Becoming a Better Writer
For me, the best teachers (besides, of course, teachers), have been careful reading, repeated revision, and writing for hire—deadlines and paychecks focus the mind wonderfully. Friends and editors have helped me along the way, too, by offering thoughtful critiques of early drafts. But here are few resources that can save you the trouble of learning everything from scratch. (This page, like all the pages under "Resources for Writers," is a work in progress; please be sure to check back for updates.)
The Art of Dramatic Writing, by Lajos Egri
I read this to become a better playwright and screenwriter but I guarantee it will help any writer who works in a dramatic medium. Poets can probably skip it—actually, poetry needs drama, too.
On Writing Well, by William Zinsser
Pretty standard for a college syllabus, or at least it used to be. But fiction writers can learn a lot about economical storytelling from Zinsser.
New! "How to Write," by Colson Whitehead
"Writer’s block is a tool—use it." Mostly tongue-in-cheek but you could still learn something.
New! "Kurt Vonnegut Explains Drama," by Derek Sivers
Chart your drama!
"25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing," by Chuck Wendig
Blunt but encouraging advice, despite the repeated commands to Stop!
"Slowpoke: How to Be a Faster Writer," by Michael Agger (Slate)
In the time it takes you to read this article, Christopher Hitchens will have written a whole new book.
"Don't Write What You Know," by Bret Anthony Johnston (The Atlantic)
In my college writing classes, my classmates wrote what they knew: Thanksgiving dinners with dysfunctional families. I wished that just one of them had driven an ambulance in the Spanish Civil War.
"Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything," by Jonah Lehrer (Wired)
Something to think about when you're plotting your thriller.
"Advice to Writers: Skip the Scenery," by Laura Miller
"Block That Adjective!" by Alexander McCall Smith (Wall Street Journal)
"Beware the Trap of 'Bore-geous' Writing," by Ayelet Waldman (WSJ)
"We Ten Million," by Alix Christie, More Intelligent Life
How to keep going after 13 years as an unpublished novelist. (The Germans, of course, have a word for it.)
Old! "Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories" by S. S. Van Dine
I disagree with many of these rules, but some of them still apply. Such as, for instance, "But a murder story must be kept gemütlich, so to speak."
New! Nathan Englander offers a great explanation of the oft-misunderstood advice, "Write What You Know."
This up-and-coming thriller writer has written some very nice articles that are available on his website.