Saturday, May 20, 2017

Books That ... Influenced My Writing

After brainstorming blog post ideas with my brother on Wednesday, I came up with an entirely new blog series to begin :) I don't share nearly enough book recommendations here, so this is going to be fun!

All writers are readers. This writer did some early morning contemplation because she wants to give credit to all those amazing books that inspired her and shaped her writing.

That's when I realized ... every book I have ever read has shaped my writing. It's all the books together that make me. But I can't share every book I've ever read (although my Goodreads is a great start).

So I tried to narrow it down for you today to ten "items" (because there's a lot of series here ...). They are listed in the order that I read them and the bold bits are new elements of writing I learned by reading them.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

They're such a classic, how can the books my Dad read aloud when we were kids not make the list? I remember loving the stories because they were clever, imaginative, thought-provoking, and an analogy to something more. I could tell that even as a kid and I appreciated that they weren't "just kid books."

A Series of Unfortunate Events
 by Lemony Snicket

They're just really great, okay? It was the first time I'd been introduced into really snarky, ridiculous, and highly clever storytelling that somehow made sense for 13 books. The fact that Lemony Snicket himself has a story in the books just makes it that much cooler. I really loved that they included a bookworm, inventor, word definitions, and lots of secrets around words. Words were a theme ;)

Canadian West by Janette Oke

This series is my absolute favorite by her. (Don't confuse it with Return to the Canadian West.) It was one of my first series to read that covered a sweet romance past the marriage. It's like grown up Little House on the Prairie because it follows Wynn + Elizabeth for years and managed to keep it interesting.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I love this book so much. I'm always raving about An Old-Fashioned Girl, but you really can't beat Little Women. All of the relationships in this book are fantastic and accurate, and there are so many words of wisdom for the reader as the March girls learn life lessons. Such a meaningful and insightful story.

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

This historical fiction definitely stuck with me. It's the only historical fiction I've read in the time of the Puritans. The entire is story is fiction, really, but set in a historic era when being thought a witch was actually thing. This is my inspiration for well done historical fiction ;)

The Elements of Style by William Strunk + E. B. White

I read this one for school a few years ago. It's so good! Extremely concise and covers all those sticky grammatical issues. Also, yes. E. B. White as in Charlotte's Web. I didn't realize that until recently! He came behind his admired professor William Strunk and compiled Strunk's teachings in a book.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
by Dave King + Renni Browne

This is the first book on the writing craft that I voluntarily bought. It addresses often badly done technique and presents the remedy and practice samples. This is a great book when you know your story lacks something in dialogue or description (pick your area) but you don't know what.

Out from Egypt Series by Connilyn Cossette

I've only read the first two books in this series. While the storytelling is excellent (but often tells more than I want it to), her Biblical historical fiction is unparalleled. The texture of manna, why Moses doesn't like speaking (it's more than he doesn't want to), the construction of the Tabernacle, Miriam's role in the new nation ... all used with historic and Hebrew terms. Such flawless foreign detail.

Out of Time Series by Nadine Brandes

I love this series so much! If I ever wrote anything dystopian, I would want it to have the creativity and purpose that Nadine's does. Everything about her world and characters stands out to me more than most books. The theme of shalom and Parvin's struggle to define God ... I can relate to a lot of it (unusual for futuristic America) and it's because Nadine got personal and is awesome. ^.^

The Merchant's Daughter 
by Melanie Dickerson

This one is on the list, because she writes excellent medieval historical fiction retellings. Since that's basically what Andora's Folly is, you can understand why I was taking notes! In this book especially, I was surprised with the quality of her Beauty and the Beast retelling because I couldn't see things coming. The terms for the local government and household items were ones I was familiar with but just finally understood.


There you have it! Have you read any of these? What books have shaped your writing? 

If you have any interest, the introductory post Books That ... I Will Love Forever is over on Teen Authors Journal.

Before you go, check out last week's beta reader sign up and a giveaway that includes Martin Hospitality!


  1. OH I'M JUST STARTING THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE. I've had it on my shelf for about a year but it's so tiny... I'm convinced it got lost between other bigger books. I definitely didn't procrastinate, and I definitely don't hate grammar. *cough*

    I actually haven't read much from this list..? BUT HONESTLY, ABI. It's because you picked a bunch of girly books. Sigh. XD I tried a Melanie Dickerson book once (it had like an archer girl on the front?? so maybe you've read it) but... no. I just can't handle this dramatic romance. #sorry

    BUT YES I APPROVE OF OUT OF TIME. *nods* Everyone should definitely read that because it's super good and kind of romance-y but not in like a sappy or dramatic sort of way.

