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What do you recommend as reading material to improve writing for beginners? If one recommendation is put per answer and can be voted separately a good list of resources should build up.

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How can I make that a community wiki? – Mnementh Nov 19 '10 at 10:20
Flag for mod attention. I already did it for you. – John Smithers Nov 19 '10 at 10:24
@John Smithers: Thanks. :-) – Mnementh Nov 19 '10 at 10:25
Also see podcasts, magazines, and online info about writing. – MGOwen Sep 24 '12 at 5:49
Good luck, Don Quixote. No perfect book exists. You'll find only "good enough" and such is the "industry standard", books aren't written by robots for robots but by people for people and no matter how dry and professional the subject it's impossible to wring a text entirely dry of all informality and subjectiveness like you'd want it. – SF. Jul 31 '13 at 9:23

39 Answers 39

Aristotle's Poetics

Several translations are available for free online and can be purchased in bookstores.


With respect to the requirement of art, the probable impossible is always preferable to the improbable possible.

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The Elements of Style and The Chicago Manual of Style will keep you from having to reinvent the wheel.

The Art of the Novel by Henry James is perfection yet a bone-dry read. Thankfully, this nineteenth century gem is condensed into a 20 page afterword to be found in.

The House of Fiction, an Anthology of the Short Story (Charles Scribner's Sons, NYC, 1950/1960) by Caroline Gordon and Allen Tate. Tagging Henry James' insight to these stories really works. This anthology is the definition of a good read. It will keep you on the road.

For a great book on becoming an artist, a writer, a painter, or a musician: No Longer Human (New Directions 1958) by Osamu Dazai is the whole story.

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In Haruki Murakami's novel 1Q84, the main character is a writer. It's possible to get a pretty good idea of Murakami's writing methods just by reading the story. There are some extremely simple tips and tricks in there, and I learned a lot about writing just from reading it.

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Death Sentence: The Decay Of Public Language, by Don Watson is an incredibly astute and witty look at the abuses of language in modern business-speak. It's not explicitly about how to write well, but it does point out what not to do, and will help develop critical thinking about writing in general. It's also very entertaining :)

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Professional Writing Skills: A Write It Well Guide Author : Natasha Terk

This book can serve your purpose. It provides a step-by-step process for planning business letters, memos, e-mail, and other business documents. It teaches how to position your message from the reader's point of view, write persuasively, include the right information, and organize the information logically,expanded sections on language, punctuation, and grammar offer busy professionals the tools they need to get their message across clearly, concisely, and professionally.

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These are two books that have influenced my self study of the novel and narration.

  • Letters to a Young Novelist, Mario Vargas Llosa. MVL writes to a fictional young novelist about process and the conceptual work of writing a novel.

  • Aspects of the Novel, E.M. Forster. EMF writes about the elements of a novel: plot, narration, etc. Originally delivered as lectures at Cambridge.

Together, the two books create a sort of 3D image of fiction writing that spoke to me. Of course, there is not one, singular best book in this space. You will find one (or more) that helps you in the way you want to learn and grow.

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Paul Carr is a British writer, one of the best I have read. Have a look here http://thebooksmap.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/books-for-writers-and-enterpreneurs.html

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Could you say something about why this book is excellent? What does he cover? What are his credentials? Why should people read this book? Thanks. – Monica Cellio Dec 5 '13 at 16:19
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