My approach to any new task or situation is to research the s**t out of it. I like to be prepared (okay, maybe over-prepared) and to know what I’m getting into. So when I decided, at ten years old, that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, my first order of business was to ask for several books about writing for my birthday. I also made a binder (alphabetized, every piece of paper in a sheet protector) holding Wikipedia articles I’d found on the process of writing, editing and publishing. Yeah, I was that kid.
Since then, I find that I still enjoy reading about writing. I gravitate less toward “how-to’s” now, and more toward descriptions of a writer’s experience.
These are five books that I have found especially helpful over the past 12 years that I have been reading about writing.
Blurb: “Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”
Blurb: “‘Long live the king’ hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part masterclass by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999 – and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it – fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.”
Blurb: “In the world of literature, the debate around writing and commerce often begs us to take sides: either writers should be paid for everything they do or writers should just pay their dues and count themselves lucky to be published. You should have a distinctive voice, but make sure that voice can sell. Don’t quit your day job, but your ultimate goal should be to quit your day job. It’s an endless, confusing, and often controversial conversation that, despite our bare-it-all culture, still remains taboo – until now. In Scratch, Manjula Martin has gathered interviews and essays from today’s most promising and prominent writers, from Nick Hornby and Jonathan Franzen to Mallory Ortberg and Porochista Khakpour, to confront the age old question: how do creative people make money? The result is an entertaining and inspiring collection filled with candid, revealing discussions about money, MFA programs, book deals, freelancing, and everything in between. It is an essential resource that will help any reader or writer understand what it’s really like to make art in a world that runs on money – and why it matters.”
Blurb: “You know the author’s names. You recognize the title. You’ve probably used this book yourself. This is The Elements of Style, the classic style manual, now in a fourth edition. A new Foreword by Roger Angell reminds readers that the advice of Strunk & White is as valuable today as it was when it was first offered. This book’s unique tone, wit and charm have conveyed the principles of English style to millions of readers. Use the fourth edition of “the little book” to make a big impact with writing.”
Blurb: “An extraordinary collection of pugnacious, charming, and revealing interviews with the Nobel Prize – winning author who defined and transformed American literature. Hemingway was not only known for his understated style, but for his public image as America’s greatest author and journalist – and for the grand, expansive, adventurous way he lived his life. The prickly wit and fierce dedication to his craft that defined Hemingway’s life and work shine through in this unprecedented collection of interviews.”