So You Want to Write a Book? These 7 Authors Will Teach You How to Tell Your Story

08/03/2016 11:31 pm ET Updated Aug 04, 2017

Having just finished a new book proposal, the topic of writing is fresh in my mind. I self-published my first book Blissful Business: A Gorgeous Guide to Creating Your Dream Career in Health and Wellness in January 2016. A publisher recently saw my book on Amazon and contacted me to write a proposal for her. Needless to say, I was so excited - and completely terrified! It's one thing to dream about getting a book deal, and a totally different thing to actually sit down and write the book of your dreams.

There are so many good reasons to write a book such as establishing yourself as expert, helping your brand stand out, getting exposure for your work and getting invited to do cool things like give talks or teach classes. But the blank page and blinking cursor can be very intimidating. You may think: "Where do I start? Should I do an outline first? Should I just write whatever I'm thinking? How do I do this?"

Whenever I get stuck in my writing, I turn to these 7 experts to help me.

1. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

I first read this book more than a decade ago during the long, lonely months of writing my doctoral dissertation. I was desperate for inspiration and motivation to keep going and Natalie Goldberg was like a trusted friend by my side. She blends the calm world of Zen with the structure of writing practice to help you tap into your creative flow and break through writer's block. In this book, there are many prompts and exercises to help you generate new material and practice your craft.

Why read this? If you want to find and express your authentic voice and learn to trust yourself more as a writer.

2. On Writing by Stephen King

When I stumbled onto this book back in 2007, I was so enamored with the content that I read the whole thing in two days. The personal stories that King shares about his journey as a writer are mesmerizing - how he threw away his idea for 'Carrie' and his wife pulled it out of the trash and encouraged him to finish it or how he jotted down the idea for 'Misery' on an airplane cocktail napkin after having a dream about a popular writer who fell into the clutches of a psychotic fan.

Why read this? If you want to crawl inside the skin of a writer who's had spectacular success and learn how he does it.

3. Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on the Writing Life by Anne Lamott

This book is just oozing with wisdom. Anne Lamott is one of the most well-respected authors of all time and this classic book is filled with poetic insight about the art of writing. I love Anne because of her love of writing. We both share the belief that there is something noble, mysterious and magical about writing. Reading this book is like taking a masterclass in writing that will push you past your perfectionism to place of brutal honesty and truth-telling.

Why read this? If you want to get out of your own way and get down to the work of putting words on the page.

4. The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes

One of the most important things that I've learned during the past 12 years as a professional writer is that successful writing has a lot more to do with courage than with skill. Sure, you need to know how to write, but most of us don't even attempt to write for fear of what people will think or how we will be judged on what we write. Ralph Keyes helps us to overcome these self-imposed limitations in this powerful book about how to transcend your fears and produce great work.

Why read this? If you want learn how to handle anxiety and criticism with grace and confidence.

5. Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

I was living in Hollywood, CA when I discovered this book, which couldn't be more appropriate given the fact that celebrities such as Diane Keaton, Julia Roberts, John Cleese and David Bowie flock to McKee's workshops. This book gives you the most comprehensive, integrated explanation of story structure that I have ever read. You don't have to be a screenwriter to appreciate this book - it's perfect for anyone who wants to learn story construction and the relationship between structure and character.

Why read this? If you want be a badass storyteller and create compelling characters and narrative.

6. The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

I must admit that I wept through all three of Mary Karr's memoirs (The Liars' Club, Cherry and Lit) because of the raw beauty and painful territory that she covers. She is a writing icon in my mind, on a very high pedestal. In this book, Karr synthesizes her expertise as professor and writer, spiritual seeker and recovered alcoholic, and gives us a rare teaching on the mechanics and art of writing. She breaks down the key elements of great literary memoir and shares excerpts from her favorite memoirs and writers.

Why read this? If you want to transform the messiest parts of your life into a breathtaking work of art.

7. Writing to Change the World by Mary Pipher

Well, the title of the book just about sums it up: Writing to Change the World. In this beautiful book, Mary Pipher teaches us that words are the most powerful tools at our disposal - they can save lives, start wars, promote justice or transform our perspective of right and wrong. I agree with Pipher that a writer's job is to share what we know as best as we can. This book will teach you that you can reshape society with your writing and leave your own mark on the world.

Why read this? If you want learn how to harness the power of writing to do to inspire change in the world.

At the end of the day, it's great if you study and learn from these masters, but all the reading in the world won't get your book written. Whether it's a 30-page book proposal or a 300-page dissertation, you've got to sit down and do the work. I know. I've been there. When I feel myself procrastinating or wandering aimlessly, I remind myself what Natalie Goldberg says:

"Believe me, you too, can find your place inside the huge terrain of writing...Now, please, go. Write your asses off."

Amen.

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