There are a lot of good books on writing and improving craft.
There is also a lot of crap.
Fortunately, I’ve read quite a lot of books geared towards every aspect of writing, whether it be motivational literature such as defeating procrastination and the myth of writer’s block, or craft oriented works on improving your style and honing your voice.
And it’s not just books on writing, specifically. There are loads of books out there that aren’t specifically aimed at writers but which I have found great inspiration from. The best of those books sneak onto this list.
This list takes into account the opinion of fellow writers simply by their presence on this list. It is usually through the blogs of others that I stumble upon these books on writing, and I imagine it is the same for those bloggers, so they have the approval of a rather large group. Anyway, without further ado, and in no particular order…
On Writing by Stephen King
On Writing was probably the first book on craft that truly resonated, and forced me to make that move from hobby to career writer. It’s part autobiography, part writing guide, but all of it is useful stuff. You don’t have to be a fan of King to appreciate his no-bullshit breakdown of some of the core writing concepts. You don’t even have to agree with half of the things he’s saying. Still, I believe there is something for everyone in this book, whether it be the stellar advice on self-editing, or the ridiculously simplistic way of forming ideas. On Writing is always the first of my favourite books on writing that I recommend.
The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield
Stephen Pressfield’s book found its way onto my Kindle in some heavenly manner at a time when I was struggling with motivation. I read The War of Art in one sitting, and I have read it twice since, and the effect it has is still profound. Stephen Pressfield’s book revolves around the idea of ‘Resistance’ as an evil force within all of us, battling to keep us from doing what we truly believe is our destiny. There is a lot of lofty talk of muses and angels, but Pressfield is clear when he says that you can take those themes metaphorically. I’d recommend The War of Art to any creative who has a tendency to procrastinate. It might just change your life.
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Not strictly a book on writing, Napoleon Hill’s 1937 personal-success guide is still a useful tool in every startup’s library. Think and Grow Rich’s blurb promise of ‘money-making secrets that can change your life’ may seem a little off-putting, but there is some fantastic advice in there, particularly for writers looking to start a career. I actually read the book when I was already writing and publishing, but it just about gave me that final bit of motivation needed to switch to a professional mindset, which is ultimately what the book’s ‘secret’ revolves around. There are hobby writers and there are professional writers. If you want to be a professional writer (or professional ‘anything’), then Think and Grow Rich may be one of the most important indirect books on writing available to you.
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Okay, I’m really breaking the rules now. The Power of Now is not a writing book at all — far from it. How can a self-help book on the spirituality of living in the present really help a career in writing? Quite a lot, actually. The thing is, we all find ourselves in situations where we may not be happy. Perhaps it’s in a full-time job, or working night shifts. But we stick with it, because the rewards at the end of the road are worth it, aren’t they? The Power of Now seeks to profoundly change the idea of future rewards by framing everything in the present moment. We spend so much time thinking about what we might do tomorrow or what we should’ve done yesterday, before we know it, a month has gone by, and then a year, and so on. Quite simply, The Power of Now is the best book you can read if you want to start living life in the present. Once you’ve read some of the ideas this book presents, you’ll find yourself applying its concepts to every aspect of your life, whether consciously or unconsciously. Essential.
The 90-Day Novel by Alan Watt
It wouldn’t be right to compile a list of the best books on writing without including a book that directly addresses craft. In my opinion, The 90-Day Novel is one of the very best books available for this, as well as a whole host of other things. The premise of the book is simple: it acts as a daily companion through the writing of a novel, giving you motivational and structural pointers through your writing journey. I started following the programme for my new book, Killing Freedom (out next week, folks!), but deviated from the path after around forty days. That doesn’t really matter, though: It gave me the helping hand I needed to start the book and allowed me to form my own route. I still read the rest of the book, and found its daily tips very helpful. Whether you choose to stick to the path or read the book linearly, there are some great and detailed exercises on nurturing ideas and creating a structure, as well as timeless advice on trusting the left-brain during the first draft process. Alan Watt taught me that it’s okay for my first drafts to suck. That can be sorted in the rewrites.
Which books would you add to the list?
Image courtesy of Shannon Drummond via Flickr