Helpful Books for New Writers

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine contacted me for some advice. She had recently begun to write but not having done a creative writing course she was wondering where she would learn the basics of plot, characterisation, pacing, etc. She was unsure whether she wanted to commit to a full-time course and thought that a few helpful books might point her in the right direction.

I do not consider myself an expert on this stuff by any means. I have not done a creative writing course, or in fact ever studied literature formally (maybe I’ll go back to college when I’m older and do an English degree for the hell of it!), however I have been writing for almost ten years and I have picked up some knowledge along the way. I thought that perhaps it might be helpful for any new writers if I listed the books that helped me along my journey.

I have created a small section on The Multiverse Store on Amazon which contains some of the books I found useful. Firstly Stephen’s King’s On Writing is a gem of a book. I wouldn’t be the biggest fan of his fiction, not because I think it’s bad but it’s not my preferred genre, but his advice to new writers is unpretentious and gives you the basic ingredients for your “tool box”.

John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers is a wonderful book filed with wisdom from Gardner’s many years as a revered teacher of creative fiction. A must-read.

Unlike a lot of writers who wrestle with procrastination, Ray Bradbury advocates “writing with joy” and his book Zen in the Art of Writing is an inspirational read which will make your fingers itch to start writing.

Lastly a good dictionary, thesaurus, and a simple guide to punctuation are all essential. Eats, Shoots and Leaves is easy to get to grips with and quite funny, and The Elements of Style is a brilliant reference book that I always have on hand.

Here’s a little video from Martin Amis on cliché and finding your voice.

3 thoughts on “Helpful Books for New Writers

  1. Susan Bell’s The Artful Edit is far more detailed and hence more relevant than anything I’ve read with ‘Writing’ in the title. Particularly enjoyable is the way she uses Max Perkins’s edit of The Great Gatsby to illustrate her various points about macro- and micro-editing, etc.

    Nice Amis clip (love his weary impatience with CR) but he’s dead wrong about cliche IMO. Most writing, including the best stuff, is filled with cliche, and necessarily so, as anything else would be unbearable to readers. The art is in how to spice the cliche with freshness.

    I admire much of Amis’s work, but he can be too categorical in his priestly pronouncements, e.g. his toecurling insistence time and time again that only white lingerie does the trick for men… Try telling Kylie:

  2. Pingback: The Three Stages of Writing | Alex Donald's Multiverse

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