Books on Writing

Submitted by SJWrites on Sat, 09/17/2022 - 8:00 AM
open book with autumn leaves

Looking for some inspiration as you work on your short fiction entry for SJPL's Fall into Fiction Short Story Contest? Learn from the best! Here are some insightful books about writing by notable practitioners of the craft.

The Fall into Fiction Short Story Contest runs now until September 30th. Happy reading and writing!

 

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, book cover

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft Stephen King

Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

Bird by Bird, book cover

Bird by Bird Anne Lamott

With this basic instruction always in mind, Anne Lamott returns to offer us a new gift: a step-by-step guide on how to write and on how to manage the writer's life. From "Getting Started,' with "Short Assignments," through "Shitty First Drafts," "Character," "Plot," "Dialogue." all the way from "False Starts" to "How Do You Know When You're Done?" Lamott encourages, instructs, and inspires. She discusses "Writers Block," "Writing Groups," and "Publication." Bracingly honest, she is also one of the funniest people alive.

If you have ever wondered what it takes to be a writer, what it means to be a writer, what the contents of your school lunches said about what your parents were really like, this book is for you. From faith, love, and grace to pain, jealousy, and fear, Lamott insists that you keep your eyes open, and then shows you how to survive. And always, from the life of the artist she turns to the art of life.

The Sense of Style, book cover

The Sense of Style Steven Pinker

In this short, cheerful, and eminently practical book, Pinker shows how writing depends on imagination, empathy, coherence, grammatical knowhow, and an ability to savor and reverse engineer the good prose of others. He replaces dogma about usage with reason and evidence, allowing writers and editors to apply the guidelines judiciously, rather than robotically, being mindful of what they are designed to accomplish.

Filled with examples of great and gruesome prose, Pinker shows us how the art of writing can be a form of pleasurable mastery and a fascinating intellectual topic in its own right.

Consider This, book cover

Consider This Chuck Palahniuk

In this spellbinding blend of memoir and insight, bestselling author Chuck Palahniuk shares stories and generous advice on what makes writing powerful and what makes for powerful writing.

With advice grounded in years of careful study and a keenly observed life, Palahniuk combines practical advice and concrete examples from beloved classics, his own books, and a "kitchen-table MFA" culled from an evolving circle of beloved authors and artists, with anecdotes, postcards from the road, and much more.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, book cover

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain George Saunders

In his introduction, Saunders writes, "We're going to enter seven fastidiously constructed scale models of the world, made for a specific purpose that our time maybe doesn't fully endorse but that these writers accepted implicitly as the aim of art—namely, to ask the big questions, questions like, How are we supposed to be living down here? What were we put here to accomplish? What should we value? What is truth, anyway, and how might we recognize it?" He approaches the stories technically yet accessibly, and through them explains how narrative functions; why we stay immersed in a story and why we resist it; and the bedrock virtues a writer must foster. The process of writing, Saunders reminds us, is a technical craft, but also a way of training oneself to see the world with new openness and curiosity.

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is a deep exploration not just of how great writing works but of how the mind itself works while reading, and of how the reading and writing of stories make genuine connection possible.

Zen in the Art of Writing, book cover

Zen in the Art of Writing Ray Bradbury

Zest. Gusto. Curiosity. These are the qualities every writer must have, as well as a spirit of adventure. In this exuberant book, the incomparable Ray Bradbury shares the wisdom, experience, and excitement of a lifetime of writing. Here are practical tips on the art of writing from a master of the craft—everything from finding original ideas to developing your own voice and style—as well as the inside story of Bradbury's own remarkable career as a prolific author of novels, stories, poems, films, and plays.

Zen in the Art of Writing is more than just a how-to manual for the would-be writer: it is a celebration of the act of writing itself that will delight, impassion, and inspire the writer in you. Bradbury encourages us to follow the unique path of our instincts and enthusiasms to the place where our inner genius dwells, and he shows that success as a writer depends on how well you know one subject: your own life.

Steering the Craft: a Twenty-first-century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, book cover

Steering the Craft: a Twenty-first-century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story Ursula Le Guin

This handbook is a short, deceptively simple guide to the craft of writing. Le Guin lays out ten chapters that address the most fundamental components of narrative, from the sound of language to sentence construction to point of view. Each chapter combines illustrative examples from the global canon with Le Guin’s own witty commentary and an exercise that the writer can do solo or in a group. She also offers a comprehensive guide to working in writing groups, both actual and online.

Masterly and concise, Steering the Craft deserves a place on every writer's shelf.

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