My Favorite Books on Writing
I’m a freelance writer. I write for a living. I’m an American, but I live in Buenos Aires. Sidewalk cafes in the morning find me working. The “avenidas” are for strolling the barrios in the afternoon and the evenings find “mi esposa” and me eating great Argentine beef at any of hundreds of restaurants.
I’m living the dream of many freelance writers.
But, to stay sharp, I have to spend some time staying on top of the trends, the latest ideas and the way to keep the dream going. Here’s my list. What are your favorite books on writing?
Short and snappy as it is, Stephen King’s On Writing really contains two books: a fondly sardonic autobiography and a tough-love lesson for aspiring novelists. The memoir is terrific stuff, a vivid description of how a writer grew out of a misbehaving kid.
“…a marvellous and timeless little book… Here, succinctly, elegantly and without fuss are the essentials of writing clear, correct English.” John Clare, “The Telegraph” — This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Jerry Nelson is an American freelance writer and photojournalist and is always interested in discussing future work opportunities. Email him at email@example.com and join the million-or-so who follow him on Twitter @ Journey_America.
Novelist Steven Pressfield (The Legend of Bagger Vance; Gates of Fire) goes self-help in The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle. Dubbing itself a cross between Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War and Julie Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, Pressfield’s book aims to help readers “overcome Resistance” so that they may achieve “the unlived life within.”
Think you’ve got a book inside of you? Anne Lamott isn’t afraid to help you let it out. She’ll help you find your passion and your voice, beginning from the first really crummy draft to the peculiar letdown of publication.
Are you a fool for mnemonics? If so, you’ll fall head over nubucks for Mignon Fogarty — a.k.a. the Grammar Girl — and her handy new audio guide to writing and speaking well. It’s chock-full of smart little anecdotes and memory tricks for felling the most common grammatical foes (who can ever remember the difference between “nauseous” and “nauseated” anyway?)
Writing for the screen is quirky business. A writer must labor meticulously over his or her prose, yet very little of that prose is ever heard by filmgoers. The few words that do reach the audience, in the form of the characters’ dialogue, are, according to Robert McKee, best left to last in the writing process.
Originally written by Campbell in the ‘40s — in his pre-Bill Moyers days — and famous as George Lucas’ inspiration for “Star Wars,” this book will likewise inspire any writer or reader in its well considered assertion that while all stories have already been told, this is not a bad thing, since the retelling is still necessary.
“Frank Flaherty’s The Elements of Story is a model of good sense, a clear, well-lighted path through the jungle of nonfiction narrative. It represents so much accrued wisdom that even veteran writers will want to keep it on hand, and it’s fun to read, too.”
In Writing in Flow, Susan K. Perry applies the theories of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Flow) about the concept of “flow” to the writing process. A writer’s being in flow is comparable to an athlete’s being in a “zone.” “You know you’ve been in flow,” Perry says, “when time seems to have disappeared….
Natalie Goldberg’s love of writing stems from her desire to connect with herself. In this audio version of her bestselling Writing Down the Bones, this is a potentially self-absorbed wish, especially considering that the author reads from her own work and interjects morsels of wisdom gleaned from a long writing career, which includes books on writing (Wild Mind, Long Quiet Highway), creativity (The Well of Creativity), and art (Living Color).
APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book [Guy Kawasaki, Shawn Welch] on Amazon.com. FREE super saver shipping on qualifying offers. Essential reading (and reference) for modern authors, regardless of experience. — Kirkus Book Reviews Nuts
William Zinsser is a writer, editor and teacher. He began his career on the New York Herald Tribune and has since written regularly for leading magazines. During the 1970s he was master of Branford College at Yale. His 17 books, ranging from baseball to music to American travel, include the influential Writing to Learn and Writing About Your Life.
At the beginning of The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler asserts that “all stories consist of a few common structural elements found universally in myths, fairy tales, dreams, and movies.” Some may be hard-pressed to accept this idea (and will wonder how storytellers from Homer to Shakespeare to Robert Altman might respond to the proposition).
Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need [Blake Snyder] on Amazon.com. FREE super saver shipping on qualifying offers. This ultimate insider’s guide reveals the secrets that none dare admit, told by a show biz veteran who’s proven that you can sell your script if you can save the cat!
With the basic principle that creative expression is the natural direction of life, Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan lead you through a comprehensive twelve-week program to recover your creativity from a variety of blocks, including limiting beliefs, fear, self-sabotage, jealousy, guilt, addictions, and other inhibiting forces, replacing them with artistic confidence and productivity.
From The New York Times Magazine, December 5, 1976. Copyright 1976 by Joan Didion and The New York Times Company. Used without permission. Of course I stole the title from this talk, from George Orwell. One reason I stole it was that I like the sound of the words: Why I Write. (Thanks Amber)
A contemporary admonition tells us, “If you talk the talk, you have to be able to walk the walk.” Paul Silvia does both; he writes effectively about how to write effectively. Without being either a scold or a Pollyanna, he identifies ways in which each of us can achieve our goals of being more proficient authors.
The eBook No Author’s Library Should Be Without. What’s the best way to choose a point of view for your story? How can you turn that great idea you have into a best-selling book? How do you write a chapter book? A picture book? A mystery? How do you write a magazine …
“…a worthwhile guide[…]storytelling is touted as a secret to effective leadership yet most of us are uncertain where to start.” -The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
Jacques Barzun These four hundred pages are packed full of high matters which no one solicitous of the future of American culture can afford to over-look.The New Yorker It shows concretely how the serious work of proper reading may be accomplished and how much it may yield in the way of instruction and delight.
John Kralik was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and attended the University of Michigan for college and law school. He practiced law for 30 years, and was a partner in the law firms of Hughes Hubbard & Reed, Miller Tokuyama Kralik & Sur and Kralik & Jacobs.
Clear, concise communications that make the right point will launch your career or business to new heights. — Robert Seelert, Chairman, Saatchi & Saatchi PLCIn advertising, the challenge is to find the one simple, inspired thought… This book helps all of us…
by Mark Twain “The Pathfinder” and “The Deerslayer” stand at the head of Cooper’s novels as artistic creations. There are others of his works which contain parts as perfect as are to be found in these, and scenes even more thrilling. Not one can be compared with either of them as a finished whole.
This book from Phillip Lopate is one of my favorite writer’s books. This is focused on the personal essay — which geez, maybe that’s what blog posts tend to be.
Added by Ric Dragon on May 24, 2013
For most, the hardest part of writing is overcoming the mountain of self-denial that weighs upon the spirit, always threatening to extinguish those first small embers of ambition. Brenda Ueland, a writer and teacher, devotes most of her book — published back in 1938, before everyone and their goldfish got their MFA’s in creative writing — to these matters of the writer’s heart.