The books that helped us write

“There are no rules for good writing” is a truism often spouted when discussing how to write. And yet, as writers, we frequently search for advice on improving our work.

In a new series, we’re going to be reviewing the books that helped us write. This week, three Prime Writers – SD Sykes, Martine Bailey, and Peggy Riley –  take us through their preferred choices. Click here to read what they have to say.

Peggy Riley

Peggy Riley

SD Sykes

SD Sykes

Martine Bailey

Martine Bailey


5 thoughts on “The books that helped us write

  1. I’m just reading ‘How Fiction Works’ By James Wood. In his chapter on narrative he writes about free indirect style. My first novel was written in first person which I found natural and easy. I’m trying to write my second novel in third person -two or more characters point of view. I felt some of it seemed heavy and clumsy – too much ‘she thought’ ,’she felt’. Using free indirect style you enter into your character seeing things from their point of view. A bit like stream of consciousness. I’ve found it very liberating.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. May we have a discussion of fiction writers who have helped? An example: Tolstoy in his two greatest novels showed me that there are ways of portraying happiness that are fresh and moving ( Natasha at her first ball, Levin the night before he proposes, knowing he will be accepted).


  3. I’ve used all 3 of these books extensively and they are all brilliant! Reading Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey changed my life! I suddenly realised why I’d loved Star Wars and fairy tales and Jaws and all these different films and stories and how they fed into my storytelling. And McKee is just brilliant on structure. Highly recommended, all three!


  4. I love that chapter on free indirect speech in How Fiction Works, Barbara Hudson. Infact my agent pointed me towards it when I was writing my first novel. We’ll have a review of the James Wood book in next Monday’s post in this series. Rebecca, I’ve just bought the Vogler and am ordering the McKee. John Yorke’s Into the Woods – reviewed by Louise Walters – refers to both so has further whet my appetite.


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