Writing Self-Help Books: Are “How To Write” Books Worth The Time?

On most subjects you’ll find “How To” books and there are good and bad in any bunch.  However, on some subjects, there is more difficulty when it comes to teaching. You can teaching techniques, philosophies, and even review practices and habits but there are some cases where you can’t make someone great if they aren’t very good to begin with and, for types of art, this is the case.  

Writing is one of those things that can be subjective in that two people can read the same thing and one likes it and the other hates it, but when it comes to what is good writing, there are books out there that believe they can tell you what good and bad is, and how you can produce such works.  

Now a lot of books about writing, especially those you might find in a college writing class, can be good.  They can tell you about something like a setting or theme or what-have-you, and you are then given a story that shows this lesson the book is trying to teach.  This is great to help you understand concepts but it doesn’t make you great in practice.

There are also books by authors or collections of letters and articles where great writers talk about their process and work, and that can also help you better understand how some people write and give you ideas on how you might be able to write, but again, an expert it does not make.  Without writing and reviewing your work, especially with a group, and also reading a lot you’re not going to experience what it is to write something good or bad and you’re not going to be able to see good and bad in the writing of others.

While books on how to write can be good, don’t go for anything that teaches you how to be a better writer because you likely will just never get there by exercises and prompts.  Rather, look at the pieces of a story (characters, theme, setting, etc.) and learn their importance. Look at how established authors write, meaning what their writing routine is like.  And, lastly, read read read as much as you can because studying the craft of writing is one thing, but being well read so you can recognize bad storytelling when you see it, especially in your own work, will go a long way in making you a better storyteller.