The Only Writing Books You’ll Ever Need

Buying a book about writing is a dubious business. Authors of these books either take a how-to approach that treats writing like assembling a flat pack from Ikea, or a flighty approach, advising people to waft through the woods and wait for inspiration to strike.

If you’re looking for a good writing book, this blog post will save you a lot of time and money. After much careful sifting, I bring you my top five writing books.

If you’re starting out: The Part-Time Writer by Marjorie Quarton

Marjorie Quarton offers down-to-earth advice about the craft of writing and where to send your work. She demystifies writing, giving the reassuring message that writing success is possible for anyone with ideas, dedication and a heart. She also sensibly advises people not to give up the day job – not only for financial reasons, but because your day job can be fodder for stories.

If you’re a little further on your journey: The Complete Creative Writing Coursebook, University of East Anglia

The Complete Creative Writing Coursebook is brought to you by the university that launched the UK’s first creative writing Masters. So they know what they’re talking about. This book guides you through every aspect of the writing process, but even more valuably, it shows you how to revise your work and what to expect from a creative writing workshop. There are exercises at every stage to give you focus.

For the poets: The Portable Creative Writing Workshop by Pat Boran

This book is designed to give a helping hand to writer’s groups, but is also ideal for the solo writers, with ideas to get you going and fiction and poetry exercises. Because Pat Boran is a poet, the exercises have a strong focus on imagery and the emotions and the exercises in the poetry section are particularly comprehensive. It’s good to see poets being catered for, as most writing books are geared towards prose writers.

If you want to get published: The Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook

This is the bible for all writers who want to see their name on a book cover or a byline. It has listings for publishers and agents in the UK and Ireland that cover every genre.  It also has media listings, for magazines, newspapers and radio stations and literary listings for writer’s groups and festivals. It’s packed with articles offering advice on all aspects of writing. Top names featured in past editions include Maeve Binchy, Bernard Cornwell and Claire Tomalin. It comes out every year, but contains years’ worth of useful information.

And if you like wafting through woods: The Sound of Paper by Julia Cameron

Julia Cameron is best known for The Artist’s Way, but this book is geared specifically towards writers. It shows you how to live a life that supports you in your writing and how to draw inspiration from the world around you.

Feel free to share your top writing books, especially if you’re reading this from parts of the world other than the UK and Ireland.

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5 thoughts on “The Only Writing Books You’ll Ever Need

  1. Derbhile: Thanks for the recommendations.

    I recently recommended a “starter set” of books for an aspiring writer with professional ambitions: Edward D. Johnson’s “The Handbook of Good English,” James J. Kilpatrick’s “The Writer’s Art,” Roy Peter Clark’s “Writing Tools” and Bill Walsh’s “Lapsing Into a Comma.” Throw in a good dictionary, such as one from Merriam-Webster, and the typing tyro is well on his or her way.

  2. Have a copy of Pat’s book, it’s a great read and the Writers and Artists Yearbook is an invaluable tool. I also love “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott.

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