a book has any kind of numerical target in its title ('Write a bestseller in 30 days!' 'How to earn a million dollars writing Kindle books!') I avoid it like the Ebola virus it all-too-often is. But I did the 'Look inside!' thing on Amazon with this one and it was immediately obvious this one was different from the usual snake-oil out there. Put simply, it's bloody hilarious, and, in spite of its audacious title, offers practical and down-to-earth advice about getting in the right mindset for writing a novel instead of actually trying to complete and publish one in the titular nine days. Rather than using soothing words and empowering mantras to help you over your fear that you suck at writing, Steve uses straight-up humour and self-deprecation to get you laughing at your insecurities instead. Read this book for the sheer fun of it; if it doesn't get you giggling you are officially dead inside.
10 - The Audacity to be a Writer: 50 Inspiring Articles on Writing that Could Change Your Life (The Best of Positive Writer)This book is actually a collection of the most popular posts to the Positive Writers website, from various regular contributors. It packs a lot in, and is nicely laid out so that you can dip in and out, reading small chunks at a time without losing the overall thread. If you already know the Positive Writers website (I didn't but I've certainly bookmarked it after reading this book) you'll know what sort of thing to expect, and it's great to have all the best golden nuggets all gathered together in this little treasure chest. This is the book to pick up and dive into whenever you're swirling in the cesspit of writer insecurities.
So, what books would you recommend? If there's any you think I should add to my must-read list, please let me know in the comments (my Breakfast Reads need their fuel, don'tcha know...) And I hope 2016 is a marvellous year for you.