If writing is something you want to do, these 6 books on writing will help get you started.
Good writers write, but did you know they also READ? Like, A LOT? In fact, many authors, when asked how does someone become a better writer, they often suggest two things: Write a lot and read a lot. It makes sense doesn’t it? The two are inextricably linked. As writers, we need to read to study style and craft, and learn from those better than we are on how they approach structure and plot and themes. But I want to share a few books that are specifically on the craft of writing that can help you become a better writer.
One goal I’ve had this year to spend more time learning about writing and developing the craft of writing. I’ve signed up for online classes, I’ve been looking into trying a Masterclass, and I’ve been reading extensively (and plan to continue). Writing, like most things in life is not a destination. It is a perpetual journey of learning, growing, and improving. You’re never “done”. There is no “arrival” to writing. Sure, you may have goals like publication or making it a full time career, but if you hit those awesome mile markers, you’re still not done.
Chance are, if you’ve been writing for more than five minutes, you’ve read at least one if not more of these titles. But I believe they’re worth rereading and studying over and over again. And this list is not final. I will always be adding it it as I read and learn more.
On Writing by Stephen King
I love this book so much. So. Sticking. Much. Regardless of whether or not you like Steve King’s writing, you cannot refuse he is a brilliant writer. Part memoir, part writing advice, and zero pretention, On Writing is a beautiful letter from one writer to another with dry wit, and sound advice. I reread it every year.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Another book I absolutely love. It’s full of encouragement and commiseration on the difficulties of writing with plenty of delightfully self-deprecating humor that every writer can relate to. Lamott cracks me up with her style, which is neurotic and painfully self-aware, yet lovely and beautiful at the same time. If you ever feel like you’re crazy for trying to write, you need to read this book.
Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody
Save the Cat! Writes a Novel is adapted from the screenplay guide. Brody breaks down what story is by plot points or “beats” that demonstrate how story works and how you can use it to write a better one. If you’re struggling with plotting, this book is gold (as is the next on the list.) It’s a simple read with plenty of examples from well known books.
The Anatomy of Story by John Truby
Another book dedicated to developing a story plot organically, The Anatomy of Story looks at both film and books to explain the elements and parts of a story, breaking them down so that you can create a story that emerges organically and beautifully in 22 steps. I read this book with a highlighter so I can go back and read it again, focusing on the parts I want to remember. If you are a writer who struggles with fiction or plotting, I would highly suggest picking up a copy of this book.
Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White
The writer’s manual. The bible. The gold standard. Maybe I’m over selling, but go with me. The Elements of Style has been around for nearly a century, and it it full on guide to good writing. Things like, “omitting needless words” or using active voice–any aspect of composition can be improved and this book can help you improve them. I don’t own a copy, yet, but it is definitely on my list.
While not necessary a book that will help you with your craft, writing markets offer many things that I find beneficial to the writing process and journey. First of all, they obviously list markets where you can sell you work or find an agent or publisher. If you have a goal of publication, part of your job is to learn the markets. The other part is, Market Guides like “The Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market” (my personal choice of market guide) often include interviews form agents, authors, and editors, articles to help you with your craft, platform, marketing, or goals, and a few basics about the submission process.
This is by no means a complete list. There are plenty of books on there on writing and publishing, but these are (in my humble opinion) the best. So grab yourself copies of these books and get started!
Are there any books I left out? What are your favorite books on writing?
2 thoughts on “6 Books to Read if You’re Serious about Writing”
I really need to get to reading Save The Cat! It’s been on my TBR pile since forever, and you may have just persuaded me to start. I’d also like to add Ann Patchett’s The Getaway Car and Chuck Palahniuk’s Consider This as great candidates as well. Anyway, thanks for this post, Cathryn!
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I’ll have to check those out! Thanks for the recommendations!