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5 Books That Will Teach You More About Writing Than an English Degree

What makes a great author?

5 Books That Will Teach You More About Writing Than an English Degree

Writing is hard.

But it is also freeing. Laying down what’s in your mind is cathartic. Creating magic out of words is rewarding.

To write well, you need to learn it. You must understand the tips and tricks that will make you proud of what you put to paper (or computer).

Here are five books that will motivate you to pursue writing. They will also help you discover your literary talents.

Let’s go!

5 Books That Will Teach You More About Writing Than an English Degree

How writing helped a writer heal…

This book tells us the story of Stephen King’s life as well as his advice for aspiring writers.

The author starts from his childhood. He grew up with his mother and brother. His father was not in the picture.

“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”

King describes his interest in writing and storytelling. As a child, he used to copy panels from comic books and write his own stories.

As a teen, he wrote numerous short stories for various magazines.

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

The author describes his family life. His wife is Taitha, and together they have 3 kids.

This book is not about the writer’s life story only. It provides a wealth of material on how to write better.

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

It discusses writing basics, like story, plot, theme, backstory, etc. The author also talks about the role of writing in his recovery after his accident.

This book is a beautiful exploration of what writing is, and what it can be.

5 Books That Will Teach You More About Writing Than an English Degree

All about writing in the digital age.

Nicholas Cole shares all he can about becoming a successful writer online.

The author himself rose to prominence after being a regular on Quora. He suggests writing on a platform to others as well. That is, instead of launching a blog or website.

“The Curiosity Gap is what tells the reader what this piece of writing is about, who it’s for, and what it’s promising — all without revealing the answer.”

Cole tells us about the five phases of a social platform. After the life cycle is completed, it is time to find a new one, he says.

“You are not the main character in your story. The reader is.”

In starting to write on a new platform, the author’s advice is to write consistently for 6 months. After that, you can decide its effectiveness.

“The Golden Intersection of great writing is: Answering The Reader’s Question x Telling Them An Entertaining Story”

If writing on the internet is something that you want to pursue, this book should be your first read.

5 Books That Will Teach You More About Writing Than an English Degree

A timeless guide for writers from 1976.

Have you ever heard of the phrase, ‘less is more’?

The author convinces us that great writing is clear, concise, and simple.

“Clear thinking becomes clear writing; one can’t exist without the other.”

Zinsser encourages us to think clearly and to get rid of all the clutter in our writing. He has a clear disdain for unnecessary words.

“Clutter is the disease of American writing.”

Not only that, Zinsser explains that words like “a bit”, “a little”, “sort of”, and “kind of” dilute one’s writing.

“The reader is someone with an attention span of about 30 seconds.”

The book also provides guidance on writing about people, writing about places, and business writing.

Reading this book will make you realize that filling pages is not the goal of writing. Instead, the goal is to say more in fewer words.

5 Books That Will Teach You More About Writing Than an English Degree

Stick to simple and concise!

Just like the last book, this book focuses on the importance of being concise.

The authors say that a drawing has no extra lines, and a machine has no extra parts.

Hence writing shouldn’t have any extra words.

If you think about it, it actually makes sense. No one wants to read fluff.

“A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences…”

The authors talk about exuding confidence in our writing. That means not adding doubt where a clear-cut answer will suffice.

“If your every sentence admits a doubt, your writing will lack authority.”

What is my writing style?

This is something that I wonder about.

The authors put me at ease. They say that once you improve as a writer, your style will make itself known.

“As you become proficient in the use of language, your style will emerge, because you yourself will emerge…”

The book also stresses the importance of understanding writing rules. Only then a writer can attempt to break them.

From comma usage to the construction of paragraphs, you’ll learn a lot when you pick up this book.

5 Books That Will Teach You More About Writing Than an English Degree

This is the one writing workshop you should attend.

‘Steering the Craft’ was first published in 1998. A revised and updated edition of the book hit the market in 2015.

The author says, ‘… it’s the same book, but every single sentence was rewritten.’

“Ultimately you write alone. And ultimately you and you alone can judge your work.”

The book explores the connection of sound with writing. We have to hear what we are writing. How it sounds. Only then can we build our voice.

Le Guin asks the writer to know what he is doing with the language and why. She focuses on the importance of learning grammar as a tool for better writing.

Each chapter in the book explains a concept and gives exercises to practice it.

“A story that has nothing but action and plot is a pretty poor affair; and some great stories have neither.”

The author also teaches us how to diagram sentences, something which she learned from her mother and great aunt.

Since I learned English as a second language, my school focused on grammar a lot too. But diagramming was something new that I learned about.

“A writer who wants to write good stuff needs to read great stuff. If you don’t read widely, or read only writers in fashion at the moment, you’ll have a limited idea of what can be done with the English language.”

The best thing about this book is that it is updated and hence covers issues faced by writers today.

Summing Up…

There are many practical lessons in the books above.

I wanted to compile three important ones.

In order to become a great writer:

  1. Read a lot.

  2. Write a lot.

  3. Be concise and bold.


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If you enjoyed these book recommendations, check out the rest of my book lists on my blog-

Affiliate Disclaimer: This post features Amazon affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through these links.


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