Telling True Stories: Must-Read Books for Aspiring Writers

What is Writing

Writing is the act or process of using words to communicate ideas, thoughts, or stories through the use of written symbols or text. It is a form of expression that allows individuals to convey their thoughts, opinions, and emotions to others. Writing can take various forms, including essays, novels, poems, articles, letters, emails, and more. It is an essential skill that plays a significant role in education, communication, and overall human development.

What Can We Get From Writing

Writing can provide a multitude of benefits and opportunities. Here are some things we can get from writing:

1. Self-expression: Writing allows us to express our thoughts, emotions, and ideas in a creative and individualistic way.

2. Reflection: Writing helps us reflect on our experiences, gain insight into ourselves, and develop a deeper understanding of the world around us.

3. Clarity: Writing helps organize our thoughts and ideas, enabling us to communicate more effectively and concisely.

4. Communication skills: Writing improves our ability to convey information, opinions, and arguments clearly and persuasively.

5. Creativity: Writing is a medium for exploring and unleashing our creative potential, allowing us to develop new and imaginative ideas.

6. Learning: Writing provides an opportunity to research, analyze, and synthesize information, enhancing our knowledge and understanding of various topics.

7. Problem-solving: Writing fosters critical thinking skills, encouraging us to analyze complex issues, propose solutions, and defend our arguments.

8. Memory improvement: Writing helps solidify our memory by engaging multiple brain regions and reinforcing learned information.

9. Emotional well-being: Writing can serve as a therapeutic outlet, helping us process and cope with emotions, stress, and trauma.

10. Professional growth: Strong writing skills are highly valued in many professions, and being able to communicate effectively through writing can lead to career advancement and success.

11. Connection: Writing can create connections with readers as our words resonate with and inspire others, fostering a sense of community and empathy.

12. Legacy: Through writing, we can leave a lasting impact, sharing our stories, knowledge, beliefs, and experiences with future generations.

Overall, writing is a versatile and powerful tool that offers personal, intellectual, and professional growth, and can enrich our lives in numerous ways.

Strategies in Learning Writing

1. Read extensively: Reading quality literature not only exposes you to various writing styles and genres but also helps improve your vocabulary, grammar, and overall understanding of language usage. Aim for diverse genres to broaden your perspective.

2. Write regularly: Build a writing habit by dedicating specific time slots to practice writing. This helps in developing your skills and refining your style. Start with small writing exercises and gradually work on more complex tasks.

3. Analyze and learn from different writers: Study the works of successful writers in your preferred genre. Analyze their writing techniques, structures, and storytelling methods. Pay attention to how they engage readers and evoke emotions.

4. Seek feedback and constructive criticism: Share your writing with trusted friends, teachers, or writing groups to get feedback on your work. Constructive criticism helps you identify areas of improvement, fix errors, and refine your style.

5. Work on your grammar and vocabulary: Enhance your writing skills by improving your grammar and expanding your vocabulary. Use grammar and vocabulary resources, practice exercises, and learn from your mistakes.

6. Experiment with various writing styles: Don’t limit yourself to a single writing style. Challenge yourself with different genres and writing techniques. This helps you broaden your skills, discover your strengths, and find your unique voice.

7. Edit and revise: Editing and revising are crucial steps in the writing process. Once you have completed a piece, go back and revise it for clarity, coherence, and flow. Remove unnecessary details, restructure sentences, and ensure your message comes across clearly.

8. Find a writing routine that works for you: Establish a writing routine that suits your lifestyle and preferences. Whether it’s early morning, late at night, or during your lunch break, consistency is key in developing your writing skills.

9. Write with purpose: Before starting a writing project, define your purpose and audience. Understanding who you’re writing for and why will help you tailor your writing style and language accordingly.

10. Practice different forms of writing: Explore different forms of writing like journaling, creative writing, essays, or even online platforms like blogging. Each form has its unique writing requirements and challenges that can enhance your overall writing ability.

Remember, consistent practice, willingness to learn, and embracing feedback are essential for improving your writing skills.

Telling True Stories

Telling True Stories by Mark Kramer, Wendy Call


“Telling True Stories” is a nonfiction book written by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call that serves as a guide for aspiring journalists and writers interested in crafting narrative nonfiction. The book is a compilation of essays and interviews with renowned journalists and authors, offering insights into the field of narrative nonfiction and providing practical advice on researching, interviewing, and structuring compelling narratives.

Kramer and Call explore various aspects of the genre, including the importance of accuracy and ethical considerations when portraying real events and people. They emphasize the need for thorough research and fact-checking to establish credibility, and they discuss the delicate balance between storytelling and truth-telling.

The book delves into the art of conducting interviews and reveals the strategies and techniques employed by successful journalists to create engaging narratives. It emphasizes the significance of emotional depth and compelling characters in nonfiction storytelling, urging writers to connect with their subjects on a personal level.

Throughout the book, Kramer and Call use examples from renowned works of narrative nonfiction to illustrate their points and offer literary inspiration. They also emphasize the value of revision and editing in refining a narrative, demonstrating the iterative nature of the writing process.

