There are many ways to learn to write. Like any creative profession, there are varying schools of thought that love to expound on Dos and Don’ts as if they were rules set on stone. The best among us are wise enough to either subvert them or mold them for the circumstances at hand. Even if you’re the “there are no rules to creativity” kind of a writer, it’s a good idea to take stock of the scene and at least read up on the principles that writers generally follow. For example, the important elements of a plot: now, that’s a basic that nobody can escape.
We’ve rounded up some recommendations from some of our best book editors.
Aspects of a Novel – EM Forster
This book, compiled from Forster’s lecture series on the English-language novel, is a great beginning from any fiction writer. Forster himself was an accomplished writer, with books such as Maurice and A Passage to India to his credit. By combining his own understanding of the craft and examples from classic literature, this text is a guided introduction to what he surmised are the seven most important aspects of novel writing: story, characters, plot, fantasy, prophecy, pattern, and rhythm.
The Penguin Guide to Punctuation – RL Trask
You could be a master of weaving a plot, but what’s the point of all of it if you get your punctuation wrong? That’s right, it’s always back to the basics.
True, punctuation is tedious, but that’s hardly the case with The Penguin Guide to Punctuation. Rife with silly examples and absurd observations about punctuation, the renowned linguist’s book is as informative as it is funny.
Fun fact: This is also an all-time favourite among some of our book editors.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King
Stephen King’s forte may be mystery novels, but how he writes is no longer a mystery to us. On Writing is an intense, nostalgic journey with the beloved writer, who is firm in the conviction that his life is the most important catalyst for his writing career. It’s in the name; this amalgamation of the personal and the professional. A must read for any author, because a writing career is not that far off from life.
The Elements of Style – William Strunk Jr
This one’s a classic. First published in 1918 (it has truly stood the test of time!), it is a book on writing that is quite technical in nature. Strunk does an elaborate job of explaining writing conventions, but he goes a step further to explain each of their significance. This is the sort of book that allows a writer to engage with the principles of writing by experimenting, and trial and error.
You can access a copy of the book here.
The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller – John Truby
This one is special for us because it was recommended by our Editor-in-Chief herself (she swears by this book, for good reason)!
Written by acclaimed screenwriter and screenplay teacher John Truby, this is a book that speaks about storytelling as a universal truth. Truby’s understanding of storytelling is largely character-driven. This allows the writer to delve deeper into their own writing style and technique, and ultimately what they want for their story.
The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron
This last one’s for those of us who are prone to creative blocks. Pardon the analogy, but this book is essentially a 12 step program to enable creativity. With weekly exercises and insightful anecdotes from people who have enjoyed this module, it’s bound to inspire creativity in a writer.
Worst-case scenario, nothing happens. But you’ve read a new book.
Some more recommendations by our book editors (honourable mentions)
- On Writing Well – William Zinsser
- The Sense of Style – Steven Pinker
- A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf
- A Movable Feast – Ernest Hemingway
- Steal Like an Artist – Austin Kleon