“Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously” – Lev Grossman
No successful writer works in isolation, so the most useful thing you can do is share your work-in-progress with other writers. Find a local writing group or take a class if you don’t already know other writers. If I am to be your first reader, your book is not ready yet.
Read. As much as you can and as widely as you can. Never go anywhere without two books (you may finish the first one).
Speaking of which, here are some books for which it’s particularly worth finding time.
The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman
How to make sure the best qualities of your writing are immediately apparent.
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr and EB White
Even approaching its centenary, this is still the finest style manual out there.
The Art of Fiction by James Gardner
An absolute masterclass, full of wit and insight.
Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande
First published in 1934, this is a unique look at personality and writing: how to develop the mind of an author.
Why I Write by George Orwell
Any example of Orwell’s writing is lesson in lucidity and elegance, but this essay is particularly eloquent on the writer’s duties.
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
The thoughts of the Pulitzer Prize-winning essayist are exquisite in their clarity, getting to the very heart of what it means to be a writer. Currently out in of print in the UK, but well worth tracking down.
On Writing by Stephen King
All the common-sense advice a writer needs in one place. (Never underestimate the wisdom of someone who’s sold 350 million books.)
From Pitch to Publication by Carole Blake
An expert guide to every stage of the publishing process, written by of one the trade’s legendary figures.
Story by Robert McKee
A book about the narrative structure of film whose lessons are easily adapted to prose.
The Gift by Lewis Hyde
Recommended to me by Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton, this is a remarkably insightful book on the pleasure and purpose of cultural activity.