Prior to penning my first novel, most of my dabblings with the written word fell squarely under the banner of ‘Technical Authoring’: IT-based ‘how-to’ guides, scientific papers and reports, and a 300-page PhD thesis. So, before starting work on my first creative writing project, I decided it couldn’t hurt to brush up a little on my general writing and English language skills. The following three books served this purpose admirably, and still prove invaluable to me as I continue on my literary journey. As an author, aspiring author, or someone who simply enjoys experimenting with our beautiful written language, you owe it to yourself to read them too.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
As a huge fan of Stephen King’s work, this book was an obvious starting point for me. It is both an autobiographical account of Stephen’s incredible writing career, and an extremely useful resource of tips and advice for the would-be wordsmith. On Writing also introduced me to the next book on this list.
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White
A little gem of a book. It is only pocket-sized, and just over 100 pages, but deals with the essentials of writing clear, concise English – and filtering out all unnecessary padding/waffle.
Eats, Shoots and Leaves (The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation) by Lynne Truss
Teaches the art of punctuation – in an entertaining and easy to read style, with lots of witty examples of how poor punctuation can twist the meaning of words and stifle the author’s creative voice.
And two other books that I also found extremely useful:
The Crime Writer’s Guide to Police Practice and Procedure by Michael O’Byrne
Gives an excellent insight into the workings of the British police force and the British criminal justice system. A must-read for anyone wishing to incorporate crime or police related plotlines into their UK-based novels.
English Grammar for Dummies (UK Edition) by Lesley J. Ward and Geraldine Woods
An easy to read, comprehensive technical guide to the written English language. A great resource for anyone wishing to brush up on their English grammar, without making their brain hurt too much.