According to some authors, writing is a talent that can’t be learned, but if the talent is already present, the craft itself can be improved. Whether you believe this or not, here are 5 Essential Books that will cultivate your craft and change how you think about writing and technique!
Samuel Delany’s About Writing
This book was a requirement for one of my creative writing classes. Delaney is a black science fiction author, who I was unaware of until I read this book and took a Afrofuturism class. Read one of his books!!! Trip you out. About Writing is composed of 7 essays and 4 letters and 5 interviews that address what we expect from a book on writing: how to construct a story, how to create character, an analysis of a text and its failings, but it also addresses such issues as publishing and competition among writers. It’s pretty long, and complex in a thought provoking way, so don’t expect to finish in one sitting.
Stephen King’s On Writing
I’ve heard about this book everywhere, and when I bought the book I was surprised to find that it was not a lecture styled textbook (I’m not sure why I thought it would be), but half memoir half advice and proper uses of grammar. Although I’ve said it’s a memoir, it’s more of a musing about his relationship of writing throughout his life. One of his most valid points for me was to cut as much as possible, and an example of an edited piece.
Robert McKee’s Story
A book centered on story structure and genres in script writing, it can also serve writers of any discipline. I’ve found that even the discussion of Acts and pacing can serve as a guide to how a plot should flow to reach an audience’s attention. I read this book primarily to understand story structure in script writing, but I’ve also gained a lot of insight into making real characters and engaging plot that translate into any storytelling format. I’ve just recently finished this book and it’s a great way to understand how to show character through action.
William Strunk Jr.’s
The Elements of Style
I never considered (or enjoyed) the use of grammar to improve my work until I read The Elements of Style. It is not a very long book, compared to Story or About Writing, for example, but it does provide quick points of grammatical use and style that improve the structure of a sentence and delivery of an idea. I have recently tried to reread this book monthly, because I’ve found it to be one of the BEST ways to further improve writing ability in the shortest amount of time. All of these books are great places to start if you’re just trying to understand what it means to write. They’ve greatly improved the way I personally approach writing, but like many authors will insist, PRACTICE and READING are the best forms of improvement, everything else is supplementary.