Writing is a craft that you can perfect with practice. As someone who writes and edits books for a living, let me tell you that writing is not as easy as it seems; a lot goes into it. Even with a master’s in creative writing and linguistics, writing can sometimes become a hassle. So, without further ado, let’s dive into this blog and learn about some of our favorite books that can help you fine-tune your writing skills.
1. Benjamin Percy- Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction
This is a great craft book. I liked the way Percy mixes memoir and writing tips, sometimes discussing different writing tools that have worked for him over the years and this is why and then moving immediately to tips for the reader with clear examples from other people’s writing. I especially liked that Percy doesn’t overdo it with the memoir or discussion of his work. He talks about himself just enough to be effective, but never too much so as not to come off as self-serving.
The main theme of Percy’s book is combining exciting genre work with practical literary qualities to create fantastic and memorable works of fiction. According to Percy, literary fiction is not inherently good, and genre fiction is not inherently bad. He believes both have their qualities but that a blend of the two can bring out the best in a story, especially when the author focuses on telling a compelling and dynamic story, emphasizing elegant prose, quality descriptions, and characters over the plot.
His chapters are varied and sometimes unexpected, such as the fact that he devotes an entire chapter to the use of violence in stories and why you should think twice about including too much explicit violent detail in a scene, even if you’re writing in the horror or thriller genre.
He also often talks about writers who take the long road, persevere, fight off rejections, and keep moving forward and improving their craft. Percy had to write five novels before he published one, and the various struggles he describes in his book give me- and you- the ammunition I need to keep going. No matter how long it takes!
2. Stephen King- On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft
As a horror fan, this is my favorite book about writing, and I try to read it once a year. It’s something King obviously not only had to write but wanted to write, and it’s his unpretentious, direct, and concise style makes this book a must-have on any writer’s bookshelf. His book is, in many ways, about his exploration of the joy of writing.
King doesn’t care about the kind of fiction you write, and he has no interest in advising on how to write books that will necessarily make the author money. With his fascinating childhood memories at the beginning, helpful how-to’s, and the compelling true story of how writing saved his life, On Writing aims to inspire readers to revel in the love of storytelling and show them ways to turn competent writing into good writing.
The beauty of this book is that King doesn’t just tell you what to do to improve your writing. Instead of just providing bullet points on how to write better scenes, dialogue, characters, etc., he uses examples from his work so the reader can see how his advice has been applied in actual scenarios that have resulted in great books.
Of course, there are the important pieces of advice that every writer needs to know: Use active verbs whenever possible, avoid adverbs at all costs, and of course, his most famous: read a lot and write a lot. That’s the motto to carry with you throughout your life!
Even though the last piece of advice is the most obvious, it haunts me at the end of a week when I realize I’ve been writing for three to four hours every day but hardly reading anything- I love this book because it forces me to write as well as read, which is essential.
3. Brenda Ueland- If You Want To Write
Published in 1938, author Brenda Ueland shares her philosophies about writing. This text offers many practical benefits for writers of all disciplines. Neither this book nor the other provides specific instructions on writing; instead, it offers small bits of wisdom that all writers should learn from. The most practical advice: Always write from a place of truth, write with dedication and freedom, never write for money or to impress others, take a walk each day to gather ideas, and take the time each day to sit and wait for inspiration.
This is one of those rare books that writers can pick up repeatedly in their lives when they’re stuck, and it’s also an important craft book to read for inspiration outside of writing. She recommends sitting down at your desk for an hour and free-writing.
She suggests the best way to spark inspiration is to walk outside daily. She says to look around and be in the present. Or to look out the window and count the clouds in the sky. That’s when ideas come to you. Then you can think more clearly and eventually find your center.
Born in 1891, Ueland published six million words during her long career as a journalist, editor, freelance writer, and writing teacher. Since her death, a collection of her writings has been published, and a biography she wrote about her mother in the 1950s. Her best-known work, however, is If You Want to Write, which you should check out.
Sound off in the comments section below and tell us what you want to read next and if you want to read more about books on writing as a craft.