If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it. – Toni Morrison
I can’t remember when I decided I wanted to be a writer, but I’ve known it since I was very young. From the stories I wrote as a child to my early experiments with blogging as a teenager, words have always been a big part of my life.
My writing now falls into two main categories: my fiction (I’m currently taking an MA in creative writing, and working on a novel) and my non-fiction (I’m a freelance writer for a number of big blogs, and also run my own blog Aliventures and write ebooks.)
Over the years, I’ve read many books which have helped me tremendously. It’s been hard to pick five favorites, but I’ve tried to give some indication of the breadth of what I enjoy reading – and writing. I’ve also given a mix of physical books and ebooks, as I’ve found a huge amount of value in both.
Teach Yourself: Writing a Novel – Nigel Watts
If I could only have one “how to write” book, this would be it. I bought this book almost eleven years ago, with some of my 14th birthday money, and I learnt far more from it about writing fiction than I ever learnt in an English class at school.
It’s a book that manages to be both concise and comprehensive, and which stands up to repeated reading. Watts has a clear, encouraging style and cites examples from a wide range of works to explain and illustrate his points.
Create a Character Clinic – Holly Lisle
I came across Holly Lisle’s website when I was in my teens, and have been a regular visitor to it ever since – she has a huge amount of free information. In recent years she’s published a number of ebooks on different aspects of writing, all of which are extremely hands-on, with detailed examples and tools.
Create a Character Clinic is probably my favorite: I used it for my most recent novel, and I definitely feel that my characters are much richer for it. It’s also surprisingly cheap for an ebook of this length and quality: just $9. (You can also get a print version, via LuLu, but if you work straight onto a computer you’ll probably find the ebook more useful as you can copy and paste questions when creating your characters.)
31 Days to Build a Better Blog – Darren Rowse
Many writers nowadays are also bloggers. Almost all my income is currently from blogging (through freelance posts, as well as advertising and affiliate revenue, and ebook sales) – it’s what’s buying me the time to take a creative writing MA and write a novel.
If you’ve ever dabbled your toes in blogging, you’ll have heard of Darren Rowse – the ProBlogger. His excellent ebook 31 Days to Build a Better Blog is a very practical, information-packed and action-focused workbook. I’m only half-way through completing it and I’ve already seen the improvement in my readership levels.
How to be a Rockstar Freelancer – Cyan and Collis Ta’eed
I bought this book from FreelanceSwitch before I quit my day job, and I found it hugely useful. It’s a very well thought out guide for new freelancers, or those still thinking about freelancing, by two experts.
If you’d like to turn your writing into a business, I highly recommend buying a copy of this: it’ll allay your fears, and prevent you running into problems further down the line. It’s available as an ebook or as a paper book.
Get Everything Done (And Still Have Time to Play) – Mark Forster
This was one of the first books on personal-development or time management topics that I bought, and it’s still one of my favorites. Forster packs this slim book with a huge amount of value: each section repays careful thought. He has a very honest take on the problems which many people face, and writes from his own experience of becoming better at managing his attention.
I first read this as a student, when working on essays and studying for exams, but I’ve found it just as useful (if not more so) as a fiction writer and a freelancer. Forster offers some very effective tools and tricks to help you stay organized and avoid procrastination: two problems which many writers struggle to conquer!
I’ve had to miss out a lot of favorites here – and in many cases, other books by the same authors are also very well worth reading. If you’ve read any of these, I’d love to hear your take on them in Comments below.