10 Books on Learning How to Write Effectively
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Can anyone and everyone write creatively? Is it a natural gift? For many, writing may come easy, but it’s always valuable to improve your skills through studying and regular practice. By exploring the best books on learning to write, you can introduce new tactics and creativity into your craft.
Whether you’re a novelist, blogger, copywriter, or content writer, you’re probably looking for ways to express your ideas more effectively. And one of the most effective methods to do so is to learn from other writers’ mistakes and successes.
The following list includes 10 of the best books on learning how to write. These books have helped thousands of wordsmiths before, and you shouldn’t miss out on the knowledge they offer. Check them out to significantly improve your craft.
10 of the Best Books to Read When You’re Learning to Write
1. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
The first of our best books on learning to write is On Writing. Surely, you already know Stephen King and some of his best-sellers. But maybe you don’t know what’s behind his process of writing them.
In this book, King reveals the techniques and tips he follows, which you can apply to your own work in order to improve as a writer. You’ll learn from his perspective what it means to write.
It’s more than just a book about writing; it’s halfway between an autobiography and a writing manual. You’ll discover first-hand how he built a career as one of the most successful modern authors. You’ll see that he began writing on a humble table before selling millions of copies. So, if you’d like to know what made Stephen King so great, this book is for you.
On Writing offers practical and useful advice, such as:
- “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life”.
- “One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you’re maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones.”
- “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”
2. Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert Mckee
Robert Mckee is an iconic author and professor with a long career creating screenplays for the film industry. Although it’s focused on the world of cinema, this book reveals all the elements that a good story should contain.
It discusses structure, plot, characters, and many other useful elements to develop an awesome story. For example, McKee makes clear that “stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.”
For anyone who wants to create more compelling stories, this is a great book to pick up. It’s a resource for learning how to structure a good story. You can take the examples of screenplays and apply the same storytelling techniques and character development tips to fuel your online writing business or career – no matter your level of expertise.
3. How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them by Howard Mittelmark & Sandra Newman
How Not to Write a Novel is a fun book full of clear and concise examples of common writing mistakes. From the beginning, the authors alert you, “We do not propose any rules; we offer observations […] Driving at high speed toward a brick wall usually ends badly is an observation.”
Humorously, Mittelmark and Newman will tell you how not to write, using irony and showing examples of strong storytelling. The authors highlight the obvious, yet common mistakes writers make, like “Remember: blonde, brunette, and redhead are not personality types.”
This kind of observation is frequent throughout the book. So, you’ll find brilliant ways to learn what not to do when writing – which is just as important as learning the best practices of the craft.
4. Hypnotic Writing by Joe Vitale
Joe Vitale is a famous author who will teach you about great copywriting – adding emotion to your text through compelling and engaging content.
Whether it’s an article, product page, or web page, your content must keep people interested. In Hypnotic Writing, Joe Vitale teaches you how to achieve “writing that is so clear and concise and effective that you can’t resist reading all of it.”
To do so, he reveals his best hypnotic techniques, using specific words, as well as methods like repetition and emotional appeal. For Joe Vitale, emotion is an essential point to make your readers feel inspired. Besides that, you need to engage their interest and ask yourself what they are looking for, putting all those tactics at the center of your text.
Vitale’s book revolves around the hypnotic techniques that will help you engage your reader without being overbearing. Not to mention, this book isn’t just for copywriters. No matter the field you’re in, learning how to be persuasive is a must for any writer.
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5. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
Zen in the Art of Writing will inspire you to put pen to paper right away. It’s perhaps one of the best books on learning to write on the market!
Ray Bradbury gives you some clues to maintain his ‘zen’ method for writing: work, relaxation, and not overthinking. Such discipline and intense creative relaxation can bring out valuable, personal, authentic, and original ideas.
Bradbury also remarks that you must have clear goals. You can lose yourself by setting the wrong goals. Writing with the ambition of fame and quick money is not the way to start. Instead, your work should be a reflection of your passions; any compensation you receive should solely be a result of the value you provide readers.
