Because mastering the craft of writing depends upon your continuing education as a writer. It means you regularly upgrade and fine-tune your skills. Brutal Honesty First, you need to cultivate a brutal, raw honesty. You need to accept that not every word, every emotional thought, every adjective-loaded sentence that flows from your hot fingertips is precious.
I mentored many rookie reporters who had a cocky, almost swaggering pride at where their writing skills landed them out of college. A few weeks in a newsroom with a couple of crusty copyeditors exploded that attitude. Then, they were ready to listen.
Objectively, unemotionally and dispassionately analyzing your writing is one of the most valuable skills you can develop to further your writing opportunities.
Good writing has a rhythm, that deliberate cadence the writer creates in your mind as you read. Marvel at the perfectly placed and exquisitely balanced use of illusion, surprise and metaphor, and crave to imitate it. Thirdly, you have an insatiable desire to learn anything and everything to improve your writing, the openness to accept constructive criticism and the commitment to sit with your bloated prose and edit until it sparkles.
Yes, writing is a solitary craft. And learning to improve our writing can feel like solitary confinement without guidance and reassurance. We can learn from teachers, from workshops, from books, but ultimately success is up to us, alone with our notepad or laptop. Of course, most writing books will touch upon each type of writing advice. But to improve your writing skills in the fastest and most effective way, you must understand what you need to grow as a writer right now and choose the appropriate book to help.
We have writers of all levels of experience and ability reading Smart Blogger and in our GuestBlogging training program and Serious Bloggers Only community.
They typically describe themselves in one of three stages:. You know your writing needs work — lots of work — but you are compelled to keep writing because you feel powerless to staunch the flow. Ideally, you should be reading both books on mechanics and structure.
But the books on the mechanics of language will likely bore you to death right now. A poorly written but well-structured piece of writing can be polished. A poorly structured and poorly written piece is a nightmare, and rarely worth the editing effort it demands. Start with books on approach and structure that will help you think through your ideas before you put them on the page. Often, with good writers, the best writing happens in your head before you even jot down a sentence.
More on this later. Study the structure of screenwriting, novel writing or poetry for six months or until it feels nearly second nature to shift into this new form. The change in your writing will be dramatic and permanent. But your writing experience has been centered in business, academia, medicine, law or other utilitarian venues. You recognize that your writing is solid, but it lacks warmth and sparkle.
Try on a few silly new rituals, like writing poetry by candlelight or stream-of-conscious journaling in the pre-dawn hours to change up your point of view. If one of these writing stages resonated strongly with you, jump down to our favorites in the three categories below and start there.
The one that jumps up and gently taps you on the cheek like a hungry cat to get your attention. Start there and take the time to import the ideas and exercises into your current writing immediately.
Even 30 minutes a day will make a noticeable difference in a short time. I was fortunate to find On Writing Well while I was working at my first newspaper and realized my editors, excellent grammarians all, could not teach me anything more about significantly improving my writing. This one book changed the trajectory of my career as a journalist from a mediocre, but promising, community reporter at a large twice-weekly paper to an international business reporter at a respected metropolitan business paper.
If you read only one book on improving the structure and mechanics of language, make it this one. Buy this book on Amazon. Save the Cat is essentially a formula book, focused on the structure of screenplays. Think of it as an introductory college course that teaches you the basics. Learn how to make an audience fall in love with you.
Compelling stories are the undercurrent that propels successful writers and bloggers of all kinds. Whether you are writing blog posts, e-books, magazine articles or novels, having the skills to deftly tell a story will make you both memorable and in-demand as a writer.
Story Engineering is like a master class in storytelling and novel writing. It focuses deeply on the six core elements — or competencies — of successful storytelling, screenplays and novels.
An intense, comprehensive book, Story Engineering can help bring your writing to a professional level if you read and consistently apply the concepts in this book. You can master the structure of a good story with this book, whatever topic, niche or length you write. And get all your questions answered about storytelling in one place. While at first glance this book looks like it has nothing to do with blogging, learning how to craft a compelling personal essay is the essence of what most bloggers struggle with today.
Naked and Drunk is about two-thirds biographical and about one-third writing lessons. This is the book you also want to read if you want to learn to effectively tell your own story. You need to understand the elements of crafting a good story to fully appreciate and benefit from the lessons in Naked and Drunk.
Read it after the storytelling books. Read it after you read Save the Cat. With tens of thousands of new blogs created every day, according to WordPress.
This is cross training in storytelling. Learn it; then make it work for you. Title turn you off? Too money-grabbing for you? Skip this copywriting book at your blogging peril. Successful blogging is persuasive writing in another suit of clothes. You need to connect with people through stories and persuade them you have a message worth reading or products worth buying through copywriting. Jon recommends this book for most bloggers because it has the most modern approach and best summary of the key points covered in the fundamental copywriting books.
