Every writer is constantly looking for ways to improve, even the greats. Creatives, writers, are their own worst critics, so new technologies are always tempting. Sometimes, the best new techniques and tips come from unexpected places. Sometimes, the best advice comes when and where you least expect it, if you’re willing to listen.
These four books below represent just that, an unlikely place to find literary inspiration. The best writing can be found anywhere, once you let your guard down. These books were each selected for this list for a specific reason. If you’re willing to listen to advice from anywhere, you can develop into a better writer.
The Best American Nonrequired Reading, 2007, edited by Dave Eggers
The Best American Nonrequired Reading sources stories from publications that you probably won’t find on any course syllabus, but each selection holds merit in it’s own right, giving credence to the entire series. The 2007 version is divided into two different sections, plus an introduction by Sufjan Stevens. This book features what I call Random Things in the first section and more traditional form short story form in the second section. With selections like “Best American New Band Names,” “Best American Police Blotter Items,” “Best American Failed TV Pilots,” and “The Best American Article Titles From Trade Magazine,” Non Required Reading 2007 truly sums up the idea that writing advice can be found anywhere.
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, by Gary Vaynerchuk
I’ve written about this book before in another list of writing books. I can’t help but include it in this list too. As far as unconventional writing books go, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, hits the nail on the proverbial head. Gary Vaynerchuk uses the pages of the book to teach readers about the proper native content for each of the many, and there are many, social media platforms. The key takeaway here is knowing that your content, in this case writing, has to be a good fit for the platform. If the writing doesn’t fit the platform, the writing won’t make any sense, and then our efforts are wasted. I don’t want to waste my efforts as a writer anymore than the rest of you do. Understanding that your writing has to make is sense and fit the platform is the best place to start.
Pocket Tables, An Everyday Reference, by John O. E. Clark
Often times we need a reference for something in our writing. Pocket Tables offers sample calendars, gambling odds, world currencies, world holidays, and countless others. How does this improve writing? By offering a simple and handy reference that can live in your pocket, or desk if you’re not a mobile writer, you now have a way to look up random facts without having to take your focus away from writing. This helps me with my writing because if I have to get up and stop what I am doing, chances are the focus won’t be there when I get back. My train of thought is gone and takes me a while to get it back. That’s lost time that I can’t get back and possibly a good idea squandered.
The Golden Rules of Blogging & When to Break Them, by Robin Houghton
I grew up in school with writing rules. I was told by teachers throughout school, even in college, that this was the way writing was done and that’s that. Basically, writing was put in a box. I wanted to live outside of that box, which obviously lead to some headbutting with my teachers. When I started writing on my own, in various iterations of blogging, I was able to do it my way. I found the Golden Rules of Blogging & When to Break Them and was suddenly validated by the idea that rules were meant to broken, even in writing. Some of these rules are geared specifically towards bloggers, but I think they are applicable to anyone with a website or who writes. The rules are even assigned risk factors for breaking them, so proceed with caution.