What I love the most about being a writer is that the journey is never over. There is always more to learn, and always things we can do to improve.
The number one thing we can do to improve is read. Reading not only teaches us what other writers in our genre are doing, but it also subconsciously improves our language and empathy skills. Reading puts us into the characters’ minds, allowing us to be as close to walking in another person’s footsteps as we can get without being telepathic.
There are lots of books for writers out there. Up until I started my MA, I’d read very few of them. When I started my MA, I made an effort to read more of them.
Since then, I’ve branched out into reading nonfiction in general. I’d never judged fiction by its genre in the past, so why did I just nonfiction so harshly?
I’d always assumed nonfiction meant boring.
It really, really, doesn’t.
Below are my favourite nonfiction reads that I believe will help you both with writing and life as a writer.
Black Box Thinking – Matthew Syed
I cannot rave about this book enough. It’s this book that changed my mind about nonfiction. It combines the skills of storytelling with the facts of nonfiction. It is brilliantly written.
Black Box Thinking uses the aerospace and medical industries as examples of how to learn from your mistakes, and how to bury your head in the sand. Aeroplanes are one of the safest ways to travel because the industry learns from its mistakes.
The book features interviews with doctors and pilots, as well as the likes of James Dyson and David Beckham. Said interviews prove that their successes weren’t just down to talent: it was down to mindset, too.
By learning how to not shut yourself off when you fail, you can be a better person, and of course, a better writer.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain
Most writers are introverts. That was fine a hundred, even fifty years ago, when the publisher did all the marketing for you. In the twenty first century, it’s all down to you.
Quiet looks at what it’s like to be an introvert in a world where the focus is on personality and not talent, and how you can use being an introvert to your advantage.
The Cambridge Companion to Creative Writing – David Morley
This was the first book I read for my MA. It’s written in an easy-to-digest way, and doesn’t at all feel like a textbook. It has activities for all mediums and genres, whether you’re a poet, fiction writer, or nonfiction writer. It’s worth trying activities from different areas as you’ll learn something new from doing something out of your comfort zone.
On Writing – Stephen King
Part-memoir, part writing-guide, Stephen King’s On Writing is a must-read for every writer. He talks you through his writing process, the tools every writer needs, and we get an insight into the life of one of the world’s most well-known writers.
One thing I will say though is that he doesn’t believe in plotting your novels, and he tries to discourage this. I feel that it should be a writer’s choice as to whether or not they do so (Marian Keyes is also not a fan), however I am a devout plotter, and I would not finish any of my novels if I didn’t have a framework completed during the early stages.
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within – Natalie Goldberg
If the concept of freewriting is alien or even laughable to you, you need to read this book. It’s full of anecdotes and stories about writing and freewriting, and is a must-read if you’re suffering from writer’s block.
How to Make a Living from Your Writing – Joanna Penn
I got this book after attending a workshop hosted by Joanna Penn at Nottingham Writers’ Studio. It is no understatement to say that that workshop changed my life. It’s what inspired me to self-publish, and why you’re reading this blog post now.
Joanna Penn has written a whole host of nonfiction books on writing and business for writers. While I haven’t read all of them, the ones that I have read are informative, easy-to-digest, and useful for both those starting out and those further along in their journey.
Let’s Get Digital: How to Self-Publish, and Why You Should – David Gaughran
If the idea of self-publishing is new to you, this book is a great start. It talks about all the different aspects of publishing and self-publishing. If you’re unsure as to whether or not self-publishing is for you, this book will help you to decide.
Over to You
What are your favourite books for writers? Share yours in the comments below!