At least, it will open your eyes to how you respond to the persuasive writing all around you without even knowing it. Then reread it at least once a year. Very much a memoir, King uses stories of his wild childhood to illustrate the making of a writer. You get to peer inside his head and see how his mind formulates those bizarre ideas and crafts unworldly plots.
The craft of storytelling to engage readers and keep them coming back for more from the author of more than 50 worldwide bestsellers , and how to constantly think about what your readers are thinking so you can crawl inside their heads and freak them out.
She so adeptly and invisibly reflects her thoughts and experiences back on the reader that you feel an intimate part of her personal stories — a rare and long-acquired storytelling skill. This is another book to read at least once a year. Lamott could be a role model and idol for bloggers who want to use their personal stories to illustrate fundamental truths about life.
Although published nearly 30 years ago, Goldberg would be a hugely popular blogger today if she filled a blog with her Zen-inspired posts on how to be a writer, how to beat procrastination, the beauty of language and how to be focused and spontaneous at the same time. Children stood there and stared at me, wide-eyed, as I wrote poems on their ideas — ballet, wrestling, the rain — in the pen color of their choice.
If you need something gentle to jar you out of your same-old same-old writing rut and inspire you to see the world with fresh eyes, read this book. Every day, your mental kaleidoscope is filled with images and impressions you can use to create mesmerizing stories. Books can bring structure and insight, but the constant search for exactly the right book keeps you from the job at hand — the act of writing.
Lucy Barber Jun 12, Also very good for inspiration and great at pointing out the small opportunities you have in writing for showing something that elicits an emotional response. Brett Aug 31, Always wanted improve my writing skills.
With your advice, believe that I can achieve this. Marsha Stopa Jun 12, Nikhil Waghdhare Jun 12, Useful List of books to improve wiring. I hope this book may be helpful for me to become a better writer.
Thank you for sharing this list with us Marsha…. Elke Feuer Jun 12, Talk about a kick in the pants, buy these great resources, kind of post. I especially enjoyed how you broke out the writer stages.
Totally sharing this with my writing group. Hope your writing group finds it useful. Larry Jun 12, I am very honored to see my book on your list of essential reading. It deserves to be on the list because it is essential reading for serious writers. Kate Coleman Jul 21, So much solid good advice, giving me a very clear structure to follow. You have given me the blue print, now it is up to me to create the best story I can.
Michael Feeley Jun 12, What an amazing and valuable post. Shane Arthur Jun 12, Olivier Duong fstopeight Jun 12, Rita Mailheau Jun 12, I finish it and then begin again. I plan to add one of yours to my ongoing reading list. Quinn Eurich Jun 12, Kathy Porter Jun 12, My copies of Bird and Writing Down the Bones are pretty dogeared; so glad to them on your list. Mary Oliver won me over years ago. Learning never stops, does it? Deborah Anderson Jun 12, Hey Marsha — Thanks for the recommendations!
I went out and bought two of them. That is just the nudge I needed to set aside the non-fiction writing I normally do and finish up my Jazz novel. Sjoerd Bergstra Jun 12, Love the post Marsha, thank you very much. Peggy Nolan Jun 12, Thank you for putting together this compelling list. JenX67 Jun 13, Wonderful, comprehensive post, Jon.
You work so hard and the Blogosphere rewards you. Marcus Brotherton Jun 12, Boy was I wrong. My first novel is coming out in September. Read it, study it, enjoy it. A book for the basics, and another to read through once a year. Another where the title can put you off, yet this is an older book packed with excellent structural advice. Bill Honnold Jun 12, You must be snooping through my writing library.
I have most of the books that you recommend. And they are all excellent books. Then the quote is for you, too: Brenda Spandrio Jun 12, Time to get serious and follow through — all the way through…. Kathryn Atkins Jun 12, Writing Down the Bones. Olayinka Jun 12, Cathie Jennings Jun 12, Moore no relation to the beef stew.
Also his Crafting the Personal Essay is a lovely dissertation on creative non-fiction writing. For moving through the psychological blocks, Writing from the Inside Out by Dennis Palumbo, former screenwriter turned therapist for screenwriters.
Mel Jun 12, This list is exactly what I needed right now. Off to the library and bookshop! Leanne Regalla Jun 12, Paul Jolicoeur Jun 12, Nice list of books! I have read Bird by Bird, its a great book.
Try copying her book, by hand, on a legal notepad. Stef Gonzaga Jun 12, Thanks, Marsha, for the great roundup. Lori Robinson Jun 12, Love your book list. I have them all except 2. My favorite of all is Naked, Drunk and Writing. Farnoosh Jun 12, I LOVE this post. Thank you for this post. Aimee Jun 12, This post is a blessing. Now, I know what to look for. Thanks a lot Marsha! Marsha Stopa Jun 13, Garry Rodgers Jun 12, Chad Gramling Jul 14, Hi Carry and Marsha — I just finished Wired for Story and found it to be a wonderful and insightful book.
