Below I’ve listed a selection of books from my shelves that I refer to most often. Some of them are for practice sessions, some for working on craft, some for the nitty gritty of wordsmithing.
- Becoming a Writer
Eighty years old, and this book still has it. Worth it for chapter one alone: the four difficulties of writing. She is also a proponent of early morning writing, as well as making appointments to write. Slim, and easy to read.
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft Part autobiography, part no-bullshit writing advice. Whether you like his books or not, his prowess as a storyteller is extraordinary, and in full flow in this book.
- The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises That Transform Your FictionNot the easiest book of exercises I’ve ever played with, but one of the most satisfying. The author teaches creative writing, and has used these exercises on his students with success, which is a bonus. They are Oulipo-like in creating strict parameters to write inside, but this is half the fun – writing in a way you never normally write can be very creative.`
- 4 A.M. Breakthrough: Unconventional Writing Exercises That Transform Your FictionThe follow-up. There is less of the basic fiction writing advice, and more of the thorny problem solving kind of exercise. Just as challenging as its predecessor, and both books work well together.
Learning the Craft
- Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative CraftI have the 6th edition of this book, and it is well thumbed. Yes, it’s the cost of an academic tome. Yes, it’s worth the money. Each chapter focuses on an aspect of writing fiction, together with illustrative extracts, and lots of exercises to use for practice. These are divided into individual and collaborative exercises, so there is something for those who work alone, as well as those who want to work in a group.
- The Creative Writing Coursebook
Born out of the Creative Writing MA at UEA, this is a bit like having a course in your pocket. Although it’s a good deal cheaper, and doesn’t mean relocating to Norwich. It’s also good for working on in groups or in pairs, so if you’re part of a writing community you could all benefit from tackling chapters at the same time.
These are the books you need so that you don’t waste time wondering about spelling and commas when you should be writing.
- A dictionary
- A thesaurus
- A book of names
- A guide to Grammar. I like The Elements of Style, because I don’t have time for anything longer.