Videos and podcasts may be great sources of advice, but it should come as no surprise that reading books is one of the best ways to improve your own writing. After all, where better to look for inspiration on how to write a novel or nonfiction book than from people who have not only been there, done that, but written another book about their process?
There are hundreds of books on writing out there, so to make it easier for you to get started, I’ve put together a list of my top five. Between them, they contain pretty much all the tips and tricks you need to go from prolific reader to published author. Let’s dive right in!
1. Naked, Drunk, and Writing by Adair Lara
Adair Lara is an accomplished author, columnist, and writing coach who understands every single stage of a writer’s journey, from sitting down to write your first page to finding a literary agent and getting published. While Naked, Drunk, and Writing concentrates on memoirs and autobiographical works, it remains full of insight for writers of all genres. Lara delves into the value of creative writing workshops, the process of finding an original angle for your work, how to make time for writing, and so much more in this practical, easy-to-follow guide.
2. First You Write A Sentence by Joe Moran
Next on our list of the best books on writing is Joe Moran’s First You Write A Sentence. It might sound obvious, but the titular advice is quite literally applicable to every kind of writer: poets, copywriters, novelists, speechwriters. All must start with a sentence, and ensure they convey what they want in the sentences to follow with powerful phrasing and smooth transitions.
Indeed, through arranging even the simplest words into well-crafted sentences, a writer can create passages that capture a reader’s imagination and draw them into a story. In this book, Joe Moran uses examples ranging from the Bible to George Orwell to demonstrate what you can achieve with a single strong sentence. He also gives practical grammar and syntax tips without veering into a dry primer; all this combined means that First You Write A Sentence remains an engaging and inspiring read for writers everywhere.
3. The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner
An essential read for writers who need to get out of their own heads, Betsy Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice for Writers is an honest and unpatronizing guide to writing, editing, and getting one’s book published.
The new revised edition accounts for changes in the publishing industry since its original publication twenty years ago, offering the perfect blend of advice on the art of writing and the business of selling books. Lerner’s advice avoids preachy cliches, as she instead analyzes different writer “personality types” to focus on the real hurdles that writers face — from how to actually start writing your book to what to do when you lose motivation.
4. Find Your Voice by Angie Thomas
There are few writers who understand the importance of finding your own voice as well as award-winning author Angie Thomas. Find Your Voice is a guided creative writing journal, full of personal writing prompts and exercises which encourage you to write in a way that’s authentic to you. The book is beautifully illustrated with motivational quotes and is ideal for YA authors like Thomas. Her words of wisdom are sure to help you generate ideas for short stories, create authentic characters, and perhaps most importantly, manifest your unique writerly voice.
5. The Art of Fiction by John Gardner
Last but certainly not least is John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction. Gardner based the book on his own creative writing classes and seminars from his teaching career. As a result, it’s full of both practical and innovative tips for readers who want to become writers. The book’s lessons on polishing your aesthetic and crafting the perfect sentence have inspired whole generations of new writers, and the illuminating examples from classic literature have stood the test of time.
By the time you’ve made your way through this list, you should be well on your way to refining your craft and getting your work into the hands of other readers — so happy reading, writing, and reading about writing!