On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft — Stephen King
Part memoir, part writing guide, this book from one of the world’s most successful authors is as engaging as it is instructive. On Writing demystifies the process, helping aspiring storytellers improve their craft with simple, pragmatic tips. King’s advice was a “great motivation” for John Niven when he left the music business to concentrate on writing full-time — and Niven’s debut full-length novel Kill Your Friends became an instant cult classic. “Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you’re going to be every day from nine ’til noon or seven ’til three,” was among John’s favorite lines. In other words, you need to be disciplined, to sit at your desk, and to write.
On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction — William Zinsser
This book, first published in 1976, has sold around 1.5 million copies worldwide. It’s a clear and comprehensive guide which has great advice for journalists, academics, and anyone who has to communicate in writing as part of their life or work (which is most of us). Journalist and scholar Zinsser’s tips stand the test of time despite a rapidly changing media landscape. “Clutter is the disease of American writing,” he says. “The secret is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components.”
Pity the Reader: On Writing with Style — Kurt Vonnegut and Suzanne McConnell
Sharing the wisdom of this titan of American literature, Pity the Reader explores the purpose and process of Kurt Vonnegut’s work. Mixing his own words with stories about the Slaughterhouse-Five author — compiled by his former student, Suzanne McConnell — this book offers a mixture of insight about Vonnegut as a writer, teacher, and man. Starting with his first writing rule: “Find a subject you care about.”
Into the Woods: A Five-Act Journey Into Story — John Yorke
A great resource for aspiring screenwriters and playwrights, Into the Woods is an engaging and original exploration of the art of dramatic writing. Story structure, inciting incidents, characterization, and much more are analyzed and explained. There are other must-read books for scriptwriters, including Robert McKee’s Story But the added joy of Into The Woods is how prolific British television drama producer John Yorke presents his vital teachings with real narrative flair.
The Creative Act: A Way of Being — Rick Rubin
It’s written by one of the greatest music producers in history, but has wisdom that is valuable for all creative pursuits. Any writer — not just those penning songs — could benefit from Rick Rubin’s brilliant A Creative Act. Rubin offers a guide to cultivating the creativity that is within us all, combining meditations on what it means to be an artist with actionable advice. A list 20 of “thoughts and habits not conducive to the work” makes for punchy and informative reading to be returned to any time we feel the onset of writers’ block. The book is presented in short, manageable chapters and written in a concise and approachable style — proving Rubin to be an excellent writer alongside his many other talents.