In order to be a successful writer, you must be a good and hungry reader. That means filling your mind with all kinds of books, from fiction to nonfiction. Here are 14 of the best books about writing that will give you inspiration, advice, and valuable insights!

14 of the Best Books about Writing

March 3, 2019

In order to be a successful writer, you must be a good and hungry reader. That means filling your mind with all kinds of books, from fiction to nonfiction. Here are 14 of the best books about writing that will give you inspiration, advice, and valuable insights!

14 of the Best Books about Writing

March 3, 2019

MY NAME'S KELSEY AND I'M A BOOK SLUT

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Would I say my reading addiction is a problem?

Would you consider the fact that I've blown my daughter's future college fund on new books an issue? Cool, me either. I knew we'd be friends.

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In order to be a successful writer, you must be a good and hungry reader. That means filling your mind with all kinds of books, from fiction to nonfiction. Here are 14 of the best books about writing that will give you inspiration, advice, and valuable insights!

In order to be a successful writer, you must be a good and hungry reader. That means filling your mind with all kinds of books, from fiction to nonfiction.

But just like anything else, writing is based a little on talent but largely on skill. This curated list of writing books is designed to give you tangible steps for outlining your books, creating compelling characters, and using grammar and diction like a true professional.

It’s also filled with invaluable advice from writers who have already gotten to where you want to be and have so lovingly shared their hard-earned lessons.

Here are 14 of the best books about writing that will give you inspiration, advice, and valuable insights!

Just a heads up, this post contains affiliate links—that means I get a small commission of any sales made from the links below, but the price is the same for you whether you purchase via my link or directly from Amazon 🙂

1. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

AUTHOR: Stephen King

BOOK TYPE: Writing Advice & Inspiration | Memoir

SUMMARY: Stephen King has been writing since he was tiny, which has armed him with some powerful writing advice.

In On Writing, King takes us along his crazy path to becoming the writer he is today. He shares his story of writing one of his bestselling novels while drunk and having no memory of it at all, he shares how he dealt with the constant rejection of his writing submissions and how he used that negative feedback to fuel his passion, and about how he makes reading a huge part of his personal and professional life.

If you want an inside look at the life of a true writer, this book is a must-read.


2. Bird by Bird : Some Instructions on Writing and Life

AUTHOR: Anne Lamott

BOOK TYPE: Writing Advice & Inspiration | Memoir

SUMMARY: Bird by Bird is not only an amazing writing book, it’s a great read in general.

I’ve never felt so encouraged or supported in my efforts of forging a path as a writer as I did when reading this book.

Anne writes in such a mellifluous and witty way that you can’t help but fall in love with her and her writing.

This book is packed full of valuable lessons about writing and life in general. She shares her stories of how she became a professional writer and also shares plenty of the hardships she learned along the way.

In these pages, you’ll find a lot of tangible techniques for great writing, but you’ll also find encouragement and validation that you’re meant to pursue the writing career you’re dreaming of.


3. Writing with Emotion, Tension, and Conflict: Techniques for Crafting an Expressive and Compelling Novel

AUTHOR: Cheryl St.John

BOOK TYPE: Writing Tutorial

SUMMARY: Think of the last time you were fully absorbed in a novel—it most likely had a well-built world and compelling characters. But what really made it stand out was the emotion, tension, and conflict weaved through its pages.

Writing with Emotion, Tension, and Conflict is full of practical ways to create a book your readers will fall in love with. It spans everything from how to create tension and conflict for your characters to how to create emotion in your readers solely from the appearance of certain settings, situations, and character types.

This is a really great book that introduces vital techniques in an interesting and unique way.


4. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

AUTHOR: Elizabeth Gilbert

BOOK TYPE: Writing Advice & Inspiration | Memoir

SUMMARY: Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of the bestseller Eat, Pray, Love as well as several other books.

Big Magic is her manifesto to the creative life. While this book is for creatives of any kind, it’s especially good for writers since Gilbert herself is a writer.

She explores the idea of fear and what that really means for those of us longing to put our work in the world. Instead of the typical “just do it” mentality, she takes a different look at fear by acknowledging that it’s actually necessary, but it doesn’t have to be crippling.

Giving us an inside look at her writing process, Big Magic is just that—magic. If you need some inspiration to keep writing or just want to know you’re not alone in some of the hardest parts of your writing endeavor, you’ll love this book.


5. Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them

AUTHOR: Francine Prose

BOOK TYPE: Writing Advice & Inspiration

SUMMARY: Great writers are readers first and writers second. Reading the works of the great authors not only refuels your writing mind, it teaches you the ins and outs of your craft.

