The Best Books (And Quotes!) To Read If You Want To Learn To Write


Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

Best quote: “Let me list for you some of the many ways in which you might be afraid to live a more creative life: You’re afraid you have no talent. You’re afraid you’ll be rejected or criticized or ridiculed or misunderstood or—worst of all—ignored. You’re afraid there’s no market for your creativity, and therefore no point in pursuing it. You’re afraid somebody else already did it better. You’re afraid everybody else already did it better. You’re afraid somebody will steal your ideas, so it’s safer to keep them hidden forever in the dark. You’re afraid you won’t be taken seriously. You’re afraid your work isn’t politically, emotionally, or artistically important enough to change anyone’s life. You’re afraid your dreams are embarrassing. You’re afraid that someday you’ll look back on your creative endeavors as having been a giant waste of time, effort, and money. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of discipline. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of work space, or financial freedom, or empty hours in which to focus on invention or exploration. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of training or degree.”

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

Best quote: “This afternoon, burn down the house. Tomorrow, pour critical water upon the simmering coals. Time enough to think and cut and rewrite tomorrow. But today-explode-fly-apart-disintegrate! The other six or seven drafts are going to be pure torture. So why not enjoy the first draft, in the hope that your joy will seek and find others in the world who, by reading your story, will catch fire, too?”

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King

Best quote: “Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder

Best quote: “Here’s my little trade secret that I put into every All Is Lost moment just for added spice, and it’s something that many hit movies have. I call it the whiff of death. I started to notice how many great movies use the All Is Lost point to kill someone. Obi Wan in Star Wars is the best example — what will Luke do now?? All Is Lost is the place where mentors go to die, presumably so their students can discover “they had it in them all along.” The mentor’s death clears the way to prove that. But what if you don’t have an Obi Wan character? What if death isn’t anywhere near your story? Doesn’t matter. At the All Is Lost moment, stick in something, anything that involves a death. It works every time. Whether it’s integral to the story or just something symbolic, hint at something dead here. It could be anything. A flower in a flower pot. A goldfish. News that a beloved aunt has passed away. It’s all the same.”

Art Matters: Because Your Imagination Can Change the World by Neil Gaiman

Best quote: “I decided that I’ would do my best in future not to write books just for the money. If you didn’t get the money, then you didn’t have anything. If I did work I was proud of, and I didn’t get the money, at least I’d have the work.”

The Elements of Style Workbook by William Strunk Jr.

Best quote: “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”