As a journalist, I was lucky to work in newsrooms and with editors who were eager to make my stories better. In addition to offering their own help and guidance, they were generous with their recommendations of books to read, people to meet, and workshops to attend.
Now that I’m a freelance writer, I am not surrounded by a group of colleagues that can instantly critique my work, offer suggestions on how to improve my writing or to suggest a different approach. But I have found a number of great writing books that fill that void, giving me access to some of the best writing coaches in the world.
Many of the books people recommend about writing come from the world of fiction, magazine writing, and freelance writing in general. The first three I recommend come from the world of journalism but have universal themes and great advice for every writer wanting to write better.
The second two help move you from the world of print into multimedia storytelling and deal more with mechanics and technology. Three of them I received for Christmas last year – a present to myself.
Writing for Your Readers by Donald Murray. I wish I could have worked in a newsroom where Donald Murray was the writing coach. The subtitle says it all: A handbook of practical advice on how to write with vigor, clarity and grace. He wrote this book while the coach at The Boston Globe.
Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark – 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer. “Tool No. 10: Cut big, then small. Prune the big limbs, then shake out the dead leaves.” Roy Peter Clark has many lessons to share on how to write better, whether you are a copy writer, a magazine writer or book author. The above link takes you to a quick list of podcasts about each tool but I like the discussions in the book as well.
A Writer’s Coach by Jack Hart – A complete guide to writing strategies that work. Hart, a legendary writing coach at The Oregonian, tackles the method and structure of writing and then has wonderful advice and case studies about voice, force, brevity and rhythm.
The Digital Journalist’s Handbook by Mark S. Luckie – Do you need help jumping from print to the world of multimedia storytelling? Luckie tells you how to shoot video, what social media platforms you should use and how to build an audience – and he explains what tools and equipment you’ll need. I love Mark’s blog 10,000 Words, which shares tips, tricks and technology for journalists and writers.
JournalismNext by Mark Briggs –This book offers How-Tos for basics like RSS and blogging and provides much needed tutorials on Twitter, crowd-powered collaboration, going mobile and telling stories with photographs. Briggs also offers tips on building audiences and managing conversations.
In the spirit and season of gift giving, what are the best writing books you’d recommend? Leave a comment and let us know your favorites.
After 15 years as a business journalist, M. Sharon Baker gave up the daily deadline grind to freelance. Now, companies use her superior storytelling skills to create case studies, white papers, articles, newsletters, and public relations materials in order to increase their visibility.