Writing Guide about Craft Books
Writing Advice

Craft Books for Writers

This list of craft books for writers includes something for everyone and is, in my opinion, a list that will add value to any writer’s arsenal. Reading books on writing isn’t essential to writing a good story, but it is recommended, especially if you haven’t done a lot of creative writing before. More important, in my opinion, is to read books in the genre you want to write in. Yes, I said read. Nothing blows my mind more than writers who claim they don’t read, since most readers have a deep-seated desire to write a book one day. No judgment here, but if you’re a non-reader and want to be a good writer, I strongly urge you to start.

Reading books comparable to yours will teach you so much about story structure, increase your vocabulary, and hone your craft without you even realizing it. I have worked with many editors throughout my career and they have confirmed that they can tell the difference between a writer who is an avid reader, and one who isn’t, so it definitely shows!

You can find more about which genre your book falls into in Part 4 of this writing series, but let’s get to the craft books (books on writing) that I most recommend:

Books on Writing by Writers

In my opinion, books on writing are infinitely more authentic and valuable if written by writers. I know that sounds like stating the obvious, given that if someone has written a book on writing they are by nature a writer, but I am talking more about writers who have made a career out of their craft. If you want to write fiction, for example, who better to learn from than a fiction writer who has written a non-fiction book on the craft of writing?

And to that end, who better to begin with than the master storyteller himself, Mr. Stephen King?

Books on Writing Well

If you really want to improve and be the best writer you can be, you should strive never to stop learning. These books on writing are a great place to start:

  1. On Writing by Stephen King. There is no disputing that King is one of the greatest storytellers the world has ever known. This practical guide (hailed as part memoir, part master class) is filled with sage advice for writers, and useful tips on navigating the publishing sphere – traditional, not independent. I cannot recommend this book enough, but I do feel it’s suited to slightly more experienced writers. I wouldn’t read this one right out of the gates.
  2. Stein on Writing by Sol Stein (not to be confused with his lesser work: How to Grow a Novel which is less useful but also well worth a read). A publisher and editor-in-chief for almost three decades, there is little that Mr. Stein doesn’t know about writing. He also penned 13 novels of his own. If you want to learn from a master of the craft, this book is a great springboard. It is probably the most highlighted and notated book on my Kindle.
  3. The Emotion Thesaurus: This Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by power duo Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman. These two authors strive to make writer’s lives easier, and this book is the gold standard. Filled with solid advice to convey emotion more effectively on the page, it will level up your storytelling.
  4. Gentle Writing Advice: How to Be a Writer Without Destroying Yourself by Chuck Wendig. If you prefer not to take yourself too seriously, this book is the way to go. A hilarious guide, it describes the struggles of being a writer and debunks most of the advice in the other books listed in this article. In his unvarnished, truthful way, Chuck tells us what it’s really like to be a writer, and encourages us to take care of ourselves as we navigate this marathon journey.
  5. How to Write a Novel: From Idea to Book by Joanna Penn. There isn’t an indie alive who doesn’t secretly have a crush on Joanna Penn. An incredibly successful independent author, she has sold over a million books in over a hundred countries. She is a NYT (New York Times) and USAT (USA Today) bestseller. She has given so much of her time and knowledge to help other indies, and we are eternally grateful. No list, therefore, would be complete without her new author starter kit.
  6. Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody.
  7. The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman. The first five pages can make or break your book, especially when submitting to publishers, so who better than a New York literary agent to tell you how to perfect them.
  8. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamotte. The story behind this title is unimaginably sweet, but the book itself is crammed with hilarious and homespun advice. For over twenty-five years, writers have been learning from this essential guide, and no writer’s shelf would be complete without it.
  9. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg, Originally published in 1986, this book is a firm favorite among writers who want to dive deeper into their craft. Part guide, part personal journal, with a healthy dose of Zen philosophy, it is well worth reading.
  10. Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K. Le Guin. Not only the coolest title, but written by the legendary Le Guin, of the Earthsea series fame. A celebrated SFF novelist, Le Guin’s short and simple guide to the craft of writing is a must-read for every serious author.

That’s my Top Ten, but it’s certainly not a comprehensive list. As authors, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to resources to improve one’s writing. I prefer books, so I make digital or physical annotations, but for those who prefer to listen to podcasts, you can check out Writing Excuses, or Joanna’s The Creative Penn. Writing channels and video tutorials are also readily available.

If none of that appeals, and you feel you need a one-on-one writing coach to work with personally, you can work with me through Fiverr.

Until next time, write hard!

MD

FAQs

  1. Should you still read craft books after you’ve successfully written a few books? The writing landscape is everchanging, so yes, keep learning. You are also bound to pick up new tips every time you re-read an old favorite.
  2. Any other books you’d recommend? The Chicago Manual of Style is my preferred style guide for fiction writing.
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