In the column below, written several years ago, I mention books that have helped me. Most libraries probably shelve some of them, or can get them through inter-library loan. If you're a writer, or aspiring writer, try one or two, you might like them.
Writer or Ditch Digger
Since I profess to be a writer I suppose I should occasionally write about the subject of writing. I don’t delude myself into thinking anything I might say could ever approach the value of Stephen King’s “On Writing” or Noah Lukeman’s “The First Five Pages” or Anne LaMott’s “Bird by Bird.” If anyone who aspires to write for public consumption is not familiar with those books, a used copy is usually available somewhere for not much money. These are only three of dozens of books on the craft of writing to be found and most have some value.
In my opinion another book, now a classic, is even better than the three named in the previous paragraph, “Make Your Words Work” by Gary Provost. I believe it and years of Writers Digest, the magazine, helped me achieve publication. Another classic that I had wanted for a long time before I actually ordered it is “Goal, Motivation & Conflict” by Debra Dixon. I heartily wished I had not delayed buying it.
Aside from books on writing, just reading books-novels, biographies, whatever one prefers-is also invaluable to improve writing skill. I love writing, but a voracious reader since the age of five, reading was my first love. A person who has read hundreds, maybe thousands, of books just absorbs the way words, sentences, paragraphs sing together in harmony, to use a musical comparison.
Of course, reading and reading books on writing, no matter how good, is no substitute for the actual practice of writing. There is universal truth in the hoary joke’s answer given the person who asked how to get to Carnegie Hall, ‘practice, practice, practice’. Writers achieve mastery of the written word by writing. Exercises on description, snippits of dialogue, just as a violinist or pianist learns to make beautiful music by practicing scales.
Good writing is hard work, but, alas, holds no guarantee of monetary gain. Only a small percentage of writers make a living through writing. One who doesn’t love writing for itself might be better served to find a shovel and a place that needs a ditch.