The following writing guides are among the best out there for those looking to get inspired or improve their writing skills. Appropriate for all adults, most high school students, and even precocious middle school students, these books will have even the most reluctant of writers racing for paper and pen.
Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within is more than just a writing guide. This is the kind of book that turns browsers into readers; dip into it for tips and you may find yourself reading it from cover to cover. Potential users should be aware that this is not a book to reference if you’re looking for very specific writing tips. It seems to be equal parts zen and instruction. Goldberg shares many of her own experiences and offers great advice on how to choose verbs, getting first thoughts out, and how to listen (because, she claims, “writing is 90% listening”). Goldberg believes that writing is not necessarily about the final product – though the final product is important – but about the self-discovery that occurs while creating the final product. Her short, witty chapters and warm tone may give reluctant, anxious, or frustrated writers the confidence they need to pick the pencil back up and begin again.
For those who wonder why they should take advice on writing from authors they've never heard of, Jon Winokur’s Advice to Writers: A Compendium of Quotes, Anecdotes, and Writerly Wisdom from a Dazzling Array of Literary Lights will be a welcome relief. The book is a collection of statements about all aspects of writing from people across the ages who demonstrated their prowess with a pen, from Aristotle to Toni Morrison. Though the book is intended to be more entertaining than instructive, readers will certainly find inspiration and wisdom in the words of some of their favorites, like Kurt Vonnegut’s tip: “Make your characters want something right away even if it’s only a glass of water,” and Hemingway’s suggestions to: “Use short sentences. Use short first paragraphs. Use vigorous English. Eliminate every superfluous word.”