I love to read books about writing. These are the ones I use most. I’m sure I’ll discover new ones from time to time, and will add them to this list.
- Constance Hale’s book “Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose” is the first book I read on writing. This is more than just a style manual. After teaching you the basic rules, Hale teaches you how and when to break them. Learn how a little “sin” will make you a better writer.
- Anne Lamott’s book “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life” is one of the first books I read on writing. This is not a how-to manual, but rather an inspirational book. It’s funny, irreverant, and wise. She helped me believe that I could write.
- Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” is another inspiring book. As the title says, King instructs from his unique perspective on the craft of writing as well as entertaining with a memoir of his life as a writer. He weaves the two together so deftly, you might not realize, at first, that you’re learning something about writing — and how to improve your own.
- “ Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English” is Patricia T. O’Conner’s witty book of ten easy grammar lessons that will improve your writing. You’ve never had more fun learning!
- “Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know About Writing” is another down-to-earth book by Patricia T. O’Conner that will make you laugh while you learn. If this book doesn’t improve your writing, it’s only because you never read it.
- “The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile” is one of three how-to books I recommend by Noah Lukeman. Lukeman is a literary agent with an impressive roster of successful clients, and insight into what really happens when an editor receives your manuscript–the editor is looking for a reason to reject it and will, at most, read the first five pages before making the decision to keep or toss. It makes sense to pay attention to Lukeman’s advice!
- “The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life” is Lukeman’s second book on the craft of writing. In this one, he shares his insight on plot development with chapters on such fundamentals as character, conflict, suspense, among others.
- “A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation” is Lukeman’s latest, and just as helpful as the first two. He has chapters devoted to each mark of punctuation, with clear examples of their proper use. This practical, but entertaining, book will help you polish your writing.