Words on a Page Writings about writing

Essential reads for the freelance writer

Stacks of books in a bookstore

No matter how much you know or think you know, you can always learn more. One of the best ways to learn, especially about writing, is to read. Then, practice what you’ve read about. To do that, you need to find the right material to read.

Here are a few books and blog posts that I think every freelance writer, regardless of their level of experience, should read. Note that except for the final link, I don’t make any money or get any freebies or perks if you click the links below.

On Writing Well — Although it’s well over 30 years old, this book has stood the test of time. In fact, I think that On Writing Well is more relevant now than it was when first published. The late William Zinsser draw upon the decades he spent honing his craft to teach you how to write clean, tight, and powerful non fiction. I can’t think of anyone who can’t benefit from reading this book.

Writing for the Web — We all write for the web, whether we realize it or not. So why not learn to do it properly? By working through this little book by Lynda Felder you’ll learn how to write tightly, understand who you’re writing for, and tell a story worth telling. Best of all, you can apply what Felder teaches to offline writing as well.

The War of Art and Some Thoughts About Writing — Neither of these books is a how-to. Instead, they’re inspirational tomes aimed at writers, of all levels of experience, who need a boost. Who need a swift kick in their doubts and fears so they can keep going. In The War of Art, soberly encourages you to be reslient. In Some Thoughts About Writing, Patrick Rhone encourages you to write something to help people. But both books do a whole lot more. They can get you back on track when you hit a rough patch.

Quick Course On Effective Website Copywriting — This isn’t a book. It’s a blog post by Peep Laja at Smashing Magazine that’s worth a close read. If you write for the web in any capacity, then you’re doing copywriting. This post shares five steps you should follow to write effective web copy. You won’t become an expert copywriter by reading this post, but you will gain a decent grounding in the skill of copywriting.

How I Tackle a Big Writing Project and Training to Be a Good Writer — This is a pair of great posts by Leo Babauta, who publishes the wildly popular Zen Habits blog. In these posts, Babauta shares tips and techniques that can help you become a more disciplined, more focused, and just generally better writer. You’ve probably heard some of the advice — like write every day and learn to type — before. But you probably need to hear some of the other advice Babauta gives, like get over perfectionism, learn to write to a deadline, and commit to that deadline. Bookmark these posts and come back to them.

Letting Go of the Words — Writing tightly is a skill everyone who puts fingers to keyboard needs. You need to be able to tell the story you want to tell in as few words as possible. But there’s more to telling a story than just writing tightly. You need to understand the basics of content strategy, design patterns, and personas. That, along with good writing, is what Janice Redish teaches in Letting Go of the Words. This book has a number of lessons that you can immediately apply to your work, and you can apply them to just about any form of non-fiction writing.

Learning Markdown — You didn’t expect me to pass up an opportunity to plug one of my own books, did you? In Learning Markdown, I teach you how to quickly and easily format your work for the web. Unlike the various cheatsheets available online, this book explains the how and the why of using Markdown and includes a number of practical exercise to get you using what you’ve learned.

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