Overall, “Telling True Stories” serves as an informative and practical resource for aspiring writers looking to explore the world of narrative nonfiction, providing valuable insights and practical advice from experienced practitioners in the field.

Reasons for Recommendation

1. Comprehensive guide: “Telling True Stories” is a comprehensive and authoritative guide to the craft of narrative nonfiction writing. It covers everything from finding story ideas to conducting interviews, structuring narratives, and tackling ethical considerations.

2. Valuable insights from experts: The book features contributions from some of the most esteemed writers in the genre, including Susan Orlean, David Remnick, and Malcolm Gladwell. Their insights provide invaluable advice and perspectives on various aspects of writing compelling nonfiction narratives.

3. Practical exercises and examples: The book includes numerous practical exercises and examples to help writers develop and refine their storytelling skills. These exercises can stimulate creativity and provide a solid framework for crafting engaging narratives.

4. Wide range of topics: “Telling True Stories” covers a wide range of topics within the field of narrative nonfiction. Whether you’re interested in writing profiles, investigative journalism, memoirs, or literary journalism, this book provides guidance and inspiration for all types of nonfiction writing.

5. Ethical considerations: The authors explore the ethical challenges that arise when writing nonfiction narratives. They offer guidance on issues such as accuracy, fact-checking, and maintaining the privacy and dignity of the individuals involved in the stories. This makes “Telling True Stories” a valuable resource for writers seeking to navigate the ethical complexities of the genre.

6. Engaging and accessible: The book is written in a clear and accessible style, making it easy for writers of all levels to understand and apply its concepts. It avoids overly technical jargon and adopts a conversational tone, making it a pleasurable and engaging read for anyone interested in nonfiction writing.

7. Inspirational success stories: “Telling True Stories” includes inspiring real-life success stories from accomplished narrative nonfiction writers. These stories not only serve as motivational examples but also provide valuable insight into the writing process, offering a glimpse into the challenges and rewards of the profession.

8. Continual relevance: Although “Telling True Stories” was first published in 2007, its advice and principles remain timeless and relevant. The book focuses on the fundamentals of storytelling and the craft of nonfiction writing, making it a valuable resource for writers regardless of changing technological or cultural landscapes.

Telling True Stories

Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain


“Techniques of the Selling Writer” by Dwight V. Swain is a comprehensive guidebook that offers aspiring authors and experienced writers a variety of valuable techniques to improve their storytelling skills and increase their chances of getting their work published. The book delves into the fundamental elements of fiction writing, including character development, plot structuring, dialogue, and creating compelling scenes. Swain emphasizes the importance of understanding readers’ needs and expectations, encouraging writers to engage readers emotionally by crafting relatable characters and by establishing clear story goals and obstacles. The book also explores effective techniques for enhancing pacing, building suspense, and maintaining reader interest. Practical exercises and examples are provided throughout the text, enabling writers to practice and apply the techniques in their own work. Ultimately, “Techniques of the Selling Writer” serves as a valuable resource for writers seeking to improve their craft and increase their chances of success in the competitive publishing industry.

Reasons for Recommendation

1. Comprehensive guide: Techniques of the Selling Writer provides a comprehensive guide to writing effectively, covering various aspects such as plot development, character creation, dialogue, and pacing. It offers practical advice on how to craft compelling stories that engage readers from start to finish.

2. Practical exercises: Swain’s book is known for its hands-on approach, providing numerous practical exercises that allow writers to immediately apply the concepts discussed. These exercises help in honing writing skills and developing a better understanding of the techniques being taught.

3. Time-tested techniques: The book dates back to the 1960s and has stood the test of time, remaining relevant and valuable to writers even in today’s ever-evolving writing landscape. Its enduring popularity demonstrates the timeless effectiveness of the techniques it presents.

4. Focus on storytelling: Techniques of the Selling Writer emphasizes the art of storytelling, giving writers a strong foundation in constructing engaging narratives. The book explores how to create tension, build conflict, and develop satisfying resolutions, ensuring that writers are equipped with the skills necessary to hold readers’ attention.

5. Clear and concise writing style: Swain’s writing style is clear, concise, and accessible, making it easy for writers of varying skill levels to understand and implement the techniques. The book’s straightforward language allows for a seamless learning experience, without overwhelming the reader with unnecessary jargon.

6. Industry insights: Swain draws from his years of experience as both a writer and a writing instructor, offering valuable insights into the publishing industry. His knowledge of what publishers look for can help writers tailor their work to be more marketable, increasing their chances of success.

7. Widely recommended by authors: Techniques of the Selling Writer is highly regarded among established authors. Many successful writers credit the book with helping them improve their craft and achieve success. This endorsement from fellow authors adds weight to its credibility and increases its recommendation value.

8. Versatile application: Whether you’re an aspiring novelist, screenwriter, or even a non-fiction writer, the techniques covered in the book can be applied across various writing genres. The principles taught in Techniques of the Selling Writer are not confined to a specific genre or medium, making it a valuable resource for writers of all backgrounds.

