Friday, June 24, 2011

On 'How to Write' Books

Some writers devour 'how to write' books, and some won't touch them.

Which writer are you?

As a new writer, I picked up many 'how to' books, searching for the secrets of writing. The problem was I didn't understand them, found them too complicated. I'm not sure rather I was grabbing the wrong ones, but now as I re-read them, I find them much more understandable.

Can you learn from 'how to' books?

I believe it is helpful to read what other writers think about the art of writing. You won't discover a magical blueprint. What you will find is multiple views, which you can adapt to your own writing over time.

I continue to grab how to books, and now as I read, I can relate to what the writer is sharing. I continue to pick up additional helpful hints with each new book.

What is the best way to read a how to book?

I suggest reading it from beginning to end. Use sticky markers to tab anything that seems useful. The more you write, the more the practices you find in these books will come into play. Later, you may choose to reread these books. I believe you will be surprised at how much you've actually used the knowledge without even realizing it.

Do you read 'how to' books? Do you follow from beginning to end? Do you jump around to the sections you want to read most? Book recommendations welcomed.


Joylene Butler said...

I'm game for anything. I read baby books, so it made sense that I'd read writing books too. Some made my head spin, some got me thinking. I loved Stein On Writing, How to Write the Breakout Novel, and Bickham's book, can't think of the name. I think the trick is to learn from these people, take what works for you, and discard the rest. Even they keep saying the same thing in their books: write.

Great post, Cher.

Terry W. Ervin II said...

I think some of the best informaiton the 'how to write' books contain is information on what to avoid or not do. It can save time in the learning process.

I think some of the best 'how to write' books are those published by a writer's favorite authors. Study them and you study how they succeeded in telling a good story.

Anonymous said...

I read "how to" books. We can learn from what others have to say. Enjoyed your post.

Anonymous said...

Joylene, I haven't read Stein on Writing, but it's been on my to buy list for quite a while. Maybe with your recommendation, I'll finally put an order in for it.

Thanks for the great comment.

Anonymous said...


I do agree. Stephen King On Writing is one of my favorites, although it's more on a motivational level.

You can save yourself a few steps by learning from their mistakes. Unfortunately, I've already made most of them through the years. :)

Anonymous said...


How to books are wonderful for the most part, once you know how to read them. I spent a lot of wasted hours trying to follow a few step by step and it doesn't quite work that way. At least not for me.

E.D. said...

I have not touched a "how to write" book on the art of writing or novel structure or similar subjects on the craft itself. But I cannot do without "how to write" books that provide assistance with writing a synopsis or a query!

Anonymous said...


I haven't got that far yet. Any suggestions for good ones on that subject?

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