I’ve always been interested in the academic aspect of writing, not just the practical craft. That’s why I enrolled in a Master’s study in writing. For that, I read quite a few books about writing. Some discussed the practical aspects, some delved deep into the meaning of writing, some detailed the process itself… They helped me get to know myself as a writer, and writing as an art, a craft and business.
I’ll discuss a few here, hoping that you might find a useful or entertaining book, too, one that will help you the way they helped me.
The very first book on writing that I read was Becoming a writer (1934) by Dorothea Brande. It’s an oldie but goodie. It discusses everything from plotting and finding inspiration, to how to establish habits that will help you write regularly and well. I think it’s particularly helpful in this last respect, discussing the discipline required to become a writer.
Another very helpful one, perhaps the most helpful of them all, was The Fire in Fiction (2009) by Donald Maass. Mr Maass is a successful agent with an awe-inspiring list of authors. Some think him writing books about writing is something to be frowned upon seeing how he’s an active literary agent, but I think it’s rather generous of him to be willing to share his vast experience. His book (he’s written many others, but I find this one the best) is extremely helpful when you have a great storyline, but your novel lacks that spark that makes it great prose. He discusses how to imbue your writing with life. Great suggestions and examples are included.
A less theoretical and a more inspirational take on writing is Stephen King’s On Writing (2001). It’s a delight to read, especially because King shared details and events from his life that helped him develop into the great writer that he is today. Worth re-reading several times.
If you’re looking for a basic guide on writing, Kate Grenville’s The Writing Book (2010) is for you. It was a bit of a disappointment for me because it’s so very general and basic, but if you’re just starting out, this one might help you put the first words to paper.
If you need very specific advice, check out Jessica Bell’s work. She wrote a set of booklets about how to tackle adverbs, showing instead of telling, cliches and how to express the six senses through words. The collection consists of four books or this all-in-on edition Writing in a nutshell (2014). Apart from theory, she includes numerous exercises to practice your craft.
Bird by Bird (2007) by Anne Lamott tackles every topic, from finding inspiration, getting the words on paper, to getting the first rejections and how to cope with them without giving up your dreams of having your work published. Instead of exercises, she uses reflection and guidance to welcome the readers into the world of writing.
If you’re looking to know more about inspiration and how it works, check out Writing in Flow by Susan K. Perry. She discusses writing in flow or writing ‘in the zone’, how to achieve it and what it means for the creative process.
If I had to choose just one of the above books, I’d say The Fire in Fiction was most helpful. But On Writing by King is a close second.
Do you have any favorite books on writing? What did you learn from them? I’d be grateful for any tips or links, if you’re willing to share. 🙂