9. Revising and editing tips: Swain provides valuable guidance on revising and editing your work, helping writers identify and rectify weaknesses in their manuscripts. This focus on revision assists in transforming first drafts into polished, marketable pieces.

10. Motivational and encouraging tone: Techniques of the Selling Writer is not just a technical manual but also a source of motivation and encouragement for writers. Swain’s belief in the power of storytelling and his passion for the craft shines through, inspiring writers to persevere and strive for excellence in their writing journey.

Wired For Story by Lisa Cron


“Wired For Story” by Lisa Cron explores the fundamentals of storytelling from a cognitive perspective, delving into the reasons why stories captivate us. Through extensive research in psychology, brain science, and evolutionary biology, Cron unveils the underlying structure of storytelling and offers valuable insights into how to craft compelling narratives that resonate with readers or audiences.

In the book, Cron dispels common myths about storytelling and emphasizes the importance of understanding how our brains are wired to respond to stories. She debunks the notion that storytelling is a mere form of entertainment, arguing that it serves a far deeper purpose by fulfilling our inherent need for meaning, knowledge, and connection.

Cron explores the pivotal role of a protagonist in a story, emphasizing the significance of empathy and the power of identification for the audience. She emphasizes the importance of creating characters that readers can root for, as well as the need to establish an emotional connection between characters and readers to keep them engaged throughout the narrative.

The book also dives into the concept of conflict and its crucial role in holding the audience’s attention. Cron highlights the necessity of understanding the various layers of conflict, from the external and internal struggles faced by the protagonist, to the obstacles hindering their progress. She provides practical advice on how to build tension and sustain narrative momentum throughout a story.

Additionally, Cron explores the role of the brain’s reward system in storytelling, discussing how suspense, uncertainty, and anticipation can trigger dopamine release in the brain, keeping readers emotionally invested in the narrative. She provides useful tips on incorporating these elements into storytelling to create a truly immersive reading experience.

Overall, “Wired For Story” offers a comprehensive exploration of storytelling through the lens of cognitive science, providing writers with a deeper understanding of how to captivate their audience by tapping into the innate wiring of the human brain.

Reasons for Recommendation

1. Insight into the brain’s response to storytelling: “Wired For Story” delves into the cognitive and psychological aspects of storytelling, providing writers with a deeper understanding of how and why certain narratives captivate readers. This knowledge allows writers to craft their stories more effectively, ensuring a stronger connection with their audience.

2. Enhancing the emotional impact: The book emphasizes the importance of creating compelling characters and evoking emotions through storytelling. By learning how to establish emotional resonance, writers can make their readers more invested in the narrative, resulting in a more impactful and memorable reading experience.

3. Building tension and suspense: “Wired For Story” offers practical advice on constructing a gripping plot, maintaining suspense, and engaging readers from start to finish. Writers will gain valuable techniques for effectively structuring their stories, generating anticipation, and keeping their audience on their toes.

4. Understanding the power of conflict: Conflict drives storytelling, and this book provides writers with strategies for creating and escalating conflict in their narratives. By mastering the art of conflict, writers can keep readers engaged and invested in the characters’ journeys, ensuring a page-turning experience.

5. Improving pacing and narrative flow: Lisa Cron explores the importance of pacing and maintaining a seamless narrative flow in “Wired For Story.” By understanding the science behind how our brains process stories, writers can effectively structure their plots and manipulate pacing to generate a more engaging reading experience.

6. Crafting memorable beginnings and endings: The book offers insights into crafting captivating openings that hook readers from the very first sentence, as well as satisfying endings that leave a lasting impact. By understanding the elements that make a strong beginning and a satisfying conclusion, writers can better engage their audience and leave a lasting impression.

7. Practical exercises and examples: Alongside theory, “Wired For Story” provides practical exercises and numerous examples from popular literature that illustrate the concepts discussed. These exercises and examples help writers apply the knowledge gained, reinforcing the book’s teachings through hands-on practice.

8. Overcoming common writing pitfalls: The book addresses common writing mistakes and misconceptions, providing writers with tools to avoid them and enhance their craft. By learning from Lisa Cron’s guidance, writers can identify and rectify their weaknesses, thus strengthening their storytelling abilities.

9. Appreciating the importance of authenticity: “Wired For Story” stresses the significance of creating authentic characters and narratives by focusing on their motivations, desires, and core emotional experiences. Writers who embrace this principle will be better equipped to craft stories that resonate with readers on a deeper level.

10. Inspiring creativity and confidence: By uncovering the science behind storytelling and providing practical advice, “Wired For Story” inspires writers to approach their craft with confidence and creativity. It empowers them to trust their instincts while understanding the underlying principles that make stories compelling.

Overall, “Wired For Story” is highly recommended for writers as it combines scientific insights with practical techniques, helping them harness the power of storytelling to engage and captivate readers.

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