5 Life Changing Books Every Writer Needs to Read Today

I love being a writer. It is all I have ever wanted to do, but doing it for a living and balancing it among other work and life priorities can be downright hard. Whenever I do need a boost, inspiration, motivation or writing tips I turn to a few key books – here are what I think are the top books every writer needs to read.

1. Living as a Creative – Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert

I’m a scaredy-cat by nature. Many writers I have come across are. For me, fear goes along with my overly active imagination that always asks ‘what if?’.

It’s great for fiction writing but not so good for getting over those fears of ‘am I really any good at this?’, ‘should I just give up?’, and any version of the ‘I’m a fraud’ factor many of us are regularly afflicted by. 

What I love about Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear” is that it deals with all of these fears and more. Gilbert encourages the writer to accept fear and invite it along on your journey, but never to let it in the “driving seat”. Beautifully written and packed with useful heart-felt advice on how to live a creative life.

2. Making Money as a Writer – How to be a Writer, John Birmingham

One of the most quoted lines from this book is ‘Beauty is good, but coin is better. You can’t eat artistic integrity. It tastes like sawdust.’ It is the perfect summary of the theme of Birmingham’s book.

If you’ve ever wanted to make money from writing, be it as a freelancer, a features writer or author, then this is the book for you.

Notice though I didn’t say it was for poets…Birmingham doesn’t have any useful advice for poets, but he does have a wicked sense of humour – he really knows his sh…stuff.

There’s plenty of expert tips and laughs along the way starting with the tongue in cheek full title: How to Be a Writer: Who Smashes Deadlines, Crushes Editors and Lives in a Solid Gold Hovercraft.  

Topics covered include ‘How to slay writer’s block’, ‘What the hell is workflow?’, ‘How to write 10,000 words in a day’ and ‘The best apps for writers’. Hard-core, real-world practical advice. Read it if you dare!

3. Mastering Language –On Writing, Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is a guide to mastering language, written by the master himself.

Helpful advice, tips and instruction on using language is threaded among personal anecdotes and memoir.

King uses his life and writing experience, as well as examples from his own novels, to illustrate technical writing points. He shares the experiences, habits, and convictions that have shaped him and his work. If you’re a Stephen King fan you will get a serious kick out of this. Even if you’re not – and I don’t read much of his stuff (I told you I’m a scaredy cat) – you will still find it incredibly helpful.

For one, I share King’s hate for passive voice. If you catch me doing it feel free to tag me with a narky tweet. Scratch that. For all I know I’ve dropped a few clangers in this post. 

He also declares war on adverbs, which has led me to revisit my own work and weed out the little buggers but also live in perpetual fear of them. So I’d say King’s ‘On Writing’ mission is accomplished in terms of improving my writing.

4. Putting Yourself Out There – What to Do When it’s Your Turn (and it’s Always Your Turn), Seth Godin

I have mentioned this book more than once in my blog posts, for several reasons.

Firstly, I have a massive writing and marketing crush on Seth Godin. Love your guts mate!

Secondly, this book is freakin’ awesome.

What to Do When it’s Your Turn (and it’s Always Your Turn is an urgent call to action to writers and other creative types to stop waiting ‘for their turn’ and to send their art out to the world.

He goes further, saying we owe it to the world to share our craft, whether the world likes it or not. It’s not the world’s job to love us, it’s our job to just put ourselves and our art out there – embracing all the challenges along the way.

I love how Godin simultaneously inspires and gives the reader the kick up the butt they need while also delivering necessary reality checks.

5. Understanding Story – Steering The Craft, Ursula Le Guin

Ursula Le Guin has created this deceptively simple guide focusing on the craft of story and narrative.

Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story covers the main components of narrative, from the sound of language to sentence construction to point of view.

Le Guin combines illustrative examples with her own witty commentary, as well as exercises. She also includes advice on working in writing groups.

These are just some of the books I have loved and found incredibly valuable for improving my writing.

What books for writers do you recommend?

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