If You Want to Write, by Brenda Euland;
On Writing, by Stephen King;
and The Elements of Style, by Willam Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.
There are many books on the process of writing, the technical aspects of it, and reasons for writing. I find these three books sum up everything required for the burgeoning and the advanced writer.
Brenda Euland’s book If You Want To Write is about the human spirit with regard to writing, that everyone is creative, everyone has something important to say. She has great examples on how to say what you mean, how to understand when you are speaking above your truth.
An example of writing above your truth might be:
His muscles were arrogantly bold, like Adonis on the steps of the Pantheon under a sharply blue sky.
Gahh, I could barely get through writing that. Muscles aren’t arrogant, people are. Though there are creative examples for muscles as arrogant; this one is rather unapproachable to my ears. It doesn’t feel honest, connected to one’s truth, one’s experience.
A simpler, more honest expression is:
His muscles rippled like live snakes under his skin.
His muscles stretched his shirt, the button threads had to be reinforced.
The last two give clear images that might pull something from your own memory or are simply more easily grasped than Adonis on the steps of the Pantheon.
Brenda Euland is a bold character; you get that from her writing. She has something to say, and by damn it, she says it. She also quotes some of the legendary literature writers in history to support her statements, and that’s refreshing. She will inspire you.
There is so much positive to say about Stephen King’s On Writing that it’s difficult to know where to begin.
One of the great things you come away with is the process of a writer from his earliest days through to his fame. Mr. King is so candid you cannot help but laugh deeply at times. You get an idea what diligence is, what it means to have a partner who supports what you do—as his wife Tabby went through the same difficult times with him, only she had him to deal with as well—and their struggle without money and with children to feed, all while doing the work of writing.
Beyond that, you get an idea of just what that work is. The mindset required and the tools you need on a base level just to be in this business. He explains it well, and you come away with an understanding just why this man is so popular and has such a loyal fan base.
Please do yourself a favor and get the audio version of the book read by Stephen King himself. You’ll thank me you did.
Willam Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
The Elements of Style should be in the toolbox of every writer. There are a few examples favored by the authors, perhaps a bit dated and/or subjective, but overall you get a definitive understanding of English grammar as it pertains to expressing yourself clearly and simply in your writing.
It’s a short book, but that only underscores the authors’ own ability to convey their material with the efficiency of language they espouse.
Those three books will get you going, take you there, and help see you through expressing yourself with the written word. As I said, I pull these books out every so often and use them as refreshers whenever life gets in the way of writing and I need to feel a little inspired.
Every writer will benefit from these authors’ expressions. Do yourself a favor, and the rest of us, too, and read or listen to them.