3 Not-So-Boring Books about Writing

Books about writing offer helpful information for those of us who didn’t spend four years of college reading Joyce and analyzing British literature. However, like many other instructional manuals, writing how-tos can often be a dismal and boring lot, only really succeeding in turning people off from writing. Here are three that have done right by me:

The Elements of Style: William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
This book is still required in many intro writing classes in college and for good reason: It breaks down all of the grammar, comp and style essentials that you’ll need to write well in less than 100 pages. It’s a quick read and a great little quick reference for any burning questions that come up in your writing.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves: Lynne Truss
My mother-in-law gave me this book to read as soon as she found out that I was a copywriter. I managed to devour it on the 11 hour flight home. Truss offers a humorous and highly readable defense of proper punctuation and offers memorable tips to help readers use it properly.

Writing Down the Bones: Natalie Goldberg
Part writing how-to, part memoir, Goldberg offers helpful writing advice and exercises. She focuses less on rules and more on writing. The professor of my freshman composition class assigned this book as our textbook and I’ve read it several times over the years. For anyone who fancies themselves a writer, this book will fuel your fire.

An added bonus:
The Icarus Deception: Seth Godin
This isn’t a book about writing, per se. However, it is a book about creating art in everything that you do. It’ll inspire you to be different, not settle and stop playing it safe.

What are some books that have inspired you in your writing?

How to Write Well (Even if You’re Not a Natural)

Writing is an intimidating process for most people. There’s a popular illusion that good writing is reserved for those people who have dedicated their educations to it. Many potentially great writers are turned off by writing because they hated English class in high school or they haven’t had the opportunity to hone their writing skills. Continue reading

Is There A “Best” Time of Day To Write?

Most writers swear that they write best at a certain time of day. In Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, most writers included in the book chose the morning as the best time to write, often beginning around 8am (after breakfast) and stopping at noon. After lunch and/or a walk, many picked up where they left off and wrote for a few hours in the afternoon. Continue reading

3 Ways to Combat Writer’s Block

How many times have you sat down to write and just stared at the blank screen in front of you instead? Writer’s block happens to every writer at some point. To paraphrase one of my favorite children’s songs, “Going on a Bear Hunt,” you can’t work over writer’s block and you can’t work under it; you have to work through it.  Continue reading

Don’t let a great idea leave your grasp; write it down!

How many of your best writing ideas come to you when you’re in the shower, running errands or working on something else? How many times have you lost a great idea because you thought, “I don’t have to write it down. I’ve got a memory like a steel trap.” If your steel  trap has become  more of a sieve, you need a notebook.
A great idea can strike at any time. I often get my best ideas in the blurry haze of waking up in the morning or when working on a totally unrelated project.
A notebook or journal keeps your ideas in order. It’s easy to jot down your ideas, or even fragments of ideas, to revisit later when you have a chance. The more detail you give, the easier it will be to remember it.
Keep in a notebook or journal is effective whether you’re writing the Great American Novel or thinking of a catchy tagline or hook for marketing copy.
What to write:
Character sketches—I’ve met some real characters in life, ones who I think would make really great characters in a novel. Since I haven’t gotten around to writing the novel yet, I don’t want to let the quirks of these folks to fade away. Writing down a few notes will refresh my memory when It comes time to sit down and write.
Great sentences—How many times have you thought of a fantastic sentence or beginning of a piece and thought, “I’ll have to use that one day.” If you write it down, you can.
Taglines—Ditto for taglines. If you think of something catchy, don’t let it slip away.
Plotlines—You may not be ready to write a short story or start your novel now, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t outline it or write down its basic plot.