Daphne Gray-Grant's Rapid Writing
Still waffling over what to do this summer? Let me make it simple for you: Read a book.
Any of the following will suffice:
Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wicked Good Prose
by Constance Hale
I like this book because it covers more than grammar — and because it’s funny and flexible. Hale is not going to get her knickers in knot over rules. In fact, she’s all for breaking them (the catch is that you need to know you’re doing so.) She’s also cool, at least as far as aging baby boomers are concerned: She parses Charlotte Bronte next to Muhammad Ali; she quotes Bob Dylan in her discussion of the verb “lay” and Dr. Seuss in her examination of rhyme and onomatopoeia. The book also has the best explanation of who vs. whom I’ve ever seen in print.
Spunk & Bite
by Arthur Plotnik.
I don't even file this book on my shelf — it sits on the floor close by my computer so I can grab it on a moment's notice. When you see that the subject headers include: flexibility, freshness, texture and force, you know this is no ordinary style book.
The Power of Habit
by Charles Duhigg.
Want to know why the product Febreze started life as a dud, before becoming an ultra best-seller? Curious about how swimmer Michael Phelps managed to set a world record in a race while suffering from leaking goggles? Wanting to figure out how Rick Warren managed to start a brand new church and attract not just hundreds but thousands of people in a secular society?
Duhigg, an investigative reporter for The New York Times, answers all these questions and finds a common theme that binds them. You can use his book to make your own working life more productive. I know I did.
Don't Make Me Think
by Steve Krug
This is the best, most intelligent book I've ever read on web design and presenting information for an online audience. Krug takes a methodical, common-sense approach and cuts through all the gobbledy-gook about home pages, navigation, and key words. If the thought of building a website has ever crossed your mind, you simply must read this book. If you already have a website, get it to discover why it is under-performing and how you can make it do better.
The Right to Write
by Julia Cameron
Metaphorically, I see Julia Cameron as a kind of literary physiotherapist — she helps you figure out why you're stiff and hurting and then gives you a bundle of exercises to build your strength and increase your writing flexibility. This is the perfect tonic for anyone who's been talking about writing, but failing to get any words down on paper. Be aware that Cameron has written many books about writing and, in my view, some are no better than so-so. But this one's a winner. Cameron is more famous for her book The Artist’s Way, but I think The Right to Write is far superior.
Bonus! Fiction and Biography Recommendations
My expertise is books about writing but I'm a voracious reader too. If you're looking for "a good read" in the fiction or biography category, here are some books I enjoyed last year. Keep in mind, the list reflects my tastes — and books are like perfume. A scent that some think lovely will cause others to go, "Eww, that stinks!" Approach with suitable caution:
- This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett
- The Boy in the Moon, by Ian Brown
- The Pedant in the Kitchen, by Julian Barnes
- 10% Happier, by Dan Harris
- Mini-Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results, by Stephen Guise
- Oh, and by the way, I’ve also written my own book on writing: 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better. If you want to increase your writing speed, you’ll be interested in that one, too.
(thanks to Book Riot for the image)
A former daily newspaper editor, Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach and the author of 8 1⁄2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. She offers a weekly newsletter on her website Publication Coach. It's brief. It's smart. And it's free.
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