There are certain \u2018how to\u2019 books that make a lot of sense: cookbooks, gardening books, DIY manuals. These provide steps that, if followed, result in an expected outcome, like a beef stroganoff or a set of shelves. They teach something that needs to be replicable, something that should (in theory) have the same result every time it\u2019s done. This is the very opposite of what we want writing to be, yet that doesn\u2019t mean there aren\u2019t hundreds, if not thousands, of \u2018how to write\u2019 books out there. The question is, are they worthwhile?\r\n\r\nAre 'how to' writing books worthwhile?\r\nThere\u2019s No Magic Formula\r\nWhile these books can be helpful, they will only take you so far. A book can give you advice and tips, even offer inspiration and motivation, but when it starts giving step-by-step instructions for writing a novel, it stops being a useful resource. A sentiment shared by William Faulkner, who said:\r\nLet the writer take up surgery or bricklaying if he is interested in technique. There is no mechanical way to get the writing done, no shortcut. The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory.\u201d\r\nStephen King, despite having written a \u2018how to write\u2019 book himself, also seems dubious about the ability of writers to teach their craft. He thinks that \u201cFiction writers, present company included, don\u2019t understand very much about what they do \u2013 not why it works when it\u2019s good, not why it doesn\u2019t when it\u2019s bad\u201d. Which hits on one of the main reasons a writer needs more than a \u2018how to\u2019 book to create engaging content \u2013 most of the time, it\u2019s impossible to predict what readers are going to connect with, particularly since all readers are different. There is no magic formula for writing a successful book \u2013 if there was, we\u2019d all be doing it, as W. Somerset Maugham once said:\r\nThere are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are."\r\nStephen King's famous writing memoir 'On Writing'...\r\nThere\u2019s Hope Yet\r\nDon\u2019t throw away your writing books just yet, because there are definitely elements of writing that can be learned from a set of instructions: grammar and sentence structure, the use of active and passive voice, maybe even more specific skills like writing dialogue and staging scenes. And while these skills should not be ignored, they are also not the only things involved in writing. Ann Patchett says in her writing memoir, The Getaway Car, \u201cArt stands on the shoulders of craft, which means that to get to the art, you must master the craft\u201d. However, being able to master the skills alone is not enough. The extra bits, the so-called art, these are things you can\u2019t learn from a book; the ideas, the mastery of language, the ability to weave a beautiful story around a reader\u2019s emotions \u2013 these are innate.\r\n\r\nAside from the mechanics of writing, one of the primary ways in which these \u2018how to\u2019 books can be helpful is in the advice and encouragement they provide. This is why, if you are looking at investing in one of these books, I would recommend choosing a writing memoir, such as Stephen King\u2019s On Writing, Ann Patchett\u2019s The Getaway Car or Anne Lamott\u2019s Bird by Bird. Reading about how these people wrote their books, the lessons they learned along the way and the encouragement they have can be extremely rewarding and affirming. Sometimes all you really need from a \u2018how to\u2019 book is the motivation to start actually doing.\r\nGet Inspired\r\nWith that in mind, here are some quotes from these books to help get your words onto the page:\r\nI don't think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won't be good at it\u201d\u00a0\u2013 Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird\r\nThe more we are willing to separate from distraction and step into the open arms of boredom, the more writing will get on the page\u201d \u2013 Ann Patchett, The Getaway Car\r\nStopping a piece of work just because it\u2019s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don\u2019t feel like it, and sometimes you\u2019re doing good work when it feels like all you\u2019re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position\u201d \u2013 Stephen King, On Writing.\r\n* * *\r\nIt\u2019s also important to remember that all the time you are reading about writing is time you are not actually doing any writing, and there is one piece of advice that all good writing books agree on \u2013 if you want to write, you have to practice writing. Write all the time. Write lots. Just write.