Get Professional Help

Cover of "Plot & Structure: (Techniques A...

Even if the story is burning in you and flowing out faster than you can type, you still might benefit from professional help, particularly when it comes to editing your first draft.

If you are disciplined enough to work solo there are some amazing books to help you start writing or to hone your skills as a writer. These are my favourites (I intend to review them when I get a chance, so watch this space.)

General Books on Writing

Teach Yourself Creative Writing, published by Hodder Education, London, By Stephen May (2008)

Starting to Write, published by Studymates Limited, Abergale, By Dr Rennie Parker (2007)

Creative Writing, published by How To Books Ltd., Oxford, By Adele Ramet (2007)

More Specialised Works

Dialogue: Techniques and exercises for crafting effective dialogue, published by Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio. By Gloria Kempton (2004)

Beginnings, Middles & Ends, published by Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio By Nancy Kress (1993)

Description & Setting [Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Believable World of people, places, and events], published by Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio By Ron Rozelle, (2005)

Plot & Structure [Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot that Grips Readers from Start to Finish], published by Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, By James Scott Bell, (2004)

Characters & Viewpoint, published by Writer’s Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, By Orson Scott Card, (1988)


If, like me, you need to be led, cajoled or terrified into getting pen to paper there are various course options. Try your local government or college website for free or low-cost Creative Writing courses. I taught a couple of free PCDL (Personal and Community Development Learning) courses at New College Stamford with a lovely group of students, who went on to form a writing group.

If you want something more detailed, then a university or distance learning course might be an option. The Open University does a range of Start Writing short courses or they have a nine-month creative writing course (which I highly recommend).

Finally there is no substitute for reading as widely and as voraciously as you can. Learning from the people who have already been published is a good step in the right direction to getting there yourself. Don’t limit yourself to your chosen genre – there is much to be learnt from reading outside your comfort zone.

As Stephen May puts it in his Teach Yourself Creative Writing,

“Writers choose their own mentors. Anyone still in print or still available on the shelves of a library is there to help guide you towards expressing yourself clearly and well. To help you find your own voice.”

Who are your favourite mentors?

6 thoughts on “Get Professional Help

    • I bought them when I was teaching the Creative Writing course, but I think I learned more than my students did! My favourite book is definitely the Stephen May – he has some great little writing exercises when you need to get the brain working (or just need to write about something other than your own characters..)

  1. Great post. Too many people approach writing thinking it’s a solo act, when many people are involved in the process from fellow writers who give you feedback to really good editors who help you strip away the fat and get to the real story.

    There are so many great books about writing out there. “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg and Stephen King’s “On Writing” are two I look at pretty often.

    Janet Burroway’s “Writing Fiction” is one I go to all the time. She also has a book about Robert Olen Butler’s lectures, called “From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction” that is good.

    Here’s my condensed version of Bob’s writing philosophy:

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