Saturday, 13 November 2010

10 Books for Writers

Here's my top ten books to buy for writers this Christmas (or other festival of your choice).

One thing a writer loves to do is to read about the process of writing - it makes you think you're 'a writer' without all that pesky having to write anything yourself! Believe me - I know!

If you're planning to buy any of these, or indeed anything from Amazon, please click on the links in the text. I'll get a small % of anything you buy from Amazon (at no cost to yourselves) if you arrive through the links below or the 10% off one in the right hand bar... think of it as your Christmas pressie to me!


Top of every budding author, playwright, poet's wish list is the latest edition of perennial bestseller Writers' and Artists' Yearbook 2011, £8.69 on Amazon. Bulging with useful contacts in all sections of the literary community, it also offers expert articles on thorny issues e.g. writing for television, finding an agent. Even if the writer you've bought it for never actually opens it they will feel a little bit more like an author just for having it on the shelf!


To be fair, I haven't finished this yet, but Booklife - Digital Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer looks like fascinating reading  for authors already trying to establish a presence on the internet, or those considering it. It looks particularly at blogging, promotional opportunities, and networking with editors and publicists.


Confession time now - I've had A Creative Writing Handbook: Developing Dramatic Technique, Individual Style and Voice out of the library since May! I'm going to have to buy it... even though I promised myself not to buy any more writing books. This is the closest I've got to a creative writing course book with lots of proper exercises and examples that really help you kick start your own. It would suit teachers of creative writing too!


This gem is quite old now but The Poet's Manual and Rhyming Dictionary (Stillman) is still a classic volume for poets, with detailed  descriptions and examples of different forms, all you ever wanted to know about trochees, iambs and their chums, and a really, really good rhyming dictionary that makes others (especially the online pretenders blush with shame/blame/bad name).


This won't suit 'seat of the pants' writers, but for the planning kind it's hard to beat Novel Writing: 16 Steps to Success for a thorough system of writing a novel that is well-plotted and populated with well-rounded characters. Author Evan Marshall is also very active online and offers many free resources  to authors. Check out his website here.


If you write humour, if you enjoy it and are interested in how it works, you could do a lot worse than The Naked Jape: Uncovering the Hidden World of Jokes by Jimmy Carr and Lucy Greeves. It is a curious mixture of very erudite and well-researched musings on the nature of comedy and what makes a joke funny... and lots and lot of very funny jokes. It's a cracker!


I've seen Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft mentioned so many times as the best book on creative writing that I had to buy it. Of course I haven't read it yet, so it shouldn't appear on this list - especially when I can't remember who the various people who recommended it were, but I've always enjoyed his writing even back in the days when he was Richard Bachman - great plots peopled by real human beings.


For anyone who loves reading - as well as those who love writing, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories is the definitive guide to the grand themes of literature: man against monster, the quest, tragedy, comedy, and whatever the hell the other three are. Oh, and don't try to click on the picture where it says. None of that magic here! Click on the link for more.


Carol Blake's From Pitch to Publication: Everything You Need to Know to Get Your Novel Published is a really sound, businesslike guide for authors ready to publish. It takes you through what editors are looking for, how to do your final edits and synopsis, approach and work with agents, the process of publications and lots of stuff about rights and advances and managing finances that frankly, some of us may never need to know. *sigh*.


Although most of these books are about the craft of writing, I  include Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times from Bloodaxe Books because it's probably the finest anthology of contemporary poetry around, and I like the way it's organised around the big themes of life with powerful poems on journeys, growing up, love, death and chocolate (actually I made that last one up - the world is still waiting for the definitive chocolate poetry anthology).

Please do share your favourite books about writing 


  1. I have a copy of the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook from a few years ago (when my book was published). I've never opened it.

  2. I've got one called 'How Not to Write a Novel' and it's the most hilarious book. Have you seen it?

  3. The only one on your list, that I have, is the Writer's and Artist's Yearbook. There is a copy of Butcher's Copy-Editing on the bookshelf, but I'm not sure that counts.

    A fellow blogger sent me a link to the Snowflake method of writing a novel. I think it could be useful for writing an overview.

  4. Dave - I did open mine this year - putting together a list of agents to approach!

    Fran - There seems to be two books of that title... of course I know all there is to know about how not to write a novel!

    Martin - Thanks for that link - I've heard of the snowflake method and wondered... I'm surprised there's much of a market for copy-editing in butchery (although some would call editing butchery!

  5. Great list. The Stephen King is an essential read.

  6. jason t richardson15 November 2010 at 09:59

    great list...the jimmy carr book is a very useful funny book...there salso a brilliant book for funny poetry tyes but ive never seen it in uk ...
    very good exercises etc which relate as much to poetry as comedy

  7. Great list, some I've not seen so will definately look them up. :O)

  8. Ellie - I will read it! I will, I WILL!

    Jase - Thanks for the tip off - and see you tonight!

    Madeleine - Thanks! I have quite a collection. 8-)