3 must read books on writing

Writing about writing is like singing about singing, painting about painting, or sculpting about sculpting. And, in my opinion, it’s more interesting than it sounds. You can learn a lot from the masters of the craft, and anyone who wants to write well will benefit from reading the right books. Here, I’ll discuss three invaluable texts that every writer should read.

The Elements of Style – William Strunk

William Strunk’s The Elements of Style is the ultimate guidebook to writing well. Whether you write fact or fiction, utilising the elements discussed in the text will improve your work. The book covers basic grammatical rules but also addresses lesser known guidelines that can enrich your writing. Topics include:

  • Correct use of commas
  • Sentence structures
  • Paragraph composition
  • Active and passive voice
  • Concision
  • And more

Anyone who has to write anything ever will find value in The Elements of Style. I consider the book a foundational text for any new writer, and I imagine many others would agree. If you’re just beginning your writing journey and looking for a solid educational starting point, The Elements of Style is undeniable.

Wonderbook: the Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction – Jeff VanderMeer

Jeff VanderMeer’s Wonderbook is the fiction author’s bible. I’m yet to find another text that so comprehensively and entertainingly covers almost everything a writer should know about telling stories.

When I began learning to write at university, I did a lot of extra research outside of the assigned work, and I accumulated an assortment of useful tips that improved my storytelling. Finding Wonderbook sooner would have saved me a lot of time.

I spent years reading articles, watching videos, and sourcing information when I could’ve learned much of what I needed to know from one comprehensive text. Wonderbook is pure treasure. Topics covered include:

  • Story structure
  • Plotting
  • Beginnings, middles, ends
  • Writing good characters
  • Worldbuilding
  • And more

If you’re a fiction writer—or you want to be—Wonderbook is the most valuable written resource you’ll find. Read it early, study it thoroughly, and use it well.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King

I couldn’t round off a list of books on writing without mentioning Stephen King’s book On Writing. Part memoir and part guide for aspiring authors, King’s expert offering is worth the read. Topics include:

  • Developing as an author
  • Life as a writer
  • Drug addiction
  • Being hit by a van
  • Adverbs
  • And more

Few writers have the desire or confidence to produce an entire book on writing. However, when someone like King does release a text like this into the wild, everyone benefits.

Often, artists can seem like magical idea wizards who consistently summon art from the dimension of perfection right onto the canvas, page, or record. In reality, even Stephen King writes shitty first drafts, and that’s comforting to know.

Read more to write well

Reading is one of the most productive things a writer can do. Whether you read about writing or not, every time you open a book and soak up the words of another artist, subtle wisps of knowledge slide into your consciousness to comprise your unique style. Thus, you should read more, read often, and read widely.