25 Books That Writers of Fiction Should Consider Reading

Written by A Guest Author

By Theresa van Baalen

The number one way to improve your writing is to write. But equally as important is learning more about your craft. There are many books on the subject of writing. Whether it is inspiration you seek; advice on harnessing your creativity; or information on plotting, characters, genres and other aspects of the craft, there is bound to be a book out there somewhere for you. But all books are not equal. I have compiled a list of some of those that I have found especially helpful and inspiring. Click on a title to visit a book’s Amazon page for more information.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
This is such an engaging book by the well-known author, Stephen King, which is partly memoir, and partly about the craft of writing. It reads like a novel, and you are going to want to keep turning the pages, learning much as you do. It will inspire you and teach you about the craft of writing without ever feeling like a self-help book, and if you only have time for one book on this list, let it be this one.

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
This is one of my favorite books, an inspiring quick read about creativity, filled with nuggets of wisdom that will force you to think outside the box. Here is a quote from the book that resonates with me: “If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.”

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
A lovely book about creativity from the best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love.

Praise for Big Magic: “Big Magic is a celebration of a creative life … Gilbert’s love of creativity is infectious, and there is a lot of great advice in this sunny book … Gilbert doesn’t just call for aspiring artists to speak their truth, however daffy that may appear to others; she is showing them how.” – Washington Post

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

An inspiring book on the craft of writing, with short, easy-to-read chapters and a humorous approach. The practical suggestions, encouragement and solid advice will inspire anyone who writes or who wants to write.

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
This book by the Pulitzer Prize winner, Annie Dillard, is beautifully written, almost poetically so. It doesn’t deal so much with the craft of writing, but rather looks at the life of a writer and what creative writing involves. She writes from her own experiences, and imparts a lot of wisdom that only one who has spent many solitary hours writing could possibly have to share.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
If you enjoy wit and humor and you are looking for writing advice about everything from the craft of writing, right down to the realities of a writer’s life, this is the book for you. The subtitle says it all: “some instructions on writing and life”. It is bound to inspire.

Writing the Other: A Practical Approach by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward
This is a must-have guide if you are writing about characters of races, genders, sexual orientations, abilities, religions, nationalities, and other traits and features different from your own. It highlights common mistakes and pitfalls that occur in writing about differences, and how to avoid them. Rather than shy away from “difficult writing”, let this book help you create richly textured diverse characters for your stories.

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last Book On Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need by Jessica Brody
Any novelist who has ever read the original Save the Cat! The Last Book On Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need! is going to love this book. It is a fun and easy read, a great resource if you need help plotting your next novel, and it might just convince the most hardcore pantser (someone who rarely plots and writes by the seat of their pants) to take a stab at plotting their next novel.

Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping by Matthew Salesses
The author asks important questions: How can we rethink craft, and the teaching of it, to better reach writers with diverse backgrounds? How can we invite diverse storytelling traditions into literary spaces? Definitely a must-read for teachers of writing workshops.

The Way of The Writer: Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling by Charles Johnson
The author, Charles Johnson, is a National Book Award winner, a Professor Emeritus at University of Washington, and one of America’s preeminent scholars on literature and race. The book is an instructive, inspiring guide to the craft and art of writing.

About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, & Five Interviews by Samuel R. Delany
A book filled with practical advice for creative writers, by Hugo and Nebula awards winner, Samuel R. Delany. He has also won the William Whitehead Memorial Award for a lifetime’s contribution to gay and lesbian literature and has been teaching writers’ workshops for over 35 years.

Elements of Fiction by Walter Mosley
Written in a conversational style, this book guides the writer to master fiction’s most essential elements. It provides a vivid depiction of the writing process, which will intrigue and encourage both writers and readers.

The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyne
This book offers the writer a way to determine if his story is working or not, and if not, how to fix it. Learn to look at your work from an editor’s point of view to give yourself the best possible chance at getting your story accepted.

The Story Template: Conquer Writer’s Block Using the Universal Structure of Story by Amy Deardon
A very helpful and inspiring book, especially if you are new to writing novels and don’t know where to start. Each concept is explained clearly, with good examples and exercises that are easy to follow.

Plot Perfect: How to Build Unforgettable Stories Scene by Scene by Paula Munier
An excellent book on plotting, with detailed explanations, examples and references. The author draws from different genres and references popular books and movies to get her point across. Definitely one of my go-to books about writing.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
This short guide to writing good English is essential for anyone who strives to use good grammar and style. Every serious writer should have one (and use it regularly).

Editing Secrets of Best-Selling Authors by Kathy Ide
This book will help you polish your manuscript and get it ready for publication. It is also an excellent guide for new authors, providing practical advice and examples, as well as quotes from best-selling authors who share their own experiences.

The Author’s Toolkit: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing and Publishing Your Book by Mary Embree
This book gives a great overview of the whole process of writing, starting with the idea and working its way through the basics of writing both fiction and nonfiction, literary agents, publishing contracts, getting published, self-publishing, ethics and legal concerns, and more. It is a great guide for all who wish to become published writers.

The Art of Character: Creating Memorable Characters for Fiction, Film, and TV by David Corbet
This is a very comprehensive book about creating memorable characters who will live on long after the story is finished.

How to write Dazzling Dialogue by James Scott Bell
As with all James Scott Bell’s books on writing, this book is a pleasure to read and easy to follow. He gives some great advice on the art of writing riveting dialogue, and backs it up with concrete examples from books and movies.

Writing Book Blurbs and Synopses by Rayne Hall
A very useful guide, whether you self-publish or want to impress literary agents and publishers. Writing book blurbs, synopses, taglines, short pitches, and chapter-by-chapter outlines are skills in themselves. This book will help you get it done.

How to Write and Sell Great Short Stories by Linda M. James
This is a great book on the craft of writing, with some additional advice about marketing your short stories.

Writing the Cozy Mystery by Nancy J. Cohen
If you have always wanted to write a cozy mystery, but have no idea where to start, this is the book for you. Writing whodunits is a complex task, but the book offers clear examples and practical writing advice to guide you from beginning to end.

The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction: 6 Steps to Writing and Publishing Your Bestseller! by Philip Athans
This book takes a look at the different types of fantasy and science fiction stories, as well as your different target audiences. Then it delves right into the extensive section about writing these genres. It is a very comprehensive guide that all aspiring fantasy and sci-fi writers should read.


Theresa van Baalen is a freelance writer who spends most of her time writing Afrikaans books for children and teens. She lives in South Africa.

 

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