Sometimes, a writer has to know when to ask for help. We generally know when we get to that point—where our ability or knowledge falls short of our goals. In my time, I have come across a few books that have helped me advance in my writing or answer questions I could not answer myself. Here are seven that have stuck out in my mind since I began reading about writing.
1. On Writing by Stephen King
You’d be hard-pressed to find any list like this one that didn’t have “On Writing” on it. One of the reasons this books is so popular among writers is it deals so much with the human and personal aspects of the craft. King’s insights on writing may help writers nip impure thoughts about their work in the bud—namely, that you should be writing for yourself, first and foremost.
2. The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler
This international best seller has taken the art of storytelling and its relationship to mythology and boiled it down to its core. It explores the structure of stories and gives insight to the underlying formulas of what has made well-loved and oft-told stories embed in our culture for centuries.
3. The Last Draft: A Novelist’s Guide to Revision by Sandra Scofield
My least favorite part of writing is when I finish. Not because I miss being in the story. It’s because I’m a whiner when it comes to revising and editing drafts. “The Last Draft” breaks down the revising process in a step-by-step method, which I found immensely helpful. A rugged first draft is one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen—this book helps turn it into a lamb.
4. You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins
One of the most common problems I see young and beginning writers fighting through is one their often unaware of. This book is a kick in the rear for people who want to be writers but aren’t practicing the everyday habits of successful writers. For those of us struck by self-doubt and lack of confidence, “You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One)” reminds us that the writing world is our proverbial oyster.
5. Crafting Dynamic Dialogue from Writer’s Digest
Writer’s Digest has published a series of writer’s self-help books, and I found this one to be helpful. Even for the writer who feels confident in their ability to write dialogue, it never hurts to hear other perspectives, and this quick read may provide some.
6. The New New Journalism by Robert Boynton
The more I read, the more I want to know about the women and men behind the words on the page. In “The New New Journalism,” the author sits down and talks to many big-name reporters to find out what makes them work and how they do their work. This book has a little more emphasis on nonfiction writing, but any writer would do well to learn something from it.