And why you should read them now…
When it comes to books on writing, I’ve read them all. Most of them are complete crap. A lot of them just tell you to write something and submit it to an agent. Duh. But there are a few…a few…that really break it down for you and get you to think. They give you something to think about and they give you examples and an actionable plan.
So, here are my picks for the best in writing books – of all time. Some are oldish. They don’t reference Facebook or anything online for that matter. But they will make you a better writer and if you’re a better writer, you just might get published.
Bird by Bird. Anne Lamott.
Without a doubt, this book helped me understand why I feel compelled to write things down. She’s funny and truthful and will help you not only get your book out, but tell you it’s OK to want to do it in the first place. Read this book and you’ll come out not just a better writer, but a better person for having read it.
Zen in the Art of Writing. Ray Bradbury.
From the man who wrote Fahrenheit 451, a brilliant little tome on how he came to write, why, and how he got published in the first place. The one thing that helps all writers is knowing that rejection is not new – nor are you alone in them. Self-publishing is a wonderful thing, but having a respected publication validate you with a paycheck is something a little more. Bradbury is the master.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Stephen King.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge Stephen King fan. I like a few of his books – Misery, Christine (read as a pre-teen), The Stand, but that’s about it. Frankly, I was a little afraid that this book would be all about how to write horror. It was, however, the most readable book on writing I’ve ever read. King tells you straight up that he can’t make you a great writer if you’re not a pretty good one already. He also believes that some people are just disposed to writing well. But he does help a bad writer get better and a good writer can become great. Also, you get a lot of stories about his early years writing – yup, more rejections, don’t worry. This is the book I recommend to everyone who wants to write. It is the best overall book on writing you will ever read. Even if you don’t agree with me.
How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead: Your Words in Print and Your Name in Lights. Ariel Gore.
This book, more than any other, will tell you what is wrong with other books and advice about writing. Gore is a phenomenal writer with a huge heart who makes writing look easy (read The End of Eve. Just. Do. It.). As the editor of Hip Mama, she is also all in favor of publishing your own stuff and getting it out there. Find ways to get your writing read – and heard. Go to open mic nights and read it. This book will make you brave as a writer, which is something I’m still not very, but I’m better at it.
That’s it. Just those four. Sure there’s the Elements of Style and a ton of other books on writing, usually by people who have only written books on writing. Read the Elements of Style. Don’t read the other ones. If you haven’t heard of them or have never seen them in another part of the bookstore, don’t bother. Really. You want real advice from people who have been where you are right now. Read these four books and you’ll not only be inspired to write, you’ll be better at it.