For Aspiring Writers: The Most Helpful Books To Study
What You Should Be Reading
- The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John Gardner, 1983
- On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser, 1976
- Zen In the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury, 1990
- The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr., 1918
- The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler, 1991
- Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, 1994
John Gardner: What You’ll Learn and Discover
“John Gardner was famous for his generosity to young writers, and (this book) is his . . . gift to them. The Art of Fiction will fascinate anyone interested in how fiction gets put together. For the young writer, it will become a necessary handbook, a stern judge, an encouraging friend.”
-The New York Times Book Review.
- John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction is probably the foremost text taught in writing classes and workshops. Gardner was as highly regarded for his writing as his teaching. With The Art of Fiction, the reader will learn about aesthetics and how they shape writing as well as how to craft and shape a refined sentence.
- Gardner said: “Where possible, writing should evoke discernible imagery in the mind of the reader, who is being led on a curious journey, sentence-by-sentence.” Use concrete imagery in your writing: things your reader can easily imagine, see, hear, touch, taste, and smell.
- Use lots of detail. This will make your writing vivid and interesting. You can create a whole world with your writing and, if you whole-heartedly commit to that world or “dream,” as Gardner referred to it, it will be believable to the reader.
- Expand your vocabulary! Gardner: “Limited vocabulary, like short legs on a pole-vaulter, builds in a natural barrier to progress beyond a certain point.”
- The best way to improve your vocabulary is, well, to read a lot. Also, don’t hesitate to dust off your thesaurus! Now, with the internet, it’s more convenient than ever; check out Harvest.net for highly recommended websites and apps that will help expand your vocabulary.
How to Apply William Zinsser’s Wisdom to your Own Writing (Non-Fiction)
“It’s no secret: The best writers write every day.”
William Zinsser’s Top Tips On Writing Well (from his book On Writing Well) include:
- “Give the reader a narrative flow he can follow with no trouble from beginning to end.” This is obviously something that takes a great deal of work but, according to Zinsser, “You learn to write by writing” so it’s important to “establish a daily schedule and stick to it.”
- “A simple style is the result of hard work and hard thinking; a muddled style reflects a muddled thinker.” Keep your ideas organized and simple. Make lists, charts and diagrams.
- When it’s time to study a writing topic, be thorough! In order to write, one must read a lot. Study old books, papers, guidebooks and manuals, maps, etc.
- Do your research: “Readers should always feel that you know more about a subject than you put in writing.” No matter the subject you wish to write about, you’ll need to know a lot about it and remember: not all research comes solely from books. Remember to read a lot but also look through old magazines and photography books because imagery is extremely important. Watch films and documentaries, visit your local library and use the internet as a learning tool.
- Of course, there’s also the option of writing about that which you are already familiar with.
- Set your intention: “Decide what single point you want to leave in the reader’s mind.”
- Once you know the impression you want to leave on the reader, it’ll be easier to weed out the superfluous ideas. Keep your vision clear, and only use imagery and words to express the idea you wish to convey.
For more information on the information and books discussed in this blog, consult the sources/webpages listed below: