Who says one can’t learn how to write? I did, back in 2019. I had believed that the only thing a writer needs is a super creative imagination and an insatiable love for reading. But as time passed, I stumbled upon various books on writing. So far, it has helped reform my mindset and writing skills for the better.
Below are some of the ten must-read books on writing based on opinion and other writers and bloggers who can testify why each book is a must-read.
Part memoir, part self-help, Stephen King takes us through his journey, from living hand-to-mouth to becoming the King of Horror. Under the Grammarly blog post: 10 Amazing Books that will improve your writing skills, Karen Hertzberg affirms: Not only does On Writing share one enormously successful writer’s origin story, but it also teaches the craft of writing in a way that feels conversational and real, as though he’s a mentor sitting across the table from you, sipping coffee and giving you his best advice. You can read a review of the book here: On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft.
2. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
Through her experiences, Anne Lamott sheds more light on the things that cause writers grief, from imperfection to insomnia, using her celebrated wit and self-deprecating humour.
There are gems here about character, plot, dialogue, setting – and knowing when you’re done. And great exercises to try, along with brilliant paragraphs of her writing. Leafing through it to write I’ve today, I’ve realised it’s been too long since I’ve reread this one, and it’s just moved from the shelf to my bedside table (Sheryl Grant).
3. Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story, One Scene at a time by Jordan Rosenfeld:
I’m not lying when I say this book is gold! Why? First, writing coach Jordan Rosenfeld introduces one of the most looked down upon elements in fiction: A Scene.
Not only does she break a scene down by its types (Strong Scene Launches, Powerful Scene Middles and Successful Scene Endings), but she also shows how a particular setting can translate or mistranslate the plot. With potent examples from classic works of literature, movies, and even extra teachings on the Point of view, Authenticity of Detail, Character Development, Motivation, and other fiction elements, Jordan indeed shows you how to write a captivating story, one scene at a time.
4. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Published in 2012, this book helps writers and creators of all kinds overcome the biggest obstacle of all: our inner naysayer. The Amazon description says this book is “tough love…for yourself,” so if something inside of you keeps you from your most significant accomplishments, this is the right book to pick up (from 34 books to read On writing by Farrah Daniels).
5. Structure Your Novel by K.M Weiland
This book takes you through the mechanics of laying your story’s foundation by using the three-act structure. Pantsers may find this unnecessary at first, ‘like why I have to go through all this?’ But trust me, from one pantser to another, this book will be worth your time.
It also cites examples from both notable films and literary works, e.g. Pride and Prejudice, Thor and others, to show you a well-laid structure that dramatically contributes to each piece.
I especially recommend that you read this before or while working on your draft, as it will help you build an unshakable plot structure for your story. This book also comes with a workbook that will help you implement whatever you learn, especially if you’re unsure about using it in your work.
6. 27 Fiction Blunders and How not to Make Them by James Scott Bell
Before I started reading this book, I had assumed I knew all the common mistakes fiction writers make. But while reading it, not only did I realise how wrong I was, but I also got new insights on how to repair such errors and avoid them in the future. Filled with humour, relatable examples and bits of advice using experiences of some known authors, 27 fiction blunders show you how to take your work writing skills to the next level. I advise that you read this during your self-editing period for easy assimilation and practice.
7. Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr and EB White
This book gives the rules of modern writing. In his article: The 12 Best on writing I’ve ever read, Jerry Jenkins states: This short paperback is recommended by every writing teacher I know. Its simple truths cover everything from style to grammar and usage. Make them Second Nature.
8. Writing Fiction for all Your worth by James Scott Bell
This time, bestselling writing coach James Scott Bell doesn’t give writers’ advice. Instead, he highlights challenges writers go through and offers solutions they can take to overcome them.
9. Writing down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg:
This book encourages writers to write, first, by connecting with their inner voice and trusting it to lead them. Karen Hertzberg states: Natalie Goldberg’s voice is accessible, sometimes vulnerable, and her inspirational and wild creative methods have helped writers find their voices for over thirty years.
10. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron:
This book is primarily for writers experiencing writer’s block or feeling demotivated and lost. Experienced writers sometimes struggle with the idea of freewriting because they hold themselves to higher standards. My tip? Do it without any grammar – I use dashes and little else – and don’t go back to edit, correct spellings or anything else. This stops thoughts playing on loops in your head by getting them down, however incoherently, onto the page.
There are many other exercises and writing prompts, too, with each chapter addressing a different obstacle in the creative’s path. This book works for all kinds of creatives, but it’s brilliant for blocked or stalled writers. (Sherryl Garrat: Ten of the best books for a writer).
So if you were never a fan of reading books on writing, this list is an excellent way to start. And take your writing skills to the next level. Happy Reading!