I’ve read more books on the craft of writing than I care to remember, but there are three in particular which I frequently return to, each one for different reasons.
The three books are:
Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande
On Writing by Stephen King
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr and E. B. White.
The Brande book I go to for inspiration. It sets itself apart from most books about writing, because it isn’t really about the nuts and bolts of writing – it’s about what it means to be a writer, what it takes to be a writer, and what you need to do (both internally and externally) to write successfully.
The King book I go to for rejuvenation. I’ve posted before about the healing powers of King’s fiction and how, for me, a dose of King can set me back on the right path when things have gone awry. That also applies to his brilliant non-fiction pieces, too. (Danse Macabre is also great, but it’s really concerned with horror, not writing.) On Writing is a fantastic, heart-warming book about the joys and pains of writing, all told by the most human, enthusiastic writer of his generation. “God loves an enthusiast?” King’s enthusiasm rubs off on me every time I dip into this precious tome.
And then there is Strunk and White’s bible of style. If you’re a writer, then this book is an essential purchase, and should always remain close to hand. The book may not exactly save your life, but it can save you from looking like a (literary) berk.
Dorothea Brande’s Tip of the Day:
“If you are unable to finish a piece of work at one sitting, make an engagement with yourself to resume work before you rise from the table. You will find that this acts like a posthypnotic suggestion, in more ways than one. You will get back to the work without delay, and you will pick up the same note with little difficulty, so that your story will not show as many different styles as a patchwork quilt when it is done.”