Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Books (and other things) That Push Me To Write Better

I liked the topic of Kristi's post so much yesterday that I thought I would do my own post on the things that push me to be a better writer.

The most recent experience I've had with this feeling isn't from a book at all. It's from THE BEST MOVIE EVA!!! a movie.

I saw Inception last week, and I left the theater with one thought in my head:
I can do better.

The level of ingenuity and depth of emotion in the storytelling of the film blew my mind. It really just sort of stopped me in my tracks and I thought about the plot issues I was having with my current (and what feels like, the millionth) revision and it all seemed so small and silly. I realized not just that I needed to up my game, but HOW MUCH I needed to up it. Somehow I'd slipped into playing it safe, and safe = boring and seen it before. So I took a step back and started really ripping my tiny little impersonation of a book apart and all of a sudden I was excited about revising it again!

There are other books I keep in mind when writing as touchstones. Books that when I'm in a good mood, inspire me to attempt to reach some of their greatness and on a bad day thrust me into the pit of despair as I think I will NEVER write anything that good!

Some of those books are:

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling - because Jo Rowling's world-building and heart blow my mind every time I read one of the books.

The Hunger Games & Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - again, the world-building! The action! The emotion! Even now I get teary-eyed when I think about Rue!

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater - I love how poetic the writing is, the emotion, the sense of place, and the way she made two narrators such complete unique characters that you always know who's talking.

Stolen by Lucy Christopher - This story is so emotionally complex and moving, it still haunts me. And the detail to setting is so good that every time I think about it, I feel like I'm in the desert of the Austrailian Outback. I can completely see a place I've never been or even seen photos of.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver - I love the way she makes the ordinary beautiful in this book. The actual prose is beautiful and very poetic but it's also the way Sam observes things. I also love that she made very real, three-dimensional characters who could be unlikeable at times and made me care about them.

All of these books (and SO MANY more) do things that I hope to do in my own stories and they remind me that it IS possible to do if I just keep my focus on the goal. Also, I've just realized that all of these books have made me cry! I guess that's what sticks with me. And that's what I want to do, tell stories that stick with you.

What are some books that inspire you?


  1. Valerie--I could go on for days about Inception. I LOVED that movie! As a screenwriter, I'm sure you got even more out of it than I did.

    I've had that "I can do better" feeling ever since reading Matched. I've been gutting my ms and re-writing instead of revising. It's a great feeling! :)

  2. Great post! I LOVE all of those books. MATCHED by Allie Condie is another one that does it for me.

    I really need to see INCEPTION. I am dying to watch it!

  3. Also, VAMPIRE ACADEMY series and BLEEDING VIOLET (because the world building and characters in that book are so incredibly unique!)

  4. These are some great books that I haven't heard of, but will most definitely check out now. I saw a trailer for the book, BEFORE I FALL, and it sounded really awesome.

    A lot of authors inspire me with the way they write. J.K. Rowling is at the top of the list, along with Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, David Sedaris and many others.

    They have survived through all the tough times that a writing career could bring and they've come up on top. They are my idols, my role models, my heroes. They write the amazing stories that I care about, the characters that are three-dimensional, the quests that I want to take. They are all the type of writer I want to be.

    Awesome post and write on!

  5. Inception did that for me too! I also have favorite authors whose books I revisit from time to time to remind me of how awesome a story, or even a review can be.


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