Books for Beginner Writers

People often ask me if I can recommend a book for them, when just starting out on their writing journey. There are so many to choose from now.

When I started 15 years ago, I walked into WHSmith at Elephant and Castle and bought the only book on creative writing on the shelf. It was The Creative Writing Coursebook edited by Julia Bell and Paul Magrs. A brilliant introduction to aspects of the craft with exercises to do at home. But I found it all a bit too daunting at that stage.

The book I turned to again and again when I started creative writing classes at an adult education centre was Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. I’d dip into it for inspiration at the start of every writing session and read it at bedtime to let the words and lessons sink in while I slept. The difference in this book was that characters, plot, setting, poetic form didn’t matter. The point was just to write. And practising this day after day is what helped me become a writer.

Since then, I’ve read lots of books about writing on style, form, writing a breakout novel and finding a voice. I still love a good writing self-help book. Most recently, I enjoyed Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert who puts forward the reassuring and pleasing theory that ideas are out there milling around as entities in themselves, tapping us on the shoulder when we’re ready to receive them.

Other classics I recommend to new writers are:

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

Anything by Julia Cameron, particularly The Right to Write

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande – published in 1934 with lessons still true today. The link takes you to a pdf.

Which books about writing do you recommend? Tell me in the comments below.


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