I do love books about writing. I’ve never picked one up and not found something that speaks to me. Maybe I’m just a terribly slow learner, and information falls out of my brain all the time which I have to keep stuffing it back in. But never mind my deficiencies. What I’m saying is that any book about writing is probably a useful one, and reading it more than once is not a bad idea. Here are my favourite books about writing – the ones I return to time and time again.
1. The Jane Austen Writers’ Club. This book walks you through the building blocks of writing, using Jane Austen’s novels as examples. I think it caters for all writers, whatever level, and if you’re a fan of Austen’s writing, you’ll find it interesting and inspiring. Her tales of rejection and of being shafted by the publishing industry will have you realising you’re not alone.
2. David Hewson – Writing, A User Manual. this is a book packed full of useful information. I particularly like his discussions about writing software, and although this is probably out of date, the principles are still useful
3. I probably should have chosen Stephen King’s On Writing, and my copy of it has more post it notes than can be good for the spine of the book, but actually On Writing is more of a memoir and less of a ‘how to’ book. I mean of course anything Stephen King has to say must be useful, but there are other great writers out there who have also written ‘how to’ books.
Ursula Le Guin’s Steering the Craft Margaret Atwood In Other Worlds Louise Doughty (author of Apple Tree Yard) Novel In A Year – and those are just the books I’m looking at on my own bookshelf. No, the one I will pick third is by Kate Grenville, Orange Prize winner and all round fantastic writer. The Writing Book is one I’ve found incredibly useful at different moments in my writing journey.
4. How Not To Write A Novel. This is a fun choice. An entertaining read, and yet it makes some brilliant points. I’ve never dared let my characters anywhere near a mirror after reading this. And if you’re writing first person point of view, p.177 “You’ll have to go through me” is a must read.
5. Write Great Fiction Series. ok so I’m cheating a bit here and giving you a series of books as my last choice, but I do think these are really useful, and they have people like James Scott Bell writing them. When you’re struggling with something in particular – or even if you’re not – you’ll find some useful insights by concentrating on one part of the writing process. I found the book Beginnings, Middles and Ends very useful when thinking about stucture, and the Revision and Self-Editing one is also great.