Motivation and Procrastination:
The War of Art: If you are procrastinator then this is the book for you. By the American author Steven Pressfield, ‘The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles’, is a great little book about all the ways writers (or ‘wannabe’ writers) waste time and self-sabotage themselves and their work. It’s part psychological assignation (of you), part practical guide to the mind-set and practice of a professional writer. It’s short and sweet too.
How to Write a Thesis by Rowena Murray is something of a classic, now in its third edition. Very much a book about process and being smart about it. Essential reading for those of you having to write a thesis or dissertation. Great advice on over coming blocks.
Developing Your Style:
Mastering Academic Style by Helen Sword (2012) and published by Harvard University Press is a great book for helping you develop your style. Breaking things down into different aspects of style the book takes you through practical ways of working on your writing. The book also presents examples of writing from different disciplines and is underpinned by some useful linguistic analysis across subjects, to be able to say what different subjects actually do. There is a great chapter on how to hook your reader, and then another on keeping their attention.
How To Write A Sentence and How To Read One by Standly Fish (2011). I love this little book, reading twice the summer when it first came out. It manages to be beautifully written, practical and at times profound, but the practicality of the book is its best feature. Perhaps more for those in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, there is, however, something in there for all academic writers. Professor Fish is breaks down some amazing pieces of literature and then shows us how we could try and emulate them. It is about both composition and content. For me it is a great book because of how it asks the reader to think about their writing: to be reflective; to practice; to breakdown what others have done before and use it as a model; to make writing about ideas and the ideas to have a form and function. The chapters on ‘First Sentences’ and ‘Last Sentences’ are very insightful, asking the reader to think about the potential power of these sentences and their relationship to the text as a whole. If I was to say there has one weakness, it is that there is a tendency to atomise sentences, to consider them in isolation (the afore mentioned chapters excluded), rather than their effects (and affects) when working well together, as in a paragraph. This is only a minor quibble however. A must read as far as I’m concerned. Perhaps the follow-up will be ‘How To Write a Paragraph…’?