There are so many writing resources out there that sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Especially these days when there are not only books, but writing blogs and websites are everywhere.
To start with, here are some of my favourite books on writing. I’ll add, though, that I do believe that the best way to improve your writing is to read. Yeah, I know – that’s what everyone says. But it’s so true! Read as much as you can, as widely as you can, and you can’t help but improve.
Having said that, I love these books:
On Writing, by Stephen King. This is less of a writing resource than I was expecting when I bought it. It’s half memoir, half about writing, but you’ll find little in the way of ‘here is how to use grammar’. It’s still incredibly useful, and incredibly interesting. As you might expect from a writer who’s been at the top of his field for decades, the memoir is fascinating, especially the early stuff about how much work he put into his writing, and how many times he got rejected. It’s a reminder that this can be a tough field, and that perseverance is everything. The how-to is a reminder of much the same thing, and it might be just what you need.
The First Five Pages, by Noah Lukeman. The author has been a writer, an editor, an agent – pretty much everything a person can be in the publishing industry. As such, he’s uniquely placed to give advice on how to get your submission noticed, and that’s what this book is all about. The first five pages need to kill it for an agent or editor to want it, and this book gives advice on how to do just that. It does a lot more, though – the advice in here is invaluable for your whole book, and it has some great illustrative examples.
The Plot Thickens, by Noah Lukeman. Another book from the above author. This time the focus is on plotting – on how to take that hazy idea of yours through to a compelling book. There’s some really great stuff about characterisation. You’ve heard the stuff about how the author has to know the character inside out, how they have to know things that will never show up in the book, right? This plunges into that, with lists of questions to ask yourself about your character, to give them life and depth. That alone is invaluable, but the rest is great as well.
The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. You’ll see this recommended everywhere, and for good reason. It’s a tiny book, but it’s invaluable. All the rules of style and writing are here at your disposal. Maybe you don’t like writing by the rules, but it’s a good idea to know what they are before you start breaking them.
Eats, Shoots and Leaves, by Lynn Truss. Do you struggle with punctuation? This one’s for you. In fact, read it even if you don’t (or don’t think you do). It’s funny, it’s concise, and there’s stuff here for everyone, whether it’s new information or just a reminder.
Collins Complete Writing Guide, by Graham King. This one’s a bit beasty, but it covers everything. Drier than some of the other volumes, but it’s got a great index and it’s easy to dip in and out of when you need something specific. Covering grammar, punctuation, spelling, vocabulary, there are even sections on foreign words and abbreviations. Well worth it.