Want to become a better writer in 2019? Here are 13 books on the writing craft that have helped me improve my writing over the years. Maybe they'll help you too:

1. Ernest Hemingway on Writing, edited by Larry W. Phillips

Ernest Hemingway never codified his insights on writing into a book, but he did share his thinking on the topic in commissioned articles; letters to his agents, publishers, and friends; and through his novels. Ernest Hemingway on Writing is a collection of his insights on the craft of writing, and includes several practical and inspiring tips.

2. Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury

The prolific science-fiction author Ray Bradbury collected the lessons he had learned about the craft during his long and successful career in Zen in the Art of Writing.

3. Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is and What You Can Do About It, by Steven Pressfield

Steven Pressfield recently returned to writing about writing with a brand-new book, Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t. It's a no-nonsense guide to writing stories that people will want to read. While the bulk of the book addresses how to write fiction, Pressfield shows how the same principles of writing good stories can apply to writing nonfiction.

4. The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron

The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity is the classic book by author and creativity coach Julia Cameron in which she introduces what she calls "morning pages." Morning pages is a powerful stream of consciousness writing exercise that is not intended to yield publishable material, but which can help you get your pen moving and your thoughts flowing--even if you never intend to share them with the rest of the world. 

5. Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life's Work, by Steven Pressfield

Ever since reading his classic book, The War of Art, I've read every book about writing by Steven Pressfield (and I will continue to read every one he writes, including the one he's publishing soon, which he's generously serializing on his blog). In that book he gave a name to what every writer grapples with. He called it Resistance.

To fight the Resistance, writers (and other artists, for he was addressing artists broadly in that book) need to give up their amateur mindsets and habits and "turn pro." In Turning Pro, his follow-up to The War of Art, Pressfield fleshes out what he means exactly when he tells writers to "turn pro."

6. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, by William Zinsser

William Zinsser was a journalist, author, and writing instructor at Yale. His book On Writing Well is a classic among writers and has sold nearly 1.5 million copies in the 40 years since it was published. It's one of the first books I recommend to anyone seeking to improve their writing. 

7. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King

Fifteen years ago, mega-best-selling author Stephen King wrote a book about the craft of writing that became an instant bestseller: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. After telling the story of how he became the writer he is today, King devotes the second half of the book to sharing his writing strategies, like his suggestion that you should write for your "Ideal Reader."

8. Process: The Writing Lives of Great Authors, by Sarah Stodola

This book looks at the techniques, inspirations, and daily routines of 18 iconic authors of the 20th century, including Franz Kafka, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, David Foster Wallace, Toni Morrison, and Margaret Atwood.

After profiling so many successful authors, what did Stodola learn about their writing process? "Genius, I have concluded, is the presence of not one ability but several that work together in tandem. Genius is far more tedious, far less romantic, far more rote, far less effortless, than we imagine it."

9. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield, edited by Shawn Coyne

All writers struggle with writer's block in one form or another, but Steven Pressfield named the enemy and outlined a strategy for conquering it in The War of Art, the perennially best-selling guide for writers and other creative professionals. In the first part of the book he introduces what he calls Resistance -- the force within us that conspires to prevent us from fulfilling our creative pursuits -- and then spends the next two sections sharing his solutions for overcoming it.

10. The Art of Nonfiction, by Ayn Rand

As the late novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand describes in The Art of Nonfiction, an edited collection of lectures she gave on the craft of writing, part of the reason why it took so long to finish her second novel is because she often suffered from severe bouts of writer's block. 

11. Lifelong Writing Habit: The Secret to Writing Every Day, by Chris Fox.

In Lifelong Writing Habit: The Secret to Writing Every Day, Chris Fox describes the 12-step process he created that has allowed him to make the transition from part-time writer to full-time author of several best-selling thriller novels and nonfiction writing guides.

At the beginning of the book, Chris describes what a habit is, and explains how you can reprogram your brain just like a computer to install new habits. Habits live in a part of the brain called the basal ganglia, and they consist of three parts: The trigger, the routine, and the reward. The key to changing your habits is to identify which ones are good for you, which ones are bad, and then "flip" the bad ones to good ones.

12. 8-Minute Writing Habit: Create a Consistent Writing Habit That Works With Your Busy Lifestyle, by Monica Leonelle

Monica Leonelle, a novelist and author of several books about writing, has written a book that speaks directly to those of us who struggle to get our writing done while balancing other commitments at work and home.

In the first part of The 8 Minute Writing Habit: Create a Consistent Writing Habit that Works With Your Busy Lifestyle, Leonelle describes several "blockers" that get in the way of our writing, thoughts like "writing might not pay off," "I'm not good enough to be a writer," and "I'm stuck in the planning/writing/editing phase." For each blocker, she offers several practical tips for overcoming them. In the second part of the book, she shares nine strategies the pros use to write consistently. 

13. Several Short Sentences About Writing, by Verlyn Klinkenborg

Verlyn Klinkenborg is an author and creative writing instructor at Yale. In the preface to Several Short Sentences About Writing, he argues that "most of the received wisdom about how writing works is not only wrong but harmful," and then devotes the rest of the book to smashing assumptions and correcting misconceptions about the craft.

Published on: Jan 31, 2019
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