How to write*

Is it too ambitious for a blog post to cover the entire subject of writing? Yes, yes it is which is why this post is actually about writing how-to books. Specifically these two:

Books on writing

Now I’ve read a few guides about writing as I’m sure you have too, but I only actually own two. If you want a bit of knowledge, a good read and possibly a present for any writers you may know, these are my recommendations.

On WritingStephen King

Let me start with a confession – I’ve seen lots of Stephen King TV and film adaptations, but I haven’t read a lot of his books. I’ve read a number of his shorter works, such as The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon but I’ve never been drawn to his weightier tomes and personally, I think his better works are his shorter ones anyway.

So how did I come to own his guide to writing? Basically, I bought it on a whim, off the back of a number of good reviews. And I am very glad I did. It’s actually more of an autobiography, with a writing guide thrown in, as King recounts his childhood and early struggles as well as his later battles with addiction and near fatal accident. He weaves advice for creating a writing ‘toolbox’ into this narrative and his early years as a teacher come to the fore as he talks about what he has learned over the years. The language is simple but intelligent and often humorous – note his observation after his accident that he had ‘nearly been killed by a character right out of one of my own novels’.

Whether you like King’s work or not, I recommend this book. It provides excellent advice and is also a darn good read.

How not to write a novel – Sandra Newman & Howard Mittelmark

How to stand out in the world of how-tos? Write a how-not-to. I like this book for three main reasons:

  1. The cover – I believe the advice is ‘don’t start your book by shooting a kitten.’
  2. The humour – the examples are stupidly over the top, but this just means you remember them.
  3. The way it made me re-assess my work – I may have made a few of these errors myself (ahem). This book helped me identify them and rub them out. My work is, I hope, all the better for it.

I actually got this book as a Christmas present last year, but I already had a copy which just shows you how good it is!

So my fellow writers, what about you? Do you have a well-worn guide you always come back to?

*may not be an actual guide to writing

Related reads

Is This the Only Book About Writing you Need?
5 Ways to Wordsmith your Writing

Want to know what I write? Find out more about my books


17 thoughts on “How to write*

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    1. In my own work I’ve found ‘What Colour Am I?’ – a character passes a mirror and pauses to describe themselves in great detail. In the real world people notice mussed up hair or a wrongly buttoned shirt, not their eye colour! There’s more too but I don’t want to give away too much of the book!


    1. I think the most interesting thing was about editing. King is ruthless in cutting words and concentrating on active over passive. I think that’s why his short pieces work so well. I’m a natural editor, but it’s definitely a lesson for all writers! Thanks for your comment.


  1. I’m a big fan of King’s book and have read it a couple of times, and ‘dipped into it’ several times more. Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is one that I’ve gone back to more than once. She’s very funny, and her advice is sound. Her chapter on the Shitty First Draft is worth the price of the book. “One of Lamott’s writing tools is always at my desk—the one-inch picture frame. Lamott says, ‘It reminds me that all I have to do is to write down as much as I can see through a one-inch picture frame. This is all I have to bite off for the time being.'”


  2. Pingback: Wordland

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