So you want to be a writer? These five books will help you get started

So you want to be a writer?

Everyone has a book inside of them, but how do you start writing yours? These five guides will help

By Ernie Richardson

Ask anyone about their deepest-held ambitions and you’ll often learn that they want to be a writer. It’s a widespread phenomenon that is getting ever more prevalent: people feel they have something to say.

    ...if you want to keep your readers engaged, committed and hungry for more, it pays to invest some time in finessing your technique.  

The proliferation of self-publishing – via blogs, or print platforms such as Kindle Direct Publishing – makes it easier than ever to get your words in print.

But easy access to an audience is no guarantee of quality. And if you want to keep your readers engaged, committed and hungry for more, it pays to invest some time in finessing your technique.

To help you get started, here are five great books about writing. Read them before putting pen to paper and your output can only be improved.

1) First You Write a Sentence by Joe Moran

Joe Moran is a professor of English and cultural history at Liverpool John Moores University, so should know a thing or two about turning a phrase.

As it happens, he knows a whole lot more than that. First You Write a Sentence is one of the best books in its genre for a generation.

Moran steers clear of technical language and paints a striking picture of the interaction between writing and becoming. The book is as much a work of philosophy as it is a guide to writing, and it’s all the better for that.

Read it in one sitting and you’ll be caught up in the joy of writing. By the end, you’ll be itching to start your own work. That’s the inspirational effect of Moran’s words.

So you want to be a writer?2) Write to the Point by Sam Leith

Sam Leith is a former literary editor of The Daily Telegraph, so you can take it for granted that he’s well-read.

He leverages all this knowledge to produce a winning guide to the nuts and bolts of writing. It’s not as sharp or entertaining as his brilliant book about rhetoric (You Talkin’ To Me?), but the advice given is more germane to the written word.

Write to the Point equips you with everything you need to sharpen your syntax and tighten your grammar. So even if you never find time to write that novel, at least your Trip Advisor reviews will be well crafted.

3) Steering the craft by Ursula K. Le Guin

If you want to write fiction, the late Ursula K. Le Guin’s seminal work is a must-read. A prolific author of fantasy, fiction, children’s literature and literary criticism, she knew more than most about the craft not just of writing, but of telling ripping good yarns.

The updated version of Steering the Craft addresses such important topics as the impact of the internet on written communication and the way to convey emotion in prose.

Overall, though, its biggest contribution to the developing writer’s knowledge is in Le Guin’s instinctive understanding of how to construct narratives. Read her insights, and you’ll find it that little bit easier to write your first story.

    Brayfield considers the ingredients of books that hit the big time,...  

4) Bestseller: Secrets of Successful Writing by Celia Brayfield

Not everyone wants their novel to hit the top of the bestseller lists. But if you do, Celia Brayfield’s guidebook is well worth a look.

Bestseller is more than a writing textbook. It’s a guide to writing novels that sell. Brayfield considers the ingredients of books that hit the big time, distilling the elements that keep readers coming back for more.

Apart from the prosaic advice that is found on every page of this brilliant volume, you’ll gain from a down-to-earth approach that uses simple language and resists pretentiousness.

Like the books it focuses on as examples, Bestseller is straightforward, accessible and brilliantly written. It is truly fascinating to spend time with, even if you don’t plan on becoming the next Jack Higgins.

5) Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss

Every writer needs a rulebook. A way of ensuring that the basics are in place. You could choose something dull like Fowler’s Modern English Usage, but Lyne Truss’s witty volume is far more enjoyable.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves made Truss’s name as a writer, and was much mimicked in the years that followed. But no one has her ability to explain the vagaries of language with such a light touch.

This is a rare book of its ilk, in as much as you’ll happily sit and read it from cover to cover. At the end, you’ll be much better informed about the ways to construct decent sentences. And you’ll have a useful reference guide to keep on your desk for whenever a tricky linguistic problem rears its head. Whatever you’re writing, that’s an invaluable tool.

Published: 25 March 2021
© Just Recruitment Group Ltd 2021

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