Being a freelance writer is a very rewarding career – providing you can get it right and land those great clients offering high-paying gigs and long-term work.

For writers with English as a second language, taking the time to continually sharpen your skills can bring you even more of an edge and help you stay ahead of the competition.

This post looks at ten great books that will help you get better at the basics, and hone your craft as a freelance writer. Get these on your bookshelf (or screen) and read them regularly, and no matter what your niche is, your writing is guaranteed to improve.

1. The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr and E.B. White

First published all the way back in 1920, The Elements of Style was updated and revised in 1959  and is considered by many to be a ‘writer’s Bible’ in terms of setting in stone the basic rules of how to write effectively and efficiently.

2. On Writing by Stephen King

We all know Stephen King as the great horror writer of our time, but did you know he also wrote a book about writing itself? This is a great read and King combines his own fascinating life and career story with tons of practical writing advice.

3. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Like King, novelist Anne Lamott puts together her life and writing story in one thoughtful and engaging book. Bird by bird is as much about humanity and living as it is about writing, and both subjects are examined beautifully.

4. The Writing Life by Marie Arena

The full title of this collection from 2002 is The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work. That should tell you all you need to know, and this one is definitely worth getting to grips with if you’re looking for an in-depth study on the act of writing and how to do it well.

5. On Writing by Sol Stein

Offering an incredible amount of insight on his 50 year career as a novelist, playwright and editor, Sol Stein examines how to be a better writer in this extremely valuable and easy to read book. Stein is described as a master craftsman sharing secrets, and it’s hard to argue with that description.

6. Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself by David Lipsky

At the end of his 1996 Infinite Jest book tour, David Foster Wallace was profiled by music magazine Rolling Stone for a cover story that was eventually scrapped. In his book, Lipsky presents the transcript of the interview that took place over the course of several fascinating days. The result is a wide-open window into the mind and working process of a once in a generation writer.

7. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

Another easy to read manual for how to be a better writer, Goldberg looks at the issue of writers block, and even how to use the Buddhist meditation and practices to improve your writing skills. Writing Down the Bones is approachable and full of practical tips.

8. On Writing Well by William Zinsser

Zinsser presents his take on the mechanics of writing in this extremely well written (no surprise there given the title) and useful book. Primarily concerned with structural tips and tricks as well as the essential modes of thinking that cultivate great writing, his advice has certainly stood the test of time since publication in 1976.

9.  How To Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey

Like Zinsser, Frey is focused mostly on structure, and how to craft something compelling that will keep your readers reading. Frey pulls no punches here and the ideas presented are straightforward and proven to work.

10. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

Bradbury’s take on releasing the creative genius within is as fun and refreshing as it was when first published. Written by someone who is clearly at the peak of enjoying what they do as well as being one of the best at doing it, this book will help you rediscover your passion for writing, and you can’t help but get swept along on a wave of enthusiasm.

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