Recommended Writing Books

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Here’s the list of writing books I mentioned at the meeting:

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‘If You Want to Write’ by Brenda Ueland

I have a soft spot for this book because it was the first book on creative writing I ever read. It was published in 1938 but its wisdom hasn’t dated. Chapter headings include, ‘Everybody Is Talented, Original and Has Something Important to Say’, ‘Be Careless, Reckless! Be a Lion, Be a Pirate, When You Write’, and my personal favourite, ‘Why Women Who Do Too Much Housework Should Neglect It for Their Writing’.

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‘Bird by Bird’ by Anne Lamott
Writing Down the Bones‘ by Natalie Goldberg

I found these books invaluable when I first started writing, and they’re handy for every writer to own, as they can be read over and over. Having come from a scientific, logical, rational background, these books opened my eyes to the freedom of creative expression and encouraged me to ‘loosen up’.

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‘Writing Without A Parachute: the Art of Freefall’ by Barbara Turner-Vasselago

This book is based on Barbara’s Freefall writing courses, one of which I did in 2012 and wrote about here.

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On Writing’ by Stephen King

This is part memoir and part writing guide, and I found it quite inspirational. King talks about his childhood and early writing career and his many rejections before he hit success. In addition, he gives tips and insights into how to write something readers will like.

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The Little Red Writing Book‘ by Mark Tredinnick

Mark is an Australian poet and writer, and this book is a guide to writing well. It’s full of examples of good writing by esteemed authors that illustrate how to achieve it in your own work. He also delves into the grammar side of things and talks about the structure of the sentence, but in an easy-to-read and interesting way.

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Writing the Story of Your Life’ by Carmel Bird

This book is about memoir-writing and is filled with tips on how to lift your memoir to a higher level. It’s also aimed at those who might think their lives are too boring to record (because they’re not!). Like Tredinnick’s book, this one gives examples of beautiful writing throughout—some are incredibly gorgeous and were written by students at her workshops.

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Writing Fiction’ by the Gotham Writers’ Workshop

I did a few courses through this US-based school, and they were helpful for a beginner writer, but, to be honest, I think this book is probably just as helpful. The chapters follow the lessons in their fiction writing courses—character, plotting, point of view, description, dialogue, setting, pacing, voice, theme. Again, the book gives many examples of good writing as well as exercises to do as you go. It’s a good book for those learning the basics of writing fiction.

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Writing the Breakout Novel’ by Donald Maass

Maass is a US literary agent, and he’s a wise man when it comes to knowing what makes a novel work and how to write something that readers will enjoy. This book is available as a text and as a workbook, and I found them both incredibly useful when editing my novel, that is, once I had my first draft. I disciplined myself to complete all the exercises, and I know it improved my manuscript.

Please let me know in the comments of other books you found useful for writers.

I’ll add this list to the Writers Resources page on this website.

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4 thoughts on “Recommended Writing Books

    • Yes, I have that book on my shelf. I know it’s a classic and recommended by everyone … except me! Dare I say that I find it a bit ‘dry’. I preferred Mark Tredinnick’s book—it covers similar things but in more interesting way. I know I’m outnumbered, and many people might prefer Strunk and White, so thank you for suggesting it.

      • martianartslave

        Oh, you’re absolutely correct. ‘Strunk and White’ is more of a reference book, it isn’t something you’d read cover to cover. I’ll pick up Tredinnicks’s book as I’d like an interesting elements of style.

        …but what big teeth it has?

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