books on writing

Recommended Books About Writing


I've been editing for the last two weeks so apologies for the lack of blogs. I taught a writing workshop yesterday and this is the list I gave the writers at the end of the class (along with other notes that I'll post at a later stage). I love good books about writing and here are some of my favourites. I'd advise every anyone interested in writing to invest in and read Stephen King's book, it's excellent. Yours in writing,

Sarah X

On Writing by Stephen King Inspiring and full of good advice.

From Pitch to Publication by Carole Blake Invaluable guide to getting published from an experience agent.

The Right to Write by Julia Cameron One of the best books about being a writer and living a writer’s life I’ve ever found. Succinct, direct and truthful, a book I come back to over and over again if I’m in need of a little writerly pick me up.

Write Away by Elizabeth George Excellent if you want to write crime.

See Jane Write by Sarah Mlynowski and Farrin Jacobs Tips on writing fiction for a female audience – American book – useful if you are interested in writing popular fiction.

Writing for Success by Patricia O’Reilly Sensible advice with a useful Irish slant.

Write a Book in a Year by Jacinta McDevitt Another great Irish book – I think it’s out of print, but you might find a copy in the library.

How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman Funny, light humored book about how to avoid common writing pitfalls.

The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner (American) A fascinating book described as ‘a riveting safari through the wilds of a writer’s brain.’ Ever wondered what exactly editors think about when faced with a manuscript, then this is the book for you!

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott More memoir than writing guide, but very entertaining.

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg How to ‘free the writer within’. Some interesting thoughts and ideas about writing.

The Best Books on Writing

The Best Books on Writing I’ve Ever Read

I’ve been rubbish at writing decent blogs recently, so I thought I’d knuckle down and do a useful one for all you keen writers out there. So here’s a list of some of my favourite books on writing and why I like them.

Now and again most writers need a bit of a kick up the bum, some ‘just-get-on-with-it’ encouragement, and a good writing book does just that. It can also inspire or simply give you time out and make you think.

Currently I’m bang smack in the middle of a big rewrite of Amy Green book 3. I know where I’m going – which is brilliant – but it’s taking a little while to get there! I am enjoying it, but it’s bloody hard work at the moment and I need to get it finished by the end of Jan, so I can write Amy 4.

Writing to deadlines is tricky but I guess after 10 years or so I’m used to it. And if you really need more time, editors are usually pretty nice about it. I’ve had to delay books before – mainly due to the birth of Amy and Jago! But I don’t like doing it. I guess I’m my own worst enemy.

But back to the writing books.

Number 1 on my list is the wonderful Julia Cameron and her The Right to Write. First published in 1998, I’ve read this book about four or five times now, and dip into it a lot. I find it calming, sensible, inspiring. Julia talks about making time to write, being honest on the page and loneliness (I get very lonely some days – I’m a sociable kind of person and I find being alone all day tough – shame I love writing so much!); and her book is full of great advice. I’d highly recommend it to any writer – no matter how far along the writing journey you are. She writes beautifully and it’s a joy to read. ‘Just as a good writing day clears the air, a good writing day clears the psyche.’ 9 ½ out of 10

Number 2 is a newish book: The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner. Billed as ‘An Editor’s Advice to Writers’, if you want to know what your average editor is thinking, this is a fascinating book, full of interesting information, and a real eye opener. An excellent book for writers who are on the road to publication and want some insight into how the book business works, albeit in America. Betsy writes very well and touches on a lot of really interesting subjects, from writers’ egos to being fearless on the page. Great stuff! I bought it in Chicago so you may need to get it on Amazon. 8 out of 10

Number 3 – Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Another classic. Sub title is Freeing the Writer Within. A little more new agey than Julia Cameron’s book, but great for dipping into if you’re feeling a bit low writing wise. Natalie deals with all kinds of things, from verbs to editors, and the importance of being specific. Great for writers just starting out and looking for some inspiration and ideas. But not as good as Julia’s book. 8 out of 10

Number 4 – Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. I love this one mainly for it’s story about her brother. He was trying to do a whole project on birds in one night and was freaking out. His father told him ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’ Which is how we should approach every writing day – word by word. Another quote I like is ‘That thing that you had to force yourself to do – the actual act of writing – turns out to be the best part . . . The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.’ So true. It’s not a writing guide as such, more a writing memoir so best for those just wanting some time out and some empathy from a fellow writer. Another American gem. 8 ½ out of ten

And finally a newish book which I think will become a classic for new writers and especially young writers – Juicy Writing by Brigid Lowry. Now, it’s not for everyone, it’s very jaunty and practical and positive, but I wish I’d read it when I was starting out. It has a very ‘you can do it’ attitude and is full of practical advice, writing exercises, and ideas on what to write about. Written for teenagers, it’s a fab book for any age and highly recommended for writers starting out or writers who would like some solid, practical advice. 9 out of 10

Hope this is useful!

Yours in writing,