The Writing Handbooks

I am one of the people who believe that creative writing can’t be taught. Much like art or music. “What!?” Says the mob of angry people outside my door. “But I take guitar lessons and it is teaching me!” Yes, annoying linch mob.  Lessons can teach you how to hone a skill but not have mastery over it. You can take guitar lessons everyday for ten years but unless you truly have a knack for it you may never be the next Jimi Hendrix.

I am a firm believer that people are born with creative talents and some people are born with many but lessons and guidance helps you develop and hone such skills. Three books I believe are absolutely necessary for writers both fiction and nonfiction alike.

The Elements of Style (William Strunk JR. and E.B. White)

Get it here

The Elements of Style is one of the most profound literary books for any writer to pick up. It i initially a rehash by E.B. Write of an old self-published book that his teacher in college William Strunk Jr. gave to his students. In it’s pages Strunk describes the way English should be written, the correct passive forms, how to use tenses and other literary devices. Instead of asking you to write in the said style he demands it. Normally, I would object once again claiming that writing can’t be taught, but he teachers how to correctly write, once again honing the skills necessary to be successful. All writers should pick this book up to spruce up their skills.

On Writing (Stephen King)

Get it here

On Writing is another great book for writers abound. In it’s pages, Stephen King describes his early life and then his climb to publication and later success. The book shows the publication process and what a writer may expect when working at publishing “the big one”. Though it may seem slightly outdated, due to some of his works being published in the ’70s and ’80s, the work involved and issues still apply to writing today.

Writer’s Market 2011 (Robert Lee Brewer)

Get it here

The final ‘necessary’ handbooks for writers is Writer’s Market 2011. This massive volume coins itself as”The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published” and it very well may be. The book lists thousands of literary agents, book publishers, magazines, writing areas for playwrights and scriptwriters and even professional organizations. Along with such a great list Brewer also gives tips on social media and getting published in 2011.

Pick up these books if you don’t already have them in your library.

What books do you deem being necessary for writers?


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About Damian Rucci

D.F. Rucci is a writer, blogger, and a musician from a small town in New Jersey. View all posts by Damian Rucci

9 responses to “The Writing Handbooks

  • Joy Smith

    I have Stephen King’s book, “On Writing.” It’s a great book and I’d recommend it to anyone who loves writing or just King himself.

  • Maeve

    I’ve read Stephen King’s book. It reads more like a biography than a writing how-to, but it certainly gives all new writers hope. King’s big break didn’t come until Carrie, but he wrote long, long before that. It’s very encouraging.
    I haven’t read the others, but one book I had to read in an AP English class that stuck with is On Writing Well by William Zinsser. He focuses more on non-fiction and academic writing, but the skills he talks about honing in his book are great for all writers. It gives some perspective, especially to writers who are more used to fiction. Exercising both skill sets can only be beneficial in the end.

    As far as your premise, I agree, to a point. Artistic talent cannot be taught, but skills can. I believe you speak more of creative writing, as opposed to academic writing, for example. Even in academic journals, there is much debate about what makes a writer a writer. Some of these writers even comment in interviews that they don’t consider themselves such. It’s very touchy to some.
    I had a class last semester called Advanced Composition. The object of the class was to learn how to write academic papers without using a five-paragraph format (or variations thereof). We discussed writing a lot, the process, what makes us writers, how we write, etc. Based on these discussions, it would seem that many people do agree with you. However, my class was mixed, and here’s where it can get tricky. Some of us were straight English majors, some English lit, some professional writing, and couple history. What we found was that we all had a specific talent for writing, but the writing styles were completely different. Professional writing majors can particular difficulty writing with “I”, while English lit majors had trouble presenting factual claims without personal inflection.
    I suppose the point I’m trying to make with this long post is that talent is subjective, and there are many different versions of talented writing in the possibly hundreds of spheres.

    Although I’ve always wanted to write, and my current life’s goal is to produce at least one book before I die, I question if creative writing is all I want to pursue. I’m finding that I also have a deep interest in what my professors call “Rhetoric and Composition.” It’s the study of what you say and how you say it.
    Maybe this topic would interest you as well. You seem to be well-informed on the writing world.

  • Damian Rucci

    Wow, that’s an amazing comment. Rhetoric and Composition does seem interesting, seeing as I’ll be off to the college world next fall I figure I’ll be learning seeing more complex lessons and courses (I’ll be an English major). I know that talent is subjective, maybe it pertains to creative writers who compose fiction, but I’ve never met a writer who one day decided to become a writer. Deep down whether they took advantage of it or not they had stories floating around their head and calling them to write it down.

    I’m assuming academic writing is a whole ‘nother ball park.

  • Maeve

    I know what you mean about being a writer. I have the same thing going on, with the stories in my head. I’ve just never been able to put them together in a cohesive piece that I’m satisfied with. It changes constantly.

    Where are you going to school? Being an English major (in my experience) is a love-hate relationship. During class discussions, it’s all love, until a paper come up, and then the hate sinks in as you struggle for a topic and sources, but as you begin to write the paper, revise, and finally submit, the love comes back. Lol.
    I loved being an English major. I’m sure you’ll have fun. You learn the most just from listening to your classmates. It’s amazing sometimes how different people can read and understand the same sentence. Professors also have so much to offer, and they LOVE telling about it. I’m good friends with many of my professors, who continue to recognize me outside the classroom several semesters later, and stop to ask about my studies. It’s great. You’ll have a blast!

    Ans yes, academic writing is very different from creative writing, but in a way, you do rely on your creative skills. After all, most professors hate the five-paragraph essay (at least in my school). So your creativity comes in when you have to organize your thoughts and put the puzzle together. I’m sure you’ll be learning plenty about this, as I’m fairly certain all freshman take English Composition 101.

  • Damian Rucci

    Unfortunately, I’m going to community college for two years (which isn’t all that bad) to knock out some of my general education courses and then I will be transferring to Rutgers to finish my bachelors degree. I want to be able to
    teach at one point or another throughout my life as an English teacher. Always feel that, that subject is let down by many public school teachers.

  • Maeve

    I agree, especially at the high school level. Is that what you want to teach, high school? You need to be secondary education English to do high school, but if you’d rather do community colleges or potentially universities, a master’s will be good (that’s one plan I’ve considered myself).

  • Damian Rucci

    I was intentionally planning on teaching at a high school level. However, eventually I want to pursue a masters or doctorates (way later on) to try and trach at universities and such.

  • mapelba

    I’ve often argued the can/can’t be taught issue in my own head. I would add this–how do you know you have the knack? Meaning, some people have confidence they can do something, but perhaps their confidence is misplaced. And some people believe they can’t do something, but to anyone else it is obvious they’re gifted. So, perhaps writing can’t be taught exactly, but if you wish to pursue the dream, write anyway.

    I also recommend this book:

    It is old, but the advice is good forever.

  • Damian Rucci

    That’s very true. Thanks for the link, the book looks very interesting. I agree with your comment, some people are outstanding at writing but refuse to aknowledge it. However, I have met someone who’s confidence was better kept elsewhere (not to sound too harsh).

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