Five Books to Help You Be a Successful Writer

National Novel Writing Month (or Nanowrimo) is coming up! This means writers from around the country are going to be pulling their hair out and drowning in caffeine. Writing is hard. It’s a long process, and most of us don’t have a formal education to teach us how to do it. While Nanowrimo is all about “writing crap just to get it down" and editing later, I think it’s still important that writers have every tool in their arsenal to succeed, which is why I compiled a list of five books that have personally helped me grow and get my stuff out there.


Number 1: The Elements of Style by Strunk and White

I used to abhor grammar as a child. But as a writer, editor, and literary agent intern, I have learned the importance of a well-written sentence. Your novel could be the most captivating story out there, but if it is fraught with spelling errors, you’re going to have trouble getting it traditionally published. The Elements of Style goes over practical writing rules every writer should know. I keep it behind my bed for reference.


Number 2: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

For the anxious writer, Bird by Bird gives you an easy approach to writing. It won’t go over a lot of grammar rules. However, Bird by Bird gives you the tools to not only create compelling characters but to do so without getting overwhelmed. Bird by Bird takes a one bite at a time approach to writing, which has definitely saved me during one of my “I’ll never do it” spirals.


Number 3: On Writing by Stephen King

Half memoir, half writing guide, On Writing shows you the history of Stephen King’s lucrative career, while also giving you practical tips to improve your writing. You’ll learn not only how King did it, tips on characterization, description, and pacing. This book greatly improved my writing and my attitude toward the business.


Number 4: The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell

I love this book! It is an interactive guide to writing, publishing, and not losing your shit. What I love about The Art of War for Writers is that it doesn’t simply tell me how to write well, but helps as I trudge through the query trenches. I read it when I need the stamina to get me through the piles of rejections.


Number 5: The Writer’s Market

Known as the most trusted guide to getting published, The Writer’s Market is an annual publication and an invaluable tool for writers. The Writer’s Market is a large phone book of every reputable editor, agent, and publisher you can think of. But that’s not all. The Writer’s Market also provides detailed advice on writing queries, synopses, and other things you need to get in the business. It also provides examples of said queries and synopses, and specific comments and advice from the agents and editors themselves.

Whether you’re participating in Nanowrimo this year or stuck in the query trenches, I wish you the best of luck on your writing journey. For more writing advice, updates on my work, and miscellaneous fun, don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list or follow me on Twitter.