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Five of my favourite books about writing

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Five of my favourite books about writing

If you’re just starting out – or even if you’re not – the number of books on Creative Writing can be overwhelming and yet it still feels hard to find the one you really need. A good way to find resources is to join a writing group either on social media or a local one because then you can share tacit knowledge with other group members. But if you could do with a helping hand, here are five of my favourites. They were randomly selected to feature here – I could definitely do several more ‘top five favourite posts’ so if you’d like to see a particular writing topic featured, let me know in the comments.

1. Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande. This is a book you need to read (in my opinion!) even if you don’t ever read books about writing. First published in 1934, it’s a modern classic. The advice on ‘the judge’ is, on its own, worth the cost of the book. There are also funny moments: the advice to drink coffee, for example, has stood the test of time although these days would probably feature on a meme rather than in a writing book.

2. How to Write for Publication by Chriss McCallum. Unfortunately this one is now out of print, after several editions and different cover designs. I’m including it because it helped me so much when I was first starting out, as it is so down to earth. I bought the one in the picture in 1997. When you’re looking for a guide to publication, find one that gives practical advice and examples like this book does. (By the way, you also want to look for one that covers the kind of publication you’re after. That might mean reading more than a couple of books on the process.)

This book is out of date now, but the need for a friendly, practical guide to publication definitely isn’t out of date. I really miss the iterations of this book.

3. No Contacts? No Problem! How to Pitch and Sell a Freelance Feature Article by Catherine Quinn. I’ve included this one for the same reasons I’ve included McCallum’s guide to publication. Many books on Creative Writing are rather vague when it comes to practical advice, either about forming a writing habit, what to do with that writing habit, or how to get your work into the world in that way that you want to. (I didn’t intend for that last sentence to have quite so many ‘ws’ in it.)

I like this one because of the action plan Quinn gives us at the end of each chapter. I’d go as far as to say that this book would be useful for any kind of writer, whether you want to sell feature articles or not, because of the way it galvanises you into action.

4. How Not to Write a Novel by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittlemark. I like this one for its funny moments, especially in the section on submitting your work. It’s useful to know how not to do something, especially if you don’t know many other writers and haven’t done a writing course, because so much of the generalised advice out there is about what you should do – and of course that advice may not fit your writing project.

5. Be the Gateway by Dan Blank. I was suspicious of marketing when I left my full-time job as a Creative Writing lecturer and I’ve learnt a lot about it, and written a lot about it, since then. If your work involved sales and marketing then the language around it will be familiar, but if you’re unfamiliar with it, having to market a book can come as a bit of a shock, especially if you’re hampered by lack of budget or time. It’s easy (I know from personal experience) to develop a negative mindset about the whole business.

Be the Gateway was first book I read that demonstrated a different approach to book marketing for writers. The idea is that there are people out there who will enjoy your book. Find them and connect with them. Be the gateway that allows them to discover your work. This approach to marketing isn’t pushy or ‘salesy’ but about genuine connections with people, and about literary citizenship. As I say, this book was my first introduction to the more thoughtful, people-friendly approach to book marketing, the opposite to the sort of extroverted ‘shout and run’ version I had encountered before.

More soon. Until then, happy writing,

Louise xx

Pile of writing books discussed in blog post

The writing books discussed in this post.

 

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