My Top Writing Books

Written by Brendan O’Meara

Writing books may as well be writing procrastination books. There’s a big market in writing procrastination and writers capitalize on it. That’s the dream of every writer: to get to a point where he/she is reputable enough to write a book on writing. He/she knows there’s a new generation of saps looking to put off their writing by learning a new tip from the incumbent writer emeritus. I’m a sap that says, “No, it’s continuing education.” Which it is, but there’s no better way to become more skilled than to put the pencil to the paper.

There really is only one tip: write like it’s a job (because if you’re serious about it, it is). Or, more bluntly, write like a┬ámofo. (How great is Cheryl Strayed?)

Hemingway didn’t even know he wrote a book on writing, which makes his one of the very best. It’s titled: Ernest Hemingway on Writing, Edited by Larry W. Phillips. One my faves. Tons of great nuggets from letters to friends. He had a social network where they shared tools, tricks, and insights. They helped each other.

Stephen King doesn’t get enough credit for being a great writer (Have you read Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption?). His book On Writing is excellent. Buy it.

The New New Journalism by Robert S. Boynton is a series of interviews with great narrative journalists. They talk about writing and reporting. I reference it all the time.

Roy Peter Clark’s Writing Tools is the best of his many books on writing. If you can get ahold of his laminated Writing Tools Quick Sheet, do it. It’s like being an NFL head coach holding a laminated card like Andy Reid.

Good Prose by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd is a wonderful collaborative book between a writer/editor tandem. I reviewed it here.

Lastly, Creative Nonfiction by Philip Gerard lays out what it takes to do great reporting and writing to make a work of nonfiction read like great fiction.

Well, that’s it. I hope these books help. Got some others? Throw them in the comments.

Honorable Mention:

Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott

On Writing Well, William Zinsser

Glamour of Grammar, Roy Peter Clark

How to Write Short, Roy Peter Clark

Help! for Writers, Roy Peter Clark