I'm deep in the cycle of editing at the moment - and grateful that my hair is so short - it makes it harder to pull out! The Nephilim is going through its first edit at present, and will hopefully be published by the end of the month.
The cover image was taken from a photo in the wiki commons under a creative commons attribution share alike licence. The original photo is titled 9 of 365 - Frustration, by Tanya Little. It's been modified somewhat to reduce the biographic accuracy and concentrate on the angst and moodiness of the image.
Anyway while going through the editing process (a lot of which consists of sitting around waiting for copy to come back and fielding abusive phone calls from my editor) I spent some time going through my various writing fora and came across the above question. What is the best book you will ever read to improve your writing?
Now this is not a new question. Anyone who's been interested in writing will have seen it fielded in probably a hundred different guises by now. Everything from "I've just read book x,y,z by author a,b,c and it was great - what do you think?" to "Where can I find a good writing guide?" And usually I ignore these threads and move on. However this time for reasons probably most closely related to synchronicity - I read on. And as I read I knew the answer.
It's not any book on writing at all. There are a great many good books out there which all promise to give guidance on the topic, and only some of which I've read. But without exception I can say that none of them are the best. Many will talk about rules and guidelines. Many will point out common mistakes authors make when starting out. But in the end there is always one book that will help you as an author far more than any other. The book you're writing.
This may sound trite and flippant. It's probably both. But unfortunately it's also completely true. And it's important that writers understand this. The best way, probably the only true way, to become a better writer is to write. But I'll go further than that. To write and get feedback. (Now you see where the synchronicity comes in!)
There is no one great secret to writing. There is only hard work, a bit of talent, a lot of passion and criticism. And the process is simple - often simply painful, but still simple. It's this.
Write. Read what you write, rewrite it and keep going and going and going until you're finally satisfied that you can't go any further on your own. Then hit the critic groups and beta readers. Put out sample chapters etc and get feedback. As much as you can get. It may hurt and there is a reason that authors do need thick skins, but nothing else will help you as much in becoming a better writer. Then go back to the writing board, decide which of the criticism you think is valid, and rewrite. After that more critics of what you've rewritten, and more rewriting.
Then the truly painful stage, editing as someone good tears your work to pieces. It has to be done. So get it edited, then go through the process of rewriting it again, remembering always that some of what even the most capable editor will tell you will not fit with your voice or your vision. So edit and re-edit until finally you've reached the final stage. Publishing. Here's where the pain goes ballistic.
Publish - if you need help to put your book out as good copy with a good cover and blurb, get it. And then wait for reviews. Now you'd think that having gone through critics, beta readers and editing, your book would be beyond reproach. It isn't. You will get negative feedback. It's simply a fact of life. Your task as an author is to read it all and then ask yourself - is this right? Does it fit with my vision? Have I got something wrong? Remember readers can be just as wrong as you! But they can also be right.
And then write your next book, knowing that it too will be the best book you'll ever read that will make you a better writer.