    Also I feel like I should read A Series of Unfortunate Events? But also THIRTEEN BOOKS LIKE WAHT. Do I have time for this and is it worth it hmmm

    1. YES I SAW THAT! It's well worth it because it's less of a book as much as a compilation of rules so yay :D And tiny yes. Tiny is good.

      Ha I know I'm sorry XD Oh yeah The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest? It was good, but a lot of romance for sure. I felt like it was all well-written, but the kind of thing I'd be done with on a reread. :/ The Merchant's Daughter had less romance? Sort of? But the Gaston character was like ... super creeper. o.o So yeah not good. Idk, I'm waiting to find one of hers that's perfection because I feel like she does retellings and era really well. Never apologize for having good taste! XP

      Right?! Why can't all romance be written like Nadine's?? I get so tired of the ultra-mutual-attraction. That's my main complaint with the Out from Egypt books. Those wouldn't be up your alley I'm guessing ;)

      YES YOU SHOULD. Do not question. The number is so important XD The series is one-of-a-kind. Like The Mysterious Benedict Society but more ridiculous and a lighter read? Idk. Try the first one and let me know :DD It's easily a read-in-a-month series for me. Even 7-year-old me *nods*

  2. I love Melanie Dickerson! And the Chronicles of Narnia *happy sigh* My world building heart appreciates those books, especially Voyage of the Dawn Treader. (also I AGREE WITH JONATHAN about the Series of Unfortunate Events. They have all of them at my library but ... just ... SO MANY.)

    1. Yay! Which books of hers do you recommend? Her plots and retellings are so spot on, but sometimes they have more romance or references to immorality than I would like :/ Like it's all tasteful, but I get tired of it XD I've read The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest and her two Beauty and the Beast retellings. The Golden Braid is next on my list.

      *happy sigh as well* Narnia is just lovely. I remember unlocking all the wardrobes in our old family house because I really wanted to find the doorway XD I haven't ever had the chance to jump in a pond with a ring or hold hands on a platform ;) I honestly need to reread them, but I remember like the non-Pevensie ones when I was little. <3

      Doooooo iiiittt! Seriously it's so worth it. They're really easy to breeze through and so unique! Give it a shot for certain. And tell me what you think!! :D

  3. I read the Chronicles of Narnia last year and I LOVE THEM!!!

    Books that shaped my*pauses and eats ice cream while thinking*.....I'm not sure if they've "shaped" my writing, but Harry Potter, Maze Runner, and The 5th Wave all inspired me to be a better writer. ;)

    1. YESH another Narnia fan <3 Which one was your favorite?! I really love The Magician's Nephew and Horse and His Boy, but I need to reread them! *nod*

      The Harry Potters are definitely a phenomenal series. My dad read them aloud to us, but I haven't read them for myself (I'm so visual I have to read for myself for it to count for much haha). SO I need to read them again. I remember loving the story and marveling at her intricate plot bunnies. They're such a masterpiece because the whole series goes together so well hehe <3

      I haven't read the other two, although I've heard of them. Inspiration to be better definitely counts as shaping ;) It gives you that little nudge.

    2. My favorite Narnia book...well I really liked Prince Caspian cause it was so much better than the movie (same with Dawn Treader). But I also found myself really liking The Silver Chair for some reason, though I'm not sure why. But The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe was so beautiful that it's probably my favorite. 😊 Lol, your two favorites just happen to be the two I liked the least....oh, the irony. *shakes head slightly*

      Also, I really want to read some of Melanie Dickerson's books, but what's the content like? I've heard you mention that they're a little strong in the romance section, but like, how far do they go? (You're probably so tired of me asking about books' content, I'm sorry, lol. But not really, because I feel that you give really good feedback about language and sexual content which are my main concerns when reading a book. So THANK YOU ABI)

  4. Cool list :) I haven't read many of those books, but Witch of Blackbird Pond was amazing :) I think my writing was shaped largely by Gail Carson Levine and Jan Karon, and I want to write like Douglas McKelvey. He is AMAZING.
    And I want to read out of Time like SO MUCH. Just haven't gotten around to it yet :P

    1. Thanks! Yay, another WoBP fan :D I feel like no one else who has read that book appreciates it as much as I did XD So I'm so glad to find another fan!

      *hasn't read anything by those authors* I have heard of the two women though, and I know what they wrote! I definitely plan to read their books at some point :) I ... haven't ever heard of Douglas McKelvey, but I'll have to look him up!

      YES! I hope you like them. They're so worth the time and tears haha XD Yay for summer and hopefully more reading, right? :D

  5. I just got An Old Fashioned Girl from the library and I love it!! Thanks so much for the recommendation.

    I would say that the Viking Quest Series has really shaped my writing!!

    I need to look into the Out of Time series. I've heard good things about them and I'm in need of a good action/fantasy/Christian/adventure book!!

