5 Books to Make You a Better Writer: Lyrical Prose

There’s nothing quite like the atmosphere of a truly lyrical book. When an author delights in words, relishing them and writing beautiful sentences, readers notice. Lyrical prose has the power to be truly visceral and evoke emotions in the reader in a totally different way to many other styles of writing. Even if this isn’t quite what you want to do for your project, it’s worth taking a look to see how this kind of writing affects its readership.

Reading is the most important thing writers can do; it is truly the closest thing to an apprenticeship we have. By deconstructing books that work, we can figure out at least some of the magic that the brilliant authors have used when concocting their stories. This is the second in a series of posts which will include recommendations for books that excel at different aspects of the craft. To view all the posts in this series, click here.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

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This is a tale of a girl raised by monsters, half in another world, and half in Prague. From the outset, the writing is the first thing the reader notices; the author manages to intertwine laugh-until-you-cry moments with cry-until-you-laugh moments through her lovely prose. It’s almost impossible not to fall in love with this book and its world.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

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Wintergirls is different from the other books on this list, because it is very real. This is about a girl with an eating disorder, told in the first person, and though the writing is beautiful, it is very dark. The narrator wraps the reader up in her compulsive thoughts and self-doubt so convincingly, that it is very easy to understand how the sickness took hold of her in the first place.

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

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Don’t be frightened of this book because of its literary stature; it is full of beautiful prose and interesting writing. Woolf totally revolutionised the way character was written. In this book, every time a new person is seen, even if just for a moment on the side of the road, they get 300 words about them and their worldview and their day. Though there isn’t a heavy plot, it’s hard not to be captivated by Woolf’s masterful writing.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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It would be remiss not to mention this beautiful tale. Here, Death is our narrator, and he sees the world in such whimsical sadness, and it is through his honest but poetic descriptions that the reader finds themselves truly gutted. What would this book be, if the prose were sparse and blunt? It would certainly have a very different kind of impact.

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

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Imagine a world where there is far more sea than land, and humanity is separated between those that live on land and those who dwell in the sea. We follow a travelling circus boat and a girl who lives alone on an island, performing funerals as penance for a crime. This book is literary, mystical and all-consuming, without ever overdosing on adjectives.

Honorary Mentions

  1. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, for being filled to the brim with rhythm, whimsy and beauty. It’s hard to beat the atmosphere of this strange little book.
  2. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, for intertwining a dark and mystical world with interesting writing.
  3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, for bringing both the ’20s and a sense of neverending longing to life.
  4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, for being the quintessential circus novel, and a prime example of wonderful word-wrangling.

 

How to Write an Author Bio (Even Without Experience)

One of the most fearsome things about getting published is the dreaded author bio. Even established authors with hundreds of stories and articles published struggle to get it right, so how can the rest of us mere mortals even try? Especially if we don’t even have a publication record?

Relax, friends! There’s an art to writing the perfect author bio, and if you can pull it off, no one will dare question your writerly authority.

Remember, if your author bio is being read, it’s likely that someone else has endorsed you. An editor has decided that your writing is perfect for their publication or website, or even if it’s on your own blog, it’s likely that someone has shared it. You don’t need to prove to anyone that you can write; you’ve already gotten at least one tick of approval.

What Do You Write?

First things first: your bio should make it absolutely clear what kind of writer you are. What topics or genres take your fancy? Do you write fiction or nonfiction? Longform or short? Is your ethnicity or culture important to your work? Are you a freelance writer, or do you only write what you want to, when you want to?

Often, when planning festivals and events, or sourcing people to write articles, planners rely on writer’s bios to tell them what they are. You don’t need to answer these questions one-by-one, but make it absolutely clear to anyone who has never heard of you exactly what kind of writer you are.

Where Are You From?

If you want opportunities to come to you—especially the speaking-at-events kind—it’s very important that you say upfront where you are located. As someone who has worked in arts programming, it can be a little frustrating not to be able to figure out where a writer lives (and even if they’re still in the country!). Make it as easy as possible for people to think of you for stuff.

You might think that you’re not experienced enough for these kinds of opportunities, but you never know. Often, a young or fresh voice can be great on a panel, or you could be in a particular niche where appropriate writers are hard to find.

Any Particular Achievements (Or Experiences)?

Mention any writing achievements, such as being featured in a publication, placing in an award, doing an internship or receiving a fellowship, straight up in your bio. If you can, include at least one specific, tangible achievement that people can be impressed by.

Be creative! If you don’t have a tangible achievement just yet (or this bio is for your first one), look to see if there’s anything relevant in your life, either to the writing piece itself, or to writing in general. For example, if you’re publishing a food article, you can mention the time you won a pie-eating contest, or how you grew up in a household made of chefs.

Another approach is to take a look at the audience of where your bio will be displayed, and try to relate to them somehow. If you’re writing to an audience who loves painting, mention how you’ve been fingerpainting since you were three, or if it’s a publication about your local town, talk about long you’ve lived there or your experience with a local landmark.

Read Other Bios

Take a look at the other bios being published in the same place yours are. Pick up a copy of the publication, or take a look at the website, and spend some time reading them to pick up any common themes or styles. Odds are, if you’re being published there, there will be other writers at a similar stage.

Also take a look at the bios in similar publications, on blogs, at the Emerging Writers Festival, and anywhere else where writers at a similar stage to you might be posting. This will also expose you to different structures and different types of bios.

This will help you to play with the structure of your bio. Copy a few other people’s, and play around until you find a fit that’s right for you. It’s also a good way to figure out how to adapt your bio so it’s appropriate for different audiences: chances are, you’re going to use it in places with totally different styles and audiences.

What’s Your Voice?

The author brand is an intimidating term, but really it’s quite simple. What kind of person do you want people to think you are? What kind of voice do you like writing in? Why should they read your stories?

Think about what people come to your writing for. Are you funny, do you make them think, or do you create wonderful worlds for them to escape to? Is your prose lyrical or sparse or something else entirely? Are you calm and professional, quirky and funny, or dreamy and full of wonderment?

Try to use this same voice in your bio—remember that your bio is an introduction to you, and if you can use your own voice while also matching the style of the publication, you’ve really succeeded.