Six of the best books on writing

Everybody needs help, regardless of what they say. Even with a degree and career in journalism, it wasn’t easy. My experience of trying to put together a complex and long narrative was improved by guides, adages, tips and books.
While everyone and his dog seems to offer a guide to how to write a book, here is a list of six the best I’ve read in no particular order.

1. Hero of a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Cambell. For me, this is the theoretical bible of how stories are made. Cambell examines myth and the notion of hero found in this. It is deep and really an academic study, but if you have the time for it, it is well worth it.

2. A Writer’s Journey, by Christopher Vogler. This book takes the theories in Cambell’s work and puts it into a practical, understandable structure that you can apply in your writing. A great work.

3. Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish, by James Scott Neil. Another great practical guide, Neil offers, as the title implies, a guide to defining the structure of your story. The added element here is that he looks at how your plot influences structure.

4. Daily Rituals, by Mason Currey. A great companion for any writer, Currey has compiled a list of the habits of 161 novelists, poets, playrights and artists, from Kafka to Jean-Paul Sartre. Not all practical tips, but great insight.

5. The Elements of Style, by William Strunk and EB White. As a recovering journo, it would be impossible to compile this list without this book. Strunk and White’s seminal work set the precedent for many books on style that came later. In White’s words it is a summary of “the case for cleanliness, accuracy and brevity in the use of English”.

6. English for Journalists by Wynford Hicks’s. For journalists, this is the book that is reached for if there is ever a squabble over a grammatical point. It covers the fundamentals of grammar, spelling, punctuation and journalistic writing, with all points illustrated through a series of concise and illuminating examples. No writer should be without a copy.

What are the books that have inspired or taught you? Let us know in the comment box below.

About Niall Hunt

Niall Hunt was born in the shadow of the Cotswolds and brought up in the Vale of Evesham. He is an award-winning journalist and now lives and works in London. Deep & Meaningless is his first novel. His second work, Time Bomb, is under way.

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