Artwork for podcast Rough Draft
042 10 Odd Books That Will Improve Your Writing
21st May 2015 • Rough Draft • Rainmaker.FM
00:00:00 00:09:15

Share Episode

Shownotes

You don t have too look far to find a list of the best books a writer should read. This is a benefit for new writers, no doubt.

Unfortunately, those of us who have been around for a number of years often own every book that tends to make these lists. And we read them. And re-read them.

Not only do we own them, we ve absorbed them into our bloodstream.

It wouldn t be so bad if that list changed from year to year.

But it doesn t.

So while the usual best-books-writers-should-read lists are fine for the greenhorns in the field … what about the rest of us?

What about those who want to go from undergraduate to graduate work? Who want to inject a tangible and seductive element in their writing that growls You better take notice of me ?

What are the best books they should read? And why?

As you might guess, I have an answer.

In this 9-minute episode you’ll discover:

  • The authors of this 1604 Bible edition made language their slave.
  • Award winning producer delivers some of the best tips on how to inject emotion into any story
  • The book you ll walk away with some magnificent metaphors, if you read it
  • Imitate the ebb and flow of people-centered tales in this book to make what you write memorable
  • The real reason I want you to read these books

Listen to Rough Draft below ...

The Show Notes

The Transcript

10 Odd Books That Will Improve Your Writing

Demian Farnworth: Howdy friend, this is Rough Draft, your daily dose of essential web writing advice. I am Demian Farnworth, your host, your muse, digital recluse, and the Chief Content Writer for Copyblogger Media.

And thank you for spending the next few minutes of your life with me.

You don t have to look far to find a list of the best books a writer should read. We did that three episodes ago. This is a benefit for new writers, no doubt.

Unfortunately, those of us who have been around for a number of years often own every book that tends to make these lists. And we read them and re-read them.

Not only do we own them, we ve absorbed them into our bloodstream.

It wouldn t be so bad if the list changed from year to year.

But it doesn t.

So while the usual best-books-writers-should-read lists are fine for the greenhorns in the field . . . what about the rest of us?

What about those who want to go from undergraduate to graduate work? Who want to inject a tangible and seductive element in their writing that growls “You better take notice of me”?

What are the best books they should read? And why?

As you might guess, I have an answer.

What follows is a list of books on my shelf that are stained, dogeared, loose-in-the-binding, and scrawled on from front to back.

Some are proper writing books, most aren t. Some tell you how to write compelling content. Most show you how to do it.

They re unusual recommendations, to say the least. But I have my reasons for that. As you ll learn in a minute.

Until then, enjoy the list.

The Authors of this 1604 Bible Edition Made Language Their Slave

1. King James Bible

The authors of this 1604 Bible edition made language their slave. They relished words like derision, rage, smitten, asunder, wrath, vex, begotten, uttermost, vessel.

Make a study of the Old Testament and you ll develop a vocabulary that smacks your readers in the chops.

2. The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman

What you do in the first five pages matters. And it matters a lot. The same is true for your first five lines.

Literary agent Lukeman discusses the craft of writing well-plotted fiction that makes your writing as sexy as a young lady in a saucy skirt. This matters for web, people.

Award Winning Producer Delivers Some of the Best Tips on How to Inject Emotion Into Any Story

3. Emotional Structure by Peter Dunne

Emmy- and Peabody-Award winning producer, writer and teacher Dunne delivers some of the best tips you ll find on how to inject emotion into any story.

4. Barbarians at the Gate by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar

This is business nonfiction at its best. It helps that the story the $25 billion leveraged buyout of the RJR Nabisco Corporation is loaded with flamboyant characters and edge-of-your-seat action.

Study it to learn how to make your stories pop off the page and your readers cling to every word.

5. Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

Not into German poetry? Get over it. A good copywriter marries a hard-nosed attitude for results with the soft capital of poetic wisdom. He becomes the killer and poet. Besides, your business-saturated soul could use a dose of the wisdom of the artist.

I m indebted to my sister-in-law from Seattle for giving me this book.

6. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Legend has it that one reader wrote out every word of this 448-page novel to make sure it was real.

Who could blame her, when the first line reads: Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

And it never lets up.

The Book You ll Walk Away with Some Magnificent Metaphors, If You Read It

7. Gravity s Arc by David Darling

Bone up on the history of science in this strikingly readable explanation for the complex phenomena at the cutting edge of contemporary physics that is, gravity.

Read this book, my friend, and you ll walk away with some magnificent metaphors. Trust me.

Imitate the Ebb and Flow of People-Centered Tales in this Book to Make What You Write Memorable

8. American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph J. Ellis

This psychological portrait of the sage of Monticello demonstrates two things: People like stories . . . and people really like stories about people.

Imitate the ebb and flow of people-centered tales to make what you write memorable.

9. Complete Odes and Epodes of Horace

Roman poet Horace is like the E. B. White of the Roman world. He has that same loathing for pompous verbosity. The ruthless cutting of crap, jargon, and extra words. In other words, he s hellbent on mindless simplicity.

10. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

In his third book, Malcolm does what Malcolm does best: expose the mysterious pattern behind a particular phenomenon.

This time he writes about genius and how culture, circumstance, timing, birth, and luck account for success. This book will push your motivation button something fierce. Read it.

OK, I need to come clean with you.

Yes, I think you should read every book I listed above, for the practical, get-your-hands-dirty lessons you ll learn.

The Real Reason I Want You to Read These Books

But I have another reason I want you to read them.

Namely, to expand your mind.

What do I mean by that? The more you have in your brain both from study and from direct experience the more fresh, new, killer ideas you ll come up with.

Reading a book like Why Evolution Is True might give you a complete new set of powerful metaphors to illuminate your current project. Scanning the design magazine Wallpaper could give you an incredible angle for your blog relaunch.

And who knows: you might even discover that perfect verb by watching the 2 hour and 38 minute movie Apocalypse Now.

My point is not necessarily that you read the above particular books.

My point is that you read and read widely.

That you get out of your rut and read things way out of your subject zone. That you wade into some strange dimensions.

That you get into dimensions that are totally alien to you. When you do, your writing will go from paralyzed old coot to strapping stud.

So, bottom line: One of the most important keys in writing is the ability to blend totally divergent concepts into something radically new.

And the more divergent data you have to work with, the better you are going to be at coming up with those great ideas that put people under your spell and keep them loyal to you.

Remember what American theoretical physicist Richard P. Feynman said: “Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent, and original manner possible.”

So, what s on your bookshelf?

And by the way, if you are getting value from this podcast, one of the best ways you can support this show is to drop me a rating or review on iTunes … let me know how I m doing. I love hearing from you. And it really, really encourages me to work harder.

Until next time, take care.

Follow

Links