You need social skills to have a conversation in real life but they’re quite different from the skills you need to write good dialogue. Educator Nadia Kalman suggests a few “anti-social skills,” like eavesdropping and muttering to yourself, that can help you write an effective dialogue for your next story in this animated Ted Ed lesson. Click to watch.
Most of us booklovers have probably dreamt of writing our own masterpieces someday. That dream may be more achievable than you think – the internet has given us more opportunities to get our work noticed, both in terms of helping us connect with potential mentors, buddies and audiences, and also in terms of self-publishing (physical books, eBooks and online). Here’s some inspiration, information and motivation to finally get started on “that book you have in you”.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Did you know that this acclaimed novel of a woman’s battling early-onset Alzheimer’s disease was originally self-published? After receiving no interest from traditional publishers and literary agents, Lisa Genova chose to self-publish, then set about engaging with potential readers through social media. Her persistence was rewarded with internet buzz and solid sales, and eventually led to an offer from a major publisher. E.L. James’ 50 Shades trilogy is another famous and successful example of a book that was self-published before gaining attention from traditional publishers.
How to Make a Living with Your Writing by Joanna Penn
This is the manual for Living the Dream – how to support yourself as a full-time writer. Joanna Penn is an author, speaker, marketer and publisher who has developed a growing business – and a six-figure income – out of her creative output. In How to Make a Living with Your Writing, she uses her own experience to show how to make money from books, and also how to capitalise on your creativity in other ways, such as by blogging, public speaking, coaching and content marketing. Also checkout her website, The Creative Penn for a wealth of (free) tips and resources for aspiring writers.
The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig
Chuck Wendig has built a successful writing career by embracing new formats and media – his works include a blog, eBooks, computer games, scripts, comics as well as novels. He also writes great writing advice – his tone is sharp and in-your-face and aims to challenge and provoke. The Kick-Ass Writer starts from the beginning – how to get started, how to build characters and dialogue and develop suspense – and onto how to deal with publishers and agents, and how to promote, connect and market yourself. It also discusses crowd funding, self-publishing writer’s block and how to handle rejection. A great resource for helping you become the Kick-Ass Writer you want to be.
Publishing: a Writer’s Memoir by Gail Godwin
For an insider’s take on writers and their relationships with the publishing industry, you cannot go past Gail Godwin’s memoir. Gail Godwin has been a writer for five decades, with over 20 published works. Publishing: a Writer’s Memoir reflects on Gail as a writer: her hunger to be published, her craft, and what it means to be a modern author (there is a great anecdote about branding and self-promotion). It also reflects on the changing nature of the publishing industry, from a more “gentlemanly”, literary enterprise to big business. Gail Godwin offers fascinating insights to anyone curious about the book industry.
From blogger / vlogger to author
Developing great blogs and vlogs (eg YouTube channels) are an increasingly common pathway to a book deal. Blogs/vlogs are powerful tools that can help you hone your writing skills, develop/promote your brand and connect with potential readers. Many popular authors – particularly in the humour / food & wellness / lifestyle / parenting categories – first became known through their blogs. Two of my favourite bloggers/vloggers-turned-authors include:
Advanced Style: Older and Wiser by Ari Seth Cohen
Advanced Style started as a blog celebrating stylish, older New Yorkers, and has turned into a worldwide movement. The colourful portraits in Advanced Style urge us to be bold, take risks and dress how we like, whether we are 15 or 85. I saw the eponymous documentary a few years’ ago, and not only was there great style on-screen, many of the audience were bold and stylish too. Advanced Style is joyous and gloriously inspirational.
The Dumpling Sisters Cookbook by Amy and Julie Zhang
Amy and Julie Zhang are popular YouTubers whose Dumpling Sisters videos showcase modern takes on homestyle Chinese dishes.
The sisters – born in China, raised in New Zealand and now living in the UK – love their food because it’s a reminder of their Chinese background and their childhood, and also because it’s a great way to connect with their friends. Dishes such as oyster sauce beef and broccoli, and prawn and spinach wontons, are great whether for some quiet me-time or for fun and casual entertaining.