    I can't wait to read Andora's Folly because I love medieval!!!

    - Lilly Shyree (

    1. Oh my goodness YAY!! This makes me so happy ^.^ I'm sure it's not everyone's favorite book, but it just speaks to me so much. It's so exciting to be able to see others enjoy it for their first time :D

      Hm I've heard of those. I'll look them up. They definitely sounds like something my brothers would go for :D I'm always running out of things to shove into their hands ... not because they read that much but because I don't read what they like :P

      WELL then the Out of Time series is perfect! I just recently finished the series and I was blown away with how authentic the God element was. So easy to relate to, especially for something dystopian. I hope you get a chance to read and enjoy them!! Let me know if you do ;)

      Oh yay! I worked on editing for like three hours today so hopefully it will all be worth it! :D I'm excited to share it with you soon <3

  6. I'm gonna see if I can request the Elements of Style from thr library :)

    1. Awesome! It's the only book like it I've found. I refer to it a lot for specific wording issues instead of larger issues like theme and such that most books cover. :) I hope you find it helpful! If they have the illustrated version, totally do that one because it just adds ;)

  7. These are all so good! Martha and I love the When Calls the Heart television series but I've been dying to get my hands on the books.

    1. Thanks :) Yes, Viv and I watch that too haha. <3 I tried the newer series that the show is based off of (or maybe the show came before the books ...) and I didn't really like it :/ But the original series is so excellent! I feel like I outgrew a lot of Janette Oke's books, but those and her Seasons of the Heart Series still appeal to me :) You're certainly welcome to borrow my copies. I hear there's now 6 books in the original series, but I've only read and own the first 4. They're 2-in-1 editions, so only 2 physical books worth ;) I'm hoping to make it to your graduation, so let me know if you want me to bring them along!

    2. Oh fun! That's good to know. I feel like the last time I tried to check it out of the library, they either didn't have it or it was already checked out - I'll have to double check next time I go :)

      Yay I'm so glad you got the invitation! I'll let you know if I can't find them :)

    3. Sounds great! Hopefully I'll see you in June ^.^

  8. NARNIA!!!! One question, what other CS Lewis have you read? It's my personal mission to spread ALL his books to everyone like a wonderful infection.
    Also, thank you for recommending The Witch of Blackbird Pond because it now ranks among my favorites, it's such a lovely story. The romance was SO satisfying.
    I have been wanting to read A Series of Unfortunate Events for years and never have been able to, it's so high on my TBR, just need to get my hands on it!
    Also, Nadine Brandes is like, literally every blogger's favorite?? I need to find out why...

    1. FOR NARNIA AND FOR ASLAAAAAAAAAAN! XD I couldn't resist. Um I've read Mere Christianity, Screwtape Letters, and Till We Have Faces, all of which I LOVED! I know we own more of his, but I've yet to read them :) Any you recommend? I could use a wonderful infection.

      YES!!! Recommendation victory ^.^ It makes me so happy that you loved it! I don't know why, but the entire story makes me so content. It's the only book I've read twice back to back XP And yes, the romance. Exactly like romance should be <3

      I hope you can find it somewhere :D It definitely strikes me as something that would be up your alley!

      Because she's personable and a freaking amazing writer. I think you'd enjoy her books! I recommend them to everyone because they're awesome, but I honestly think they'd be worth your time. 100x more so than any other futuristic America deal. She really conquers every aspect of the storytelling. :)

    2. One should not resist a Narnia reference. I have yet to read Mere Christianity, but the other two are some of my favorites. Especially Till We Have Faces. The ones I most recommend are The Great Divorce and The Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength). They are SO interesting and do not leave your head once you've read them. I did a CS Lewis recommendations post here if you're interested:
      It's such a great feeling to get someone to fall in love with a book you love.
      Ah, I've got to get my hands on her stuff, I've heard so much about her!

    3. Awesome! I know we own The Great Divorce, but I'm not sure about his trilogy. I always forget he wrote that :P *goes to check out post*

      For sure! I hope you enjoy them :D

  9. Narnia—Amen! I've read the whole series twice and am considering a reread.
    Personally, Little Women didn't do much for me . . . sorry. XD
    I've also read the first two in Counted With the Stars and I absolutely agree with your thoughts on it. I'm looking forward to Wings of the Wind.
    I've read A Time To Die but not the rest of the series. It was a different style than I was used to so it took me awhile to get into.
    Yep, so that's it as far as what I've read on the list. :)

    1. Me too! I need to reread and reaquaint myself. I should probably read them aloud to my littlest siblings who have yet to be introduced ;) I remember enjoying Polly, Digory, and Shasta more than the Pevensies, but I love Edmund in the movies. So. Time for another read for sure :D

      Hehe that's okay! It's not a feather of book by any means. It can be a little dense and cryptic, but I love how much purpose it has. I want that much meaning in my books which is why Louisa May Alcott is one of my influences :) An Old-Fashioned Girl is my favorite by her (who am I kidding, one of my favorites ever), so perhaps you'd like it better? Same general style, but much much shorter and I related more.

