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Books I Read in 2015 That Helped Me Along My Writing Journey

Sara General

I read a lot of great books this year. I used to read around fifty books a year but once I became pregnant with my daughter, I realized it was highly unlikely I would make it through that many (though I have read a lot more board books), especially since I was also finishing my Masters at the time. So I decided to aim for at least twenty-five. For the last two years, I’ve managed to hit that number fairly easily. This year, I actually managed to read 30 books, as well as a whole lot of articles on educational leadership. I also read some great books that helped me with my writing. I’ve decided to list them here for you, in case you’re interested in reading some as well.


Publishing for Profit – Successful Bottom Line Management for Book Publishers, 5th Edition – Thomas Woll

Being someone who writes purely for the love of it, this title made me a little uncomfortable, but title aside—it was a great book. For the last two years I’ve contemplated taking the Certificate in Publishing program at Ryerson University as a way to keep myself learning about the publishing industry in some kind of structured way. But deciding to pursue my doctorate, working, writing and raising my daughter puts some severe limitations on my time. Plus, I’ve learned a lot from just jumping in and doing things. Once I realized it was highly unlikely I’d be able to take the program, I decided to check out which course materials they were using and found this book in their Intro/Foundational course, so I ordered it.

It was very informative and definitely gave me a glimpse into the publishing industry from a certain perspective and since I decided to start my own publishing company, a lot of the information helped me to see what I needed to do. There were a lot of tools in the book that I found useful for organizing my own company, like templates for contracts, profit and loss statements, editorial plans, marketing plans, and sample job descriptions. Reading this book helped me to write a business plan, an editorial plan, and a marketing plan (though I had to readjust them all later to make them simpler for my needs). One thing the book did not really address though was independent publishing. So for that, I turned to other sources—some of which shared similar information and in a far more relatable context.


Discoverability: A WMG Writer’s Guide – Kristine Kathryn Rusch

I love Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog. I can’t even remember how I stumbled across her but I think it was from reading about Hugh Howey and then reading the Passive Guy’s website and seeing one of his comments about how he’d never read anyone with the unique long-term perspective that Kristine has about the publishing industry. Once I found her blog, I slowly read my way through all of her articles and because I appreciate how willing she is to share information with new writers, I began to buy her books as well. This was a great one that has to do with Discoverability. Definitely a book I would recommend for any independent writer. Also, her blog is awesome. This blog in particular, Writing By Committee, couldn’t have come at a better time for me—I was experiencing doubt and wanting validation, instead of writing out of love and sharing what I wrote with the world as a way of learning and improving. After I read this, I got back to work writing the stories I most wanted to tell.


Killing The Top Ten Sacred Cows of Traditional Publishing & Indie Publishing (Two Separate Books) – Dean Wesley Smith

Kristine’s husband is Dean Wesley Smith and his Sacred Cow books provide really unique insight into the publishing industry as a whole. The purpose of them is to address myths that plague writers and empower them to make more informed decisions about their writing and writing careers. There is a ton of practical wisdom shared in these books and multiple light bulbs went off in my head as I read them. When I talk about different books approaching the same cogs and wheels of the industry in a more straightforward and relatable way—I’m talking about books like this. Dean and Kristine both have a lot of knowledge about traditional, indie and hybrid publishing and it shows in how they’re able to break down publishing trends. I particularly enjoy when Dean talks about the historical aspects of publishing, how the industry evolved over time and how that evolution impacted everything from the price of books to the size of them. Compelling stuff. I’m hoping to take one of their online workshops in 2016.


Rivet Your Readers With Deep Point of View – Jill Elizabeth Nelson

I picked this book up on the advice of an editor I worked with in early 2015. It was a good read and provided some valuable exercises that helped me think about how to dig deeper to find unique and compelling ways of writing. I read this book every now and again to remind myself to do more showing than telling. Definitely recommended.


The Emotional Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression – Angela Ackerman, Becca Puglisi

One thing I did in 2015 was create an Evernote document where I listed various emotions and then listed various ways to show or describe a character feeling or expressing those emotions in unique ways. It became a super valuable note to me as I was doing rewrites. This book is similar to my Evernote (definitely more comprehensive than my Evernote is at this point) in that it aims to provide a list of physical signals, internal sensations and mental responses people experience from different emotions.

This is another one of those books that helps me dig deeper during a second draft if I’m stuck or need to find a way to show instead of tell. I can have a look at a particular emotion, check back through my Evernote for something I can modify and/or create something new. So in that way, it’s a bit like a prompt—just for description instead of story.

So that’s it! In 2016, I plan to read some more, including this one (recommended at the back of Rivet Your Reader With Deep Point of View), The Definitive Book of Body Language. I read a ton of other blogs and listened to podcasts that were really great and helpful as well, but perhaps I’ll talk about those in a different post.

What about you? Did you read any books this year that helped you with your writing? Do you have any lined up for 2016?

Please feel free to share and as always, happy writing!