Journaling is said by some to be the mindfulness trend of the year (2015 belonged to colouring-in for grown-ups). It’s also widely referred to as the first place to start when you are thinking about moving forward with your writing. Journals are great places to jot down those seemingly innocuous thoughts and musings that some people choose to take a step further and get published. There are also a number of benefits associated with clearing your head and making sense of what can be an overwhelming world at times. Here are our recommendations for books to guide you on your journaling process:
Your Life as a Story by Tristane Rainer
Rainer is an expert in the autobiographical field. In this book, she shares her techniques for finding the appropriate story structure for the different events in your life. This book also touches on how to find important messages in the various events of your life and how to communicate these effectively in a narrative format.
Start where you are: A Journal for Self-Exploration by Meera Lee Patel
Start Where You Are is an interactive journal designed to help readers nurture their creativity, mindfulness, and self-motivation. It helps readers navigate the confusion and chaos of daily life with a simple reminder: that by taking the time to know ourselves and what those dreams are, we can appreciate the world around us and achieve our dreams. Featuring vibrant hand-lettering and images, this is a beautiful keepsake for your writing.
Life-Changing Magic: A Journal – Spark Joy Every day by Marie Kondo
This is a gratitude journal from Marie Kondo, the author of the ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up’. Kondo encourages readers to ask what sparked joy for them each day. Instead of just feeling joy for objects, events, people and daily activities are reflected on and appreciated. Included are inspirational quotes from ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up’ and covering 3 years, this journal is perfect for those wanting to focus on appreciating each day.
365 Journal Writing Ideas by Rossi Fox
This is perfect for when you’re staring at a blank page and have no idea what to write. The focus of the book is on guided journal writing. It’s split into weeks (and days) but numbered so you can literally pick it up and start at any time. There are daily writing prompts which encourage you to get into the habit of writing. This book services as a place to remember your daily activities, appreciate where you are and gain a sense of purpose with regards to achieving your goals. Included are short story writing ideas, light hearted questions and prompts to get your thinking cap on.
The Ultimate Guide to Journaling by Hannah Braime
In The Ultimate Guide to Journaling, you’ll find the tips, inspiration, and prompts you need to start and maintain a journaling practice for DIY self-discovery. This clear and concise handbook shares everything you need to know to deepen your relationship with yourself using this powerful personal development tool. This book covers topics like how to journal, which tools to use, and how to make it a regular habit, as well as over 30 different journaling techniques and useful prompts.
When we consider the virtues of published writing, we normally think of books, E-Books, White Papers etc. When you are writing in the digital age, the platforms for writing have invariably increased. If you are writing for social media, blogs or a website, one of the greatest influences will be WHERE the writing will be housed. This will influence your tone, style and most significantly, your word count. Depending on your comfort (and interest) levels, you could find yourself making a respectable income writing blogs. (Okay, okay, we chose a list of the uber-successful global bloggers as an example). However, if this is something you are interested in, this selection of books is a useful guide when you are starting out and beyond.
Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
I know people who, when recruiting for digital roles said: ‘If they haven’t read this book, don’t give them the job’. This seems a bit harsh but the underlying sentiment is: this is the fundamental book that digital teams need to read when they are starting out. It discusses how to design usable Web sites by exploring how users really use the Web and offers suggestions for streamlining navigation, creating a home page, and writing for Web sites.
The Digital Writing Workshop by Troy Hicks
Troy’s clean, clear writing style is useful when you are navigating countless new terms for the technology used in digital forums. Troy’s focus is firstly on the writer, then the writing and lastly the technology as he explains how new technologies can be harnessed to advance the writing medium. We love the easy-to-read style of this book.
How to Blog for Profit without Selling your Soul by Ruth Soukup
Do you want to earn a living doing what you love? Whether you have been blogging for years or just a few weeks, How to Blog For Profit (Without Selling Your Soul) offers solid advice and practical action plans for creating an authentic, successful, and profitable blog. With wit, wisdom, and the insight of someone who’s been there, Ruth Soukup shares how she grew her own blog, Living Well Spending Less, to over one million monthly visitors. We love the insights into Soukup’s own learnings along the way.
Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works by Janice (Ginny) Redish
Ginny’s easy-to-read style will teach you how to plan, organize, write, design, and test your content. Learn how to have great conversations through your site or app. Meet your business goals while satisfying your site visitors’ needs. Learn how to create useful and usable content that your target market (or clients) will love.
The Yahoo Style Guide, edited by Chris Barr
WWW may be an acronym for the World Wide Web, but no one could fault you for thinking it stands for wild, wild West. The rapid growth of the Web has meant having to rely on style guides intended for print publishing, but these guides do not address the new challenges of communicating online. Enter The Yahoo! Style Guide. From Yahoo!, a leader in online content and one of the most visited Internet destinations in the world, comes the definitive reference on the essential elements of Web style.
Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach
This book is essential reading: content strategy helps you plan your writing and ascertain which topics will be of most interest to your target markets. It also includes the tone, types of content you can use and which channels should be used. This book also describes the value of content strategy, discusses how to audit and analyze content, and looks at ways to maintain content over time.
I think just about everyone has flirted with this, haven’t they? I still have a screenplay for a TV series floating around in my head. I am POSITIVE it will be a huge hit, if only audiences weren’t so stuck on reality TV. One of my friends went on so many dates in one year that I convinced her to write a book about it. And on it goes…..
If you have some great ideas for writing, whether it’s writing a blog, a novel or a TV series like me, there is a book to help inspire you and guide you. Some of my favourites in this list include hearing advice from some of the masters themselves. We need to start with a book that appeared on my bookshelf when I was about 10 (odd gift for a child) but it was pretty useful during creative writing classes:
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr and E.B. White
This book is an essential part of your ‘books on writing’ collection. It contains the basics: grammar, writing in your active voice and omitting superfluous words. This book’s unique tone, wit and charm have conveyed the principles of English style to millions of readers. Use the fourth edition of “the little book” to make a big impact with your writing.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Part of what makes this book so entertaining is hearing about King’s own rags-to-riches story. Find out what books and films influenced the young writer, his first idea for a story and the true life tale that inspired Carrie. King gives an excellent masterclass on writing – how to use the tools of the trade from building characters to pace and plotting as well as practical advice on presentation.
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
Largely accepted to be one of the best books about writing, The Writing Life is brutal in its honesty about the difficulty of the writing process. Dillard encourages you to carve up your most ‘perfect paragraphs’ if they don’t do their job, which is to communicate the entirety of the idea. “This writing that you do, that so thrills you, that so rocks and exhilarates you, as if you were dancing next to the band, is barely audible to anyone else.”
Mother Tongue: English and how it got that way by Bill Bryson
It’s crucial for any writer to understand their own language. Bryson steers us through why island, freight, and colonel are spelled in such unphonetic ways, why four has a u in it but forty doesn’t, plus bizarre and enlightening facts about some of the patriarchs of this peculiar language.
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
While there are plenty of books that talk to the challenges of writing, Bradbury’s enthusiasm for writing is infectious. That’s what makes this book such enjoyable reading. In a series of essays, Bradbury discusses his career and his compulsion to write. Nine essays discuss the joy of writing, the writing process, inspiration, creativity, and the circumstances surrounding the writing of several of his works. “Think of Shakespeare and Melville and you think of thunder, lightning, wind. They all knew the joy of creating in large or small forms, on unlimited or restricted canvasses. These are the children of the gods. They knew fun in their work. No matter if creation came hard here or there along the way, or what illnesses and tragedies touched their most private lives. … If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer.” Brilliant.
The Writing Experiment by Hazel Smith
Finding inspiration to write creatively can be one of the most challenging aspects of the writing process. Experienced writing teacher Hazel Smith demystifies the process of creative writing, providing exercises and examples to show how it can be systematically learnt.
More tips for aspiring writers can be found on our Pinterest board, Tips for Writers!