Whether a crawling novice or polished professional, writers from every walk of life have room for improvement in their work. An endless array of rules and techniques must be kept in mind when writing – punctuation, grammar, transition, show don’t tell, etc. As a result, it’s extremely important to have a firm grasp on the fundamentals. By stressing the fundamentals, coaches and trainers have transformed individuals of modest talent into world class competitors. Why should writing be any different? Focus on the fundamentals and success will follow.
Below is a list of seven books I believe every writer should read and re-read. Some of these books focus on writing fiction. But even if your exclusive domain is as a nonfiction writer, you can benefit enormously from the tips in these books. Remember, the best writers show instead of tell. And there’s no better way to paint a vivid picture in the mind of a reader than by employing some of the basic principles of fiction writing. So keep an open mind. And if you long to improve your writing skills, devour these books with the utmost enthusiasm.
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
A classic moving into its eighth decade, The Elements of Style should be second only to the dictionary in the life of a writer. In a clear and concise manner, it spells out the rules of usage, explains the principles of composition, provides commentary on matters of form, and gives twenty-one ground rules for creating written words that harbor universal appeal.
The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman
Written by a successful literary agent, The First Five Pages speaks directly to writers aspiring to see their words appear in print. The author stresses the importance of not only the first five pages, but the first five words. The book teaches writers how to refine a manuscript so that it’s an instant attention-grabber – one that hooks not only agents and editors, but the end reader himself.
The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman
Lukeman’s follow-up book, The Plot Thickens promises “8 ways to bring fiction to life”. And if you follow the rules in this book, your fiction writing will improve dramatically. Lukeman explains that great fiction is more than just a good storyline. Great fiction stems from well-developed characters, motivations, suspense, and conflict.
How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James Frey
A classic bestseller that caters to the aspiring fiction writer, How to Write a Damn Good Novel delivers on its promise to provide “a step-by-step no nonsense guide to dramatic storytelling”. Author James Frey creates an A-to-Z, easy-to-follow roadmap for success in fiction by stressing the fundamentals of excellent writing.
On Writing by Stephen King
Written more as “a memoir of the craft” than a “how to” book, Stephen King’s On Writing provides readers with a unique glimpse into the mind and work habits of one of the bestselling writers of all-time. How many “how to” books can do that? Trust me on this one, you’re bound to find a few tips you can apply to your own writing.
Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
As editor to some of the most successful authors of the 20th Century, and a bestselling author himself, Sol Stein provides valuable insight into the secrets of the trade. Each chapter is a brief lesson on how to improve at least one aspect of your work. Stein even provides a chapter titled “Using the Techniques of Fiction to Enhance Nonfiction”. This is an excellent resource for writers.
How to Grow a Novel by Sol Stein
In this book, Stein focuses more on the fiction writer and the specific process of writing a novel. But writers from every walk of life can benefit as Stein explores common mistakes of writers and offers a blueprint for bringing a story to life.
Commit to memory the principles espoused in these books, and your writing skills will improve by leaps and bounds. You’ll experience success in almost every area of your life due to your improved ability to communicate. So what are you waiting for? Start reading now!