Books To Improve Your Writing

Happy New Year!

2014 was a good year for me, with my writing as well as life in general. I had a short story published ( and found out I’m getting two more published early this year. I also have a publisher working with me on my novel Aelfgifu’s Time (excerpt here:, I’m hoping we can release it in 2015.

I’ve also started work researching my next novel, as yet untitled but about Edith of Wessex, married to Edward the Confessor and from the infamous Godwin family.

It was also a fantastic year for improving my own writing techniques. I joined a website called Write On ( The feedback has been amazingly helpful and, to my delight, I found my work in the top ten on the site my first month. I recommend your taking a look.

The reviewing I did of others’ work helped me more than I thought it would. Seeing mistakes in other people’s stories made the same mistakes that much more obvious in my own work. And it got me thinking about the technical side of writing.

I joined a few Facebook pages on writing and was disturbed to see the number of people who really didn’t have much experience with the technical side of writing. Like an artist, you need a basic understanding of the tools in order to bring colour to your work. The same goes for writing, basic grammar and spelling are important but so is understanding characterization, speech, showing vs telling. All the good stuff. (And as a bit of a grumble, I saw one post from what I hope is a young person, saying he had only started reading books two years ago, had already read four and might read another in the future. He commented that he didn’t really need it, he was writing before he was reading anyway. I despair, I really do. How do you ever hope to become a decent writer without having read? A lot.)

Anyway. I decided I would put together a list of books that I’ve found particularly helpful for writing, ones that I return to when I have issues or need encouragement.


The Elements of Style – William Strunk and EB White

This is the bible of grammar, and should be on every writer’s shelf. Explains grammar rules in an easy to understand manner. It also has a section on writing and composition. An excellent resource.

Eats Shoots and Leaves – The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation – Lynne Truss

More modern than Strunk and White but just as useful, with a chapter devoted to commas and another for hyphens.


On Writing – Stephen King

There were a lot of disparaging comments about Mr King on the writing pages I followed, a lot of folk don’t appreciate the vast amount of work he’s putting into his work. I would say this: if a successful writer takes the time to record how s/he works, and offers advice on improving your own craft, take it.

I like this book because the first half deals with King’s own writing, his own demons and the context around which some of his books were written. I like context. It’s a lost skill, seemingly, to put things into context for a listener/reader. The second half of the book deals with the writing craft, all useful advice.

Writer’s Gym – Eliza Clark (ed)

One of the books recommended to me when I was doing my masters, the book is made up of exercises and advice from different writers (including Douglas Coupland and Margaret Atwood). Lots of advice, exercises and further reading.

The Art of Fiction – David Lodge

One of my favourite writing books, David Lodge starts each chapter with a writing element in mind, and illustrates that element with a quote from a famous writer/work. For example, he uses James Joyce to illustrate interior monologue, Hemingway to illustrate repetition etc. A fantastic book.

The Practice of Writing – David Lodge

You may have guessed I’m a David Lodge fan. His writing and examples are plainly written and easy to digest. This book is a collection of his essays on writing, all gems.


Yes, a good, old-fashioned thesaurus. Online or other, never JUST trust in Microsoft to come up with best word.

There are also many great online writing resources and groups to join, depending on your writing level or stage in the game, you have to decide which are best for you. I collect basic but helpful writing advice on my Pinterest board here:

The only other advice I can give, and I can’t stress this enough, is READ! READ ALL THE BOOKS! As much as you can. It can only make you a better writer. And it makes you much more interesting at cocktail parties.

A small portion of my own library. When I moved to Canada from the UK, I packed over 3,000 books and shipped them over!

I hope all of this helps. Send me your comments/thoughts, I’d love to hear from you!

May 2015 bless us all with successful writing and good grammar!