      Oh good! I never knew if I was going to like them until I finished, but I couldn't put them down either XD I'd say they're both 4 star books for me mainly because it's too much romance for me. :P That sounds lame, and it didn't really bother me in the first one? But it gets old. :/ Excellent in so many ways, so I'll keep reading, but just TMI in the entire relationship department in my opinion. But still historically accurate I thought :)

      Awesome! You should definitely stick with it. I remember having to get used to it too now that you mention it. The series is so purposeful, though! I'm so done with fluffy stories with no meaning and cleverness. XD Book 1 got me to books 2 and 3, and they just kept getting better! The entire God thread is just <3

      Well great job, because that's quite a few! :D

    2. For some reason, I can't stand Susan—at all. I despise her. XD Lucy, Peter, and Edmund (after the Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe) are awesome though. Polly and Digory have interesting personalities for sure! And Eustace. XD He's quite the character. (Pardon the pun.) So, what order did you first read the series in?

      I'll have to try Old-Fashioned Girl. Thanks for the recommendation. :) I love books also that are deep. It makes reading a worthwhile pastime.

      And I absolutely agree with your thoughts on the romance. It's just too much and like you said, TMI. I wish Cossette would drop the romance but keep the rest of the plots. They're very good. I do love how historically accurate they are, except her scene with the Red Sea turning to ice instead of parting. But other than that, I think it's very accurate.

      Okay, that certainly makes me feel better. I keep hearing about how everyone adores the series and I was kind of not understanding what all the raving was about even after I read ATTD. I'll try the next one. Thanks. :D

      And thanks for replying with such detail! I love authors who are willing to take the time to do that. :)

    3. Haha, she kind of bugs me, too. I remember liking her fine in the books (and honestly I'd probably have her initial practical reactions), but I remember being really disappointed when she all out denied Narnia :( I'm pretty sure when Dad read them aloud we read them in publication order. So Lion & Witch, Caspian, Dawn Treader, Silver Chair, Horse & Boy, Magician's Nephew, Last Battle. ;) I think on our second read we did it more in the order of Narnia's history. So we began with The Magician's Nephew. :)

      That's true, I'd forgotten about that difference. I like that she takes some creative license, though. My interpretation is color by the Cecil B Demille movie :P Yeah I feel like it's too much to hope Wings of the Wind won't be a romance, but we'll see XP

      For sure! I hope you like them :D

      Haha, of course! Books are one of the best things to talk about. Ever. Thanks for replying! That's pretty rare as well ;)

    4. Yeah, it's sad to think that after living in Narnia for years and being a queen, you could deny it even exists. :( I read them out of chronological order the first time, and the second I did chronologically. The Magician's Nephew is so fun to see the background to everything. :)


      Thank you, I'm sure I will. :)

      They absolutely are, ask any of my friends what topic I talk about the most and you'll find that it's probably books or writing. :P

  10. Oh this is great! I've actually only read a few of these, but I almost have all the rest on my to-read list. Little Women is amazing! I think that was the first classic I ever read. And now that I think about it, I don't think I've read any other books by Alcott. That needs to change. :P

    The Witch of Blackbird Pond is like one of my all time favorites! I first read that one a few years ago, and since then I've read it about four times. :)

    I have yet to read a writing book. *hides* But I do have a few shelved on Goodreads. And Jonathan recommended a couple to me. Now I just need to get my hands on some these books. ;)

    1. That's awesome. Definitely read An Old-Fashioned Girl ;)

      Yay!!! I should reread it to remind myself of why it's just so awesome. And I should probably read more by that author as well.

      That's okay! The two I listed are my absolute favorites, so they're a great start. :)

  11. I've been meaning to read an Out of Egypt book *cries*

    1. The Biblical historical fiction elements just CANNOT be beaten. But they both had more detailed romance and such than I wanted :/ I'll still read the third one just for more great storytelling :D

  12. Narnia as well as The Which of Blackbird pond and a few others you mentioned, greatly effected me when I was younger and actually encouraged me to become the writer I am today.
    Loved seeing your list!

    1. It's so neat to hear how the same books can influence different people! Thanks, Kara :)

  13. Hi Abigayle! I tagged you for the Blue Sky Tag, if you want to do it (no obligations of course!):

    1. I will definitely answer some of the questions in my May newsletter! Thanks, Grace :D


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