I cannot recommend it highly enough. Thanks also, Marsha, for this post. There are a couple books you mention that I have not heard of before, so I will be checking them out. Marsha Stopa Jul 15, Chad Gramling Jul 15, Nicolo Pijuan Jun 13, I want to be a writer. I want to be the best. I love how you write. Thank you for this. I learned a lot. Bryan Collins Jun 13, If anyone here is interested in memoir writing and personal essays, I recommend the Norton Book of Personal Essays.
Andrew Jun 13, I suggest you try Save the Cat again. Formula is actually more important than we think it is; our brains crave structure. Paul Back Jun 13, Thanks Marsha, there is always something new to learn and these look like fantastic resources for writers. I am making my way through the 50 marketing books Jon recommended in his SBO program but Ill be sure to throw these into the mix.
Hi Marsha Really nice and wonderful post today is my first comment on your blog after read this wonderful topic thanx for this again roundup.
Ivy Jun 13, What a helpful post! Marsha Stopa Jun 16, Melissa Jun 13, Thanks for sharing this excellent blog post and reading list! I have read and loved many of these books. You missed another great one: The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. Ahmed Althaf Jun 14, Just placed the order for Cashvertising on Amazon.
I hope it is really worth the price. Kinda excited since I started a new blog 2 weeks ago, and I can tell you my writing skill is mediocre at this stage. Tim Gray Jun 14, Susan Jones Jun 14, Many of our readers will benefit from easing in first.
Amandah Jun 14, I never heard of Save the Cat or Story Engineering: Let's talk about that first one. If writing is output, reading is often the most important input. Study your idols, as that is a much more rewarding and reliable strategy.
Here are five that I have always kept close:. A book I recommend for its memorable examples. My favorite comes from Warren Buffet, who has a deep rooted respect for clear communication within companies. His own shareholder letters are so well written that they are often considered the gold standard for the medium.
Levitt tells a story of how he once asked Buffett to translate a passage from a mutual fund prospectus into English spoken by real people. The original text was as follows:. Maturity and duration management decisions are made in the context of an intermediate maturity orientation.
The maturity structure of the portfolio is adjusted in anticipation of cyclical interest rate changes. Such adjustments are not made in an effort to capture short term, day-to-day movements in the market, but instead are implemented in anticipation of the longer term secular shifts in the levels of interest rates. We will try to profit by correctly predicting future interest rates. When we have no strong opinion, we will generally hold intermediate term bonds.
Shorter, clearer, and can be more readily understood by a larger audience. This sentence has five words. Here are five more words.
Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It's like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length.
And sometimes when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals--sounds that say listen to this, it is important. So write with a combination of short, medium, and long sentences.
Create a sound that pleases the reader's ear. Don't just write words. Reading suddenly becomes as quick as thought. Short sentences must be accompanied by expanded thinking, otherwise they slow things down to a snail's pace. When he tried to give them money, this was the response:. He just smiles, shakes his head and with what looked like great concentration, tried his hardest to speak to me in English:. Rolled up his window, drove away, his daughter waving to me in the rear view.
It has been a rough year and nothing has broke my way. This was so out of left field I just couldn't deal. In the 5 months since I have changed a couple of tires, given a few rides to gas stations and, once, went 50 miles out of my way to get a girl to an airport.
I won't accept money. Every time I tell them the same thing when we are through:. That line is moving and stays with you. Damn good communication, in short. No matter what style or medium, it is a book that every writer should read. There are concerns that loom over every "new" writer that always seem foolish as time passes.
Seeing a great writer's finished work is only seeing their highlight reel--their process is an enigma, and can create a sense that such talent came to them naturally, like dictation from God. Any final essay only reveals the smallest percentage of total effort: Anne Lamott's passage that owns up to the struggle of every first draft perfectly captures the importance of knowing that good writers become great through revision:. And often the right words do come, and you--well--"write" for a while; you put a lot of thoughts down on paper.
Feb 01, · So many business accomplishments are dependent on the quality of your writing. And if you’re serious about improving your writing, nothing will help you more than to closely read, actively underline, and diligently apply the lessons you can learn from these three books.
An intense, comprehensive book, Story Engineering can help bring your writing to a professional level if you read and consistently apply the concepts in this book. Categories: Heavy on structure What’s in it for bloggers: You can master the structure of a good story with this book, whatever topic, niche or length you write.
In the mean time, how do you improve your essay-writing skills? Take time to read either the examples I mentioned, especially Pinker and Kundera to know how the genre has progressed and changed and just how much latitude there can be. The truth is that any book will help you with essay writing. Reading will improve your writing because you will get new ideas and discover different ways of expressing yourself, not to mention that you will learn new words and ways to implement them into your texts.
English is an extremely complicated language, and unless you’ve grown up speaking, reading, and writing it, there are subtle nuances that take a long time to pick up. These books cover a wide range of skill levels, and can help you polish up both your writing and conversational skills. He chose by hand and meditated on Abram so that he would not be irritated or startled without suspecting anything. The cosies of Shay well tested, their dacoits explain they solidify in an unreachable way. books to help improve essay writing.