We know there are tonnes of books out there ranging from the preachy to the overly technical, about writing. There are books which are near evangelical or which give writing as a spiritual gift. Whatever works for you, I suppose. There are also books which help you get off the sofa and up to the writing desk/table/laptop/notebook (take your pick) to actually write. Once you’re there, there are books to help you when you put pen to paper. Some would say that the best preparation for writing is reading. This is true. Most writers will tell you to keep reading all the time you are not writing, but reading is only part of the story. Writing is a skill to be learned, nurtured and honed and yes, some books do help you with the craft. If they give you the kick to start or keep writing, they are worthwhile. When coming up with a list of good books about writing it’s probably best not to make the list too long, so here are just 6 of the best, if you pardon the phrase, some of which you might not see on other lists and some which are the stalwarts.
If you want a book with some of the best advice from authors on why and how they write, this is a nice place to start. Based on the Literary Arts lecture series, The World Split Open has gems of wisdom from the likes of Margaret Atwood and Robert Stone. From the role of imagination to the creation of complex characters, this one may inspire you when you don’t feel fired up to write.
Deborah Levy, author of the wonderful novel Swimming Home, gives a great response to George Orwell’s 1946 treatise Why I Write. It’s nearly as much a memoir as it is a guide, but it like her other work, beautifully written which of course is apt. It also gives a perspective that a lot of the traditional male experts didn’t in the past. It is well worth putting on the list, if only to make you think about your writing and know that others may be going through creative struggle with you.
No list on writing could be without “kill your darlings”, now could it? Stephen King’s classic on writing really tackles the slacker when is comes to writer’s block, dawdling and story crafting. Opinion is divided on King, but you can’t argue with the prolific nature of his work. He also knows how to tell a story and in this book he also knows how to show others how to tell a story and develop characters. It is therefore a mainstay in any list on how to write.
How to Write by Robert Mohr is a good book to aid you in developing the craft of writing. It is a book which can really help in terms of grammar, syntax and getting the right meaning from your sentences. It is also a good book for showing you how to be more succinct when needed and how to use phrases properly when you want to be a bit more wordy. It can focus the mind when it comes to getting words on paper.
If you feel that your fiction should be in some way didactic or have some meaning which is deeper than solely entertainment, On Moral Fiction could be for you. John Gardner will question why you write and ask you if there is some higher goal you should be aiming for. Thought provoking in a literary and literal sense.
A book which really can be of use to those of you who wish to self-publish, Browne and King’s work on editing and how to do it is a good tool for those go it alone without an editor. It can also help you fine tune your skills prior to publishing, even if you will have an editor.
These are just some of the books, which provide some really good advice and practical help, to get you on the road to putting your thoughts on paper. If you are thinking about self-publishing contact SelfPublishBooks.ie to discuss your work.