Nine Resources to Rock Your Writing

February 23, 2021

“What advice can you give me on how to get my writing published?”

For years, whenever people have asked me this question, I’ve hemmed and hawed and stumbled and fumbled and generally improvised my way through something that may have sounded like a good reply but probably wasn’t really all that helpful.

Not anymore. Go ahead, ask me — I finally have a solid answer:

“Read Harry’s book.”

Harry Bingham is the author of the Fiona Griffiths books, one of my favorite crime series. Harry is also a friend and one of my favorite people — and he recently published two fantastic books, one on how to write and one on (Aha!) how to get published. Both of which books I’ll say more about in a moment, but first…

This all got me thinking.

Not everyone wants to get their writing published. But lots of people who don’t aspire to being professional authors still write. People write blog posts, newsletters, social media posts. Practically everyone writes emails and/or texts every day. In fact, if you are a human being, here’s something I know about you: You use words to communicate your thoughts and feelings to other human beings.

So, I thought, of the hundreds of excellent writing resources there are, books and organizations and people that can help you take your writing to the next level, which would I most recommend?

My list came to six books and three people/groups. Nine resources to rock your writing. Here they are.

And here’s an invitation, too: if there’s an especially excellent, supremely helpful, stratopherically inspiring writing resource you’ve come across that you’d like to see me add to this list, let me know in the Comments section below.

Perhaps we’ll make it ten.

The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. This isn’t quite a bible of the language (there is no such book), but it’s likely as close as we’ll ever get. Extremely short (because, of course, it omits needless words).

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King. Quite a few famous writers have written great books about writing; this is possibly the most widely read of them all, and it’s both entertaining and supremely helpful. I’ve read it three times now.

How to Write a Novel (That Will Sell Well and Satisfy Your Inner Artist), by Harry Bingham. Harry is one of the nicest people in a community populated by the most generous humans you’ll ever know. (Why are crime writers such lovely people? Please discuss.) He is also phenomenally knowledgeable about every facet of the writing craft and an excellent teacher; this book was my constant companion when I set out to plumb new territory writing Steel Fear. Harry also has a companion volume out now entitled Getting Published (How to Hook an Agent, Get a Deal & Build a Career You Love) that is equally priceless on the business side of things.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott. I stumbled upon this one years ago and am ever grateful that I did. It is brimming over with sweet, heartfelt observations and writerly advice, at every turn both personal and wise.

Cheerleading for Writers: Discover How Truly Talented You Are, by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels. This little book doesn’t lecture you; it holds your hand, brews you a cup of fresh hot tea, whispers in your ear, and reminds you of all the good things you should know about yourself. It also offers dozens of nuggets of writerly wisdom along the way, in twenty-six bite-sized pieces, A through Z.

Jericho Writers. This is Harry Bingham’s outfit; while based in the UK, the Jericho community also serves us savages here in the Americas just as well. For serious students of the craft, the annual membership ($275) pays for itself many times over, in video classes, master classes, forums, online events, and so on. Before beginning work on Steel Fear (and after reading his book) I went through Harry’s 14-part “How to Write” video course and gleaned enormously, immediately useful insights. Jericho is where I went when I needed a story consultant, and how Eve Seymour rode into my life and helped rescue my flailing manuscript.

Hal Croasmun and ScreenwritingU. Hal used to be a corporate trainer; he is an expert at deconstructing complicated processes and then teaching them simply and effectively. A few decades ago, he moved to Hollywood with his producer wife Cheryl and decided to ply that skill in the world of screenwriting, and I sure am glad he did. Hal’s classes are unique (at least in my experience) in that he not only provides his own expert teaching and feedback but also coaches the entire class through the process of giving each other constructive critique. Genius stuff, and I recommend his classes to any writer—screenwriter or not—who seriously wants to improve their writing. I had just finished a course of Hal’s when I jumped into writing The Go-Giver, and I still credit that book’s success in part to Hal’s teaching.

Jane Friedman, consultant. I’m not recommending any book here I haven’t read myself, nor any resource I haven’t shelled out bucks for and used myself. There are tons of consultants in the writing business, and even some good ones. Jane is the best. You can learn a great deal from her just by searching her out online and reading her blogs and articles and so on. You can also get a personal consultation with her, which is what I did. If you’re even thinking about self-publishing, get your questions in order and book an hour with Jane.

And don’t forget the invitation: What are your favorites?

(Comment section below: you know what to do.)

7 Comments

  1. Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

    I loved reading this list!
    And I was quite overwhelmed (and overjoyed) to find my little book Cheerleading for Writers listed along with such treasures as On Writing by Stephen King and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I loved both, too, and have them now on my reread list. I added the other you suggested to my reading list too.
    I do have a number 10 for you. It is The Mental Game of Writing: How to Overcome Obstacles, Stay Creative and Productive, and Free Your Mind for Success by James Scott Bell. I am rereading it now. I’ve also read his books on how to write great dialogues, the craft of writing short stories, and how to make a living as a writer. He is one of my favorite writers on writing craft and how to be an author entrepreneur. He is a brilliant storyteller and makes fantastic analogies between writing and other, sometimes unexpected, areas, like car assembly lines or between self-publishing and lemonade stands (https://killzoneblog.com/2016/01/self-publishing-as-lemonade-stand.html). 😀
    Here is one of my favorite quotes from The Mental Game of Writing, which I quoted already in several of my books and articles:
    “I learned that when you play golf you’re actually supposed to play golf. It’s a game. You play it. You don’t think it.
    “It’s before and after a round that you do your thinking, your analysis, your practicing.

    “When you write, you should write. You should play. Then you balance that with analysis and learning and training and drills.”
    — James Scott Bell, The Mental Game of Writing: How to Overcome Obstacles, Stay Creative and Productive, and Free Your Mind for Success

    Reply
    • John David Mann

      Danke, Victoria — I will most certainly check that out! And I’m glad you saw this post so quickly . . . I almost wrote to tell you I was popping you on this list, but thought it would be more fun as a surprise. 😉 P.S. This list also appears at the back of my new ebook, HOW TO WRITE GOOD (OR AT LEAST, GOODER), which we’ll be releasing next week as a JDM website exclusive.

      Reply
      • Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

        Mit Vergnügen, John! 😀
        I loved the surprise! It was most definitely fun. I’m looking forward to reading your new ebook. And the title is fun, especially the “gooder” part. 😀
        Best of luck with the launch!

        Reply
  2. Anofienem Igwedinma

    Dear John,
    Thanks for your mail.
    I will like to send my manuscript to you for a review.
    You have so influenced me that I will like your name on my book.
    Kindly revert sir.

    Reply
    • John David Mann

      You’re welcome to send me your manuscript; I cannot promise how quickly I’ll be able to get to it (as I’m in the midst of some serious writing deadlines) but I will take a look as soon as possible. I also cannot promise to provide an endorsement, but I will do what I can! Please, no PDF; only Word documents (or Apple Pages or similar text file). And thank you for subscribing to my blog!

      Reply
  3. Chris Story

    Wonderful list!
    John – again you contribute more in use value by far than you take in cash value.
    All my best;
    Chris Story

    Reply
    • John David Mann

      Thanks, Chris! Great to see you here!

      Reply

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