He says, “It is a lie to write in such way as to be rewarded by fame offered you by some snobbish quasi-literary groups in the intellectual gazettes.” Zen in the Art of Writing will teach you that to be a good storyteller, you must keep the right mindset and work in a stress-free state of mind.
6. How to Write Copy That Sells by Ray Edwards
Ray Edwards is one of the world’s best-known copywriters and coaches in marketing and business. In this book, he explains copywriting techniques to help transform your written communication dramatically. You’ll learn a method to apply persuasive storytelling in a subtle but effective way.
Different from other copywriting books, How to Write Copy That Sells is an agile and to-the-point manual. It covers many topics that writers often overlook, like writing guarantees, creating offers, closings, avoiding common mistakes, and crafting understandable texts.
With the techniques, templates, and examples in this book, you’ll discover how to reach anyone and convert more clients.
7. The Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joseph Sugarman
In The Adweek Copywriting Handbook, legendary copywriter Joseph Sugarman maps out everything you need to start creating great copy. Some call it their own copywriting bible.
While some examples in the book could be considered outdated in our digital age, the foundations of copywriting within this text can be applied to every writer’s work. It also covers the psychology of buying, going into detail about all the elements for writing persuasively.
Sugarman says that “your first sentence should be very compelling by virtue of its short length and ease of reading. No long multisyllabic words. Keep it short, sweet, and almost incomplete so that the reader has to read the next sentence.”
The Adweek Copywriting Handbook is full of wise advice, and it doesn’t focus on a particular formula. On the contrary, you’ll get a step-by-step explanation of buying psychology to understand the core of writing copy. Joseph Sugarman will give you 100 percent practical advice for selling any type of product or service. This way, you’ll learn how to enhance your copy by adding elements such as features, benefits, objections, guarantees, or projecting authority.
8. The Art of X-Ray Reading by Roy Peter Clark
Roy Peter Clark is an American professor who teaches a way of reading that allows you to penetrate beyond the surface of literary texts. This includes observing the internal process that turns them into masterpieces.
The way he analyzes texts is methodical. In turn, you’ll discover which questions to ask while reading, so that you too can detect the main ideas from a book, how to analyze every sentence, or how to better fit the words into your texts.
Clark’s techniques are outstanding, and they consist of a deep analysis of the most important authors in history, like William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, and Vladimir Nabokov. By analyzing the writing styles of these outstanding wordsmiths, you can improve your own techniques!
9. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
This book by Austin Kleon is not just about writing. It’s about getting the best ideas and inspiration in order to transform them to enhance your ideas. Kleon starts by saying, “Every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of one or more previous ideas.” That is, getting the right inspiration is everything for getting started as a successful writer.
Nothing is completely original. So, Kleon encourages his readers to embrace their writing influences and educate themselves on the work of others to create their own path.
In Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon’s message for writers is don’t try to reinvent the wheel! Quite the contrary, he says, “Copy your heroes. Examine where you fall short. What’s in there that makes you different? That’s what you should amplify and transform into your own work.”
10. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley
Ann Handley gives valuable tips on how to create great content, from the correct use of grammar to crafting engaging emails or blog posts. This book is a great manual for modern-day writers. With just a handful of simple rules and practical advice, you’ll understand how to use the right words to keep readers coming back.
Handley shares how to write better, use correct grammar, and tell compelling stories. And, because it’s a book for modern writers, you can apply these best practices on social media networks, blogs, websites, and emails.
Handley explains that creating good content is your way of showing your readers that you care about them. You should never ask your audience to make an effort to understand you or to perceive value in your work. Your job is to simply ensure that the content you publish reflects the quality of everything you do.
Grow Your Writing Skills, Grow Your Writing Business!
With practice and dedication, you can perfect the craft of writing. If you want to write well, you must learn the best practices. The top writing books above can teach you priceless techniques – whether you’re a freelance writer or you own a writing business. You can gain the knowledge you need to master the art of writing and make a living as a writer.
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