My Five “Go To” Books on Writing

Here in no particular order are my five favorite books on writing.

 

1.)  Strunk & White – The Elements of Style

2.)  Stephen King – On Writing

3.)  Ray Bradbury – Zen in the Art of Writing

4.)  William Akers – Your Screenplay Sucks!: 100 Ways to Make It Great.

5.)  Blake Snyder – Save The Cat!

 

There are a lot of other writing books out there and I’m sure you have all sorts of favorites, but these are mine, the ones I keep near my desk. In fact I’ve been known to re-read various parts of these books in the evenings just because…

As a filmmaker I write every day. I know that by writing every day I’m getting better. At least I hope I am.

It doesn’t matter what you’re writing, novels, screenplays, or short stories you need to read The Elements of Style. It’s about proper use of language. It’s been around for decades and I really can’t think of another book that covers what it does. It is my go-to-book if I have questions. I have the third edition, which is copyrighted in 1979…

I’m not a fan of most of Stephen King’s novels.  Not that I have anything against him, I’m just not a big fan of the horror genre. I like his short stories a lot and I have a ton of respect for him as a writer.

Stephen King’s On Writing starts off as a memoir, which is fascinating to see where he started and how he got to where he is. Then it switches gears as he talks about the tools that every writer needs. He is a huge advocate of reading and believes that, “if you don’t have time to read you have neither the time nor the tools to write”. This book is filled with so much good information and his story is so interesting that I read the book three times in a row because I was afraid I missed something.

I love the fact that he keeps his desk pushed up against a wall so he has no distractions when he writes. I used to write by a window and now my desk is against a wall. I’m writing more when I sit down and it’s much easier to concentrate on the work without a window.

I think Ray Bradbury is a writing God. I read his books when I was younger but after reading his essays in Zen in the Art of Writing, I’m re-reading many of them again because I know I missed things when I read his work before. And boy did I.

From Bradbury I have learned discipline, working at your craft every day and trying to keep the excited kid a live that exists in all of us. He never lost his youthful enthusiasm and his writing propels you forward like no other writer in my mind.

Disclaimer – I am a friend of William Akers and he and I went to film school together. I got to read the rough draft of Your Screenplay Sucks!, while Will was working on it.

Your Screenplay Sucks!: 100 Ways to Make It Great, makes me laugh and it shows me so many mistakes that I’ve made when I’m writing. William does it with style and humor. I love this book because I can open it up anywhere and learn something. I like the way it’s divided up with specific categories, that way if there is just one thing I want to learn about (or re-read), like writing dialogue, I can.

I also check out his blog every week as he is always posting something interesting. You should too.

The good news is that William is hard at work on the sequel and I’m hoping it comes out by the end of the year.

Save The Cat!, is chalk full of great information and tools for writers. Blake breaks things down and simplifies them. I think this is a really good guide for the beginning screenwriter and a handy tool for the experienced one.

Blake never talks down to you while he’s explaining things and even now when I write something I will refer back to his book to make sure that what I’ve written is the clearest it can possible be.

Like I said before, there are lots of good books out there on writing. These are the ones I like and refer to all the time.

What are yours?