Books on Writing

I’ve always wanted to write for a living.

Growing up, I became a bit intimidated when I learned that it’s very unlikely to be able to do that, and so my self-confidence took a hit. 

That pull towards stories and storytelling has never gone away, though, and now I am writing more. I’ve finished the rough draft of my first novel and I’m now working on editing it. I set myself a list of books to get through before jumping into edits, but I think that I’m procrastinating a little bit. Right now, I think that trying to read too many books on writing will just confuse me.

I’ve been reading Into the Woods by John Yorke, but I’m not sure I really like his writing style. There are a lot of interesting points that he raises, but he is very repetitive, which bores me when I’m reading it. I’ve put it to the side for now.

So, I’m going back to the basics. 

There are a few books that I have read about writing and really enjoyed, and most of those have been to the point, which I appreciate and feel like I learn more from them because of it. I do enjoy lyrical writing, I’m currently reading The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and it is beautifully lyrical, but in a book where I’m trying to learn how to do something or about something, I prefer it to make its point and move on, which I feel like Into the Woods doesn’t really do.

For books on writing, a lot of my experience of reading them is a combined experience; I don’t read them and ignore the advice that I read from the others. The new information enhances the old and gives new perspectives. In the below descriptions I had a difficult time talking about some of them without mentioning others. 

Here are my favourite books about writing so far:

On Writing by Stephen King

A black and gray book on a gray background. The book is Stephen King's "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft." It has a picture of Stephen King leaning back in a chair of a small office with a corgi under his legs.

I read this book a long time ago, but it was a really interesting read. The first half is a memoir of how he became a writer, and he gives advice on how to write in the second.

I haven’t read too much by Stephen King, mostly because I’m a wimp when it comes to Horror, but what I do enjoy some of his writing and the advice that he gives in this book is solid.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

A silver book with some red, black, and blue. The book is "The Elements of Style: Fourth Edition" by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

This is a small, old book that I’ve had for a while. I think I bought it after Stephen King recommended it in his book, On Writing, and I reread it occasionally because it gives good advice. The thing that I remember most about it is to “be concise.” 

Save the Cat: Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody

A gray background with an orange book on to. The book is "Save the Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last Book on Novel Writing You'll Ever Need" by Jessica Brody. On the book is a picture of an orange cat hanging from some rope.

This book gives a roadmap of story structure and character arc. She gives plenty of examples and this book is probably the primary one that I’m going to use to edit my current novel because, even though I read this book as I was drafting, my plot got away from me a little bit and I think I need to do a bit better for it.

The Writer’s Little Helper by James V. Smith Jr.

A red, black and blue-green book on a gray background. The book is "The Writer's Little Helper: Everything you need to know to write better and get published." There are some generic pictures on the book, such as a drawn mountain range and a puzzle piece.

This is probably one of the books that I’ve had the longest about writing, and I have dipped into it over the years. I read it cover-to-cover late last year and found it to be very helpful. While it is small, it has a lot of information. There is some information about pacing within a scene that feels a bit complicated and that I still have to try, but I’m going to wait until I’ve finished my next draft to figure it out.

Otherwise, this book has good, practical advice and information about the parts of a story, but is more broad than Save the Cat: Writes a Novel.

A Passion for Narrative: A Guide for Writing Fiction by Jack Hodgins

A blue book on a gray background. The book is "A Passion for Narrative: A Guide for Writing Fiction" by Jack Hodgins. There is a picutre of some women surrounding a man with a stringed instrument and they seem very interested in what he is saying. It looks like it coud be from the Renaissance, possibly.

In university, I was able to get into their creative writing class and this was the book assigned to us. My university didn’t have a creative writing program, so this was the closest I could get to one at the time. 

I’ve only read parts of this book as assigned readings from class, but I did get a lot out of it. It has information on the fundamentals of storytelling and describes them clearly.

Last year while I was still drafting my WIP, I started to read it from the beginning, but the author recommends writing your draft first and then reading it, so that’s what I’m now doing. It also has a revisions section, which I am very eager to read. 

About Writing by Gareth Powell

A black book on a gray background. The book is "About Writing: A Field Guide for Aspiring Authors" by Gareth L Powell. The title and name are in wwhite and red.

I follow Gareth Powell on Twitter, which is how I found out about it. I enjoy it because it’s a small book with helpful inspiration and advice. It was published in 2019, so it feels contemporary, current. While I’ve been looking at this book to do this blog post, it makes me want to re-read it, because the tools he gives are ones that he uses in his own writing process. 

There is a chapter called “The Fear” which speaks to me because imposter syndrome and a lack of confidence in my writing are issues that I deal with nearly daily, but he addresses this and gives tips on how to surmount these concerns.

Final Thoughts

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

One thing that I appreciate about all of these books, but particularly about The Elements of Style, is that if you know the rules, then you know how to break them. If something is written in such a way that the reader would not expect it, that can make a specific point or enhance a particular point of view that would have been impossible otherwise. If you don’t know the rules, though, and break them, then your book might read differently from the way you intended. That is something that I’m worried about in my own writing, but I do feel better about having these books. Even just flipping through the pages I am reminded of things that I remember from reading them.

I am going to be reading more books on writing, because I always want to be learning and improving my writing, but I don’t want reading about writing to slow down my actual writing, because I have learned a lot from writing and want to learn more from editing. I’ll post about these occasionally.

With the amount of books and advice that exists, often a fair amount of it contradictory, deciding which advice to follow can be overwhelming. Getting too muddled up with different advice can be more harmful than good.

Ultimately, writing and learning while you write is the best method of writing better, something that I need to remind myself of more often.

Published by mooseisreading

Canadian living in the UK. I love books, games, and cats!

10 thoughts on “Books on Writing

    1. Thanks! 🙂

      I think my favourite one is Save the Cat because she provides so many examples of how other books follow the structure.

      Do you have any favourite books on writing? (I’m always on the lookout haha)

      Like

      1. My two favorites are on your list: On Writing and Elements of Style. The latter was the newsroom Bible when I was a journalist. Every book I read teaches me something about writing, especially books in my genre. I think Stephen King says good writers read, read, read.
        Save the Cat…are you a screen writer?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh wow, that’s awesome! They are really good 🙂

        What is your genre, if you don’t mind me asking?

        It’s such good advice! To learn writing, but I’ve heard also to understand the genre and market.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hello,
        My genre is adventure memoirs…my first book is Camino Sunrise: Walking With My Shadows. My second book is also a distance trekking story…about four European backpacking adventures. It is coming out in a few months. How about you?

        Liked by 1 person

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