People always ask me questions about how to become better writers, and the answer is simple: Write.
I also believe that writers should read as much as they write. I suspect any writer who can't say who their influences are--they either have not read much, or widely, or they love one writer or school of writing and are just copying their style.
Another good rule is: Good in, good out. Read good stuff...Life is too short to spend much time reading junk.
That all having been said, there are a couple of books all writers should read/use. Hopefully you can find these at your favorite bookstore but I've included Amazon links, if not.
These are some of my favorites:
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron (I once wrote a whole novel (which is becoming a screenplay), using her 3 pages a day process, and I highly recommend it.
My friend (and inspiration) Judy Reeves' A Writers Book of Days which as its subtitle implies, is a friend indeed...
The Little Red Writing Book by my old friend Lonnie Berstein Hewitt will kick start you on those days when you can't face the blank screen/page.
On Writing by Steven King. I love his style and his writing.
The Elements of Style. You can't go wrong reading this and using the rules of Strunk and White.
And the book that started it all for me, in terms of reading about writing, Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones
I also love Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, but I think I've mentioned those before...
A newcomer to this distinguished group of books on writing is The Accidents of Style: Good Advice on How Not to Write Badly by Charles Harrington Elster, who is not just a genius and a good writer, but also quite witty. I haven't read it yet, but I plan to soon, and I'll report back on it.
Tonight is the much-anticipated launch party/reading/event for John O'Melveny Woods swashbuckling pirate yarn, Return to Treasure Island at the wonderful local indie store Book Works in Del Mar. I'm going to get to act out some scenes--with another actor as Long John Silver--so it should be great fun!
Happy reading...and writing...