3 Books Any Aspiring Wordsmith Should Read

contributed by Jenna Smith

Becoming a successful writer isn’t easy, even if one possesses talent. It takes an observatory eye for the details that most overlook; the ability to take the mundane and make it spectacular. Not everyone has it and even those who have it had to learn it first.

But how do you learn how to write?

There’s no one way to learn how to write, which is part of its beauty. According to best-selling author Jeff Goins, “Nothing inspires a writer like reading someone else’s work.” Meaning, if you really want to be successful, you are going to have to follow, or at least be aware, of the footsteps of those who’ve made it.

Here are a few books on style, grammar, and how to keep your audience engaged that are sure to ignite your writing inspiration.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – Anne Lamott

In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott recounts a long anecdote of seemingly mundane moments from her childhood. One story in particular stands out as the central theme of her memoir/self-help book. When she was a child, her brother was struggling with a huge school project on birds. Their father’s simple yet profound advice was to take it “bird by bird,” or, one step at a time.

The book stresses the important of slowing down, not getting ahead of yourself, and letting the art develop naturally within your mind. Lamott posits that writers should start off small and incubate banal events in great detail.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King

It’s no secret that Stephen King has a legion of diehard fans – just looking at the wildly popular Dark Tower series and its meta-storytelling style that relies on referencing previous Stephen King books. If you’re looking for a compelling recount of how one of the bestselling authors of all time got to where he is, alongside a handy textbook full of useful writing advice, look no further than Stephen King’s On Writing.

The reader not only gets insight into how King became one of the most recognizable names in literature; the book is packed with tried-and-true storytelling tips, philosophical musings and plot-development strategies – not to mention the prose itself is a bellwether of clear and engaging writing. On Writing has become the gold standard book for becoming a great writer and is taught in college campuses across the globe.

Elements of Style – William Strunk Jr. & E.B. White

Known by many as simply “Strunk and White,” “Elements of Style” is considered one of the most influential guides on grammar in the English-speaking world. The book contains great advice for novice writers (“Choose a suitable design and hold on to it”) and is a central reference for grammar rules (“The number of the subject determines the number of the verb”). It was penned during the early 20th Century by White and revised four decades later by his very own student E.B. White.

Clocking in at a mere 105 pages, the book abides beautifully to one of its hallmarks: Rule 17: Omit Needless Words!

There are countless books on the craft of writing, but you’d be hard-pressed to find three books in conjunction that offer more knowledge and inspiration than the three above. Now get inspired and write until your heart’s content. There’s no one way to create your art, but following the trail blazed by pioneers of the craft is as good a jumping off point as any.

image attribution flickr user nicoleleec