Reading Like a Writer is full of inspiration and tangible techniques for extracting the most from your reading sessions.

Exploring how the greats like Austen, Kafka, Dickens, Woolf, and many others turned raw words into magic, this book will remind you why you fell in love with books in the first place and give you the encouragement you need to write your own!


6. Mastering Plot Twists: How to Use Suspense, Targeted Storytelling Strategies, and Structure to Captivate Your Readers

AUTHOR: Jane K. Cleland

BOOK TYPE: Writing Tutorial

SUMMARY: As a reader, nothing is better than getting completely and utterly engrossed in a story only to be blindsided by a genius plot twist! Gone Girl, We Were Liars, and Life of Pi are just a few examples of brilliantly crafted plot twists.

Mastering Plot Twists is an invaluable tool for learning the ins and outs of clever plot twists that keep readers on the edge of their seats.

In this book, you’ll find a proven 5-step process of how to use specific techniques at certain points in your story to create ultimate tension and suspense.

And what’s even better, you’ll learn the exact steps of creating a page-turning story regardless of the genre—memoirs, screenplays, and thrillers alike all have room for great plot twists!


7. Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success

AUTHOR: K.M. Weiland

BOOK TYPE: Writing Tutorial

SUMMARY: Creating a successful novel outline is the difference between finishing your book or not.

Even if you prefer to write freely without the strict confines of a pre-mapped story, it’s in your best interest to have at least a broad idea of where you’re story’s going. That way, you’ll avoid getting carried away on tangents that will create confusion and frustration for you.

Outlining your Novel is a simple and straightforward guide that walks through every step of creating a cohesive outline for your story, keeping you on track and moving in the right direction!

Finishing is better than starting, and creating a strong outline is a great way to get you closer to the finish line!


8. Creating Characters: How to Build Story People

AUTHOR: Dwight V. Swain

BOOK TYPE: Writing Tutorial

SUMMARY: Whether you write fast-paced plot-driven stories or emotionally wrenching fiction, strong characters are an essential part to all great literature.

But crafting realistic, multi-dimensional story people is one of the hardest parts of writing a book! Thankfully, Creating Characters: How to Build Story People is a robust manual of how to do just that.

Diving into the methods for creating characters who actually care about something—and therefore giving your readers a reason to care about them—this book is an essential writing guide that you must add to your arsenal if you dream of writing books people won’t be able to put down!


9. Will Write for Shoes: How to Write a Chick Lit Novel

AUTHOR: Cathy Yardley

BOOK TYPE: Writing Tutorial

SUMMARY: Will Write for Shoes explores the nuances of the women’s fiction genre called Chick Lit, but it’s surprisingly helpful for any type of fiction writing.

This book has a very clear and simple way to format your novel: a 5-point plot structure that’s explained well and provides great examples so you fully understand what each beat in your story should contain.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to write a novel but is too overwhelmed about where and how to start.


10. Techniques of a Selling Writer

AUTHOR: Dwight V. Swain

BOOK TYPE: Writing Tutorial

SUMMARY: Techniques of the Selling Writing is a quintessential writing book. It introduces and breaks down the concept of scene and sequel.

It then shows you exactly how to use it in order to write bestsellers that will not only get you published, but put your book at the top of the charts.

This guide gives you straightforward and tangible ways to write movement into your stories—the thing that readers crave.

Like anything else, writing is a little about talent and a lot about skill. And this is the book to start with in order to develop those skills!


11. The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art

AUTHOR: Joyce Carol Oates

BOOK TYPE: Writing Advice & Inspiration | Memoir

SUMMARY: “Inspiration and energy and even genius are rarely enough to make ‘art’: for prose fiction is also a craft, and craft must be learned, whether by accident or design.” 

Those powerful words are barely a taste of the kind of inspiration Joyce Carol Oates gives in her book The Faith of a Writer: Life, Craft, Art.

Oates jumps into her methods for finding inspiration, how she continually improves her craft of writing, and how she deals with things like self-criticism and the wildly varying states of a writer’s mind.

If you’re a writer or dreaming of becoming one, this book—written by one of the most acclaimed female writers of the 20th century—is a must-read.


12. The Elements of Style

AUTHOR: William Strunk

BOOK TYPE: Reference | Style Guide

SUMMARY: It doesn’t matter if you have the best story in the world—if your writing’s full of grammatical errors and the technical style is all over the place, you won’t be taken seriously—by readers, agents, or publishers.

The Elements of Style is a little book that packs a lot of extremely valuable information. It covers everything from elementary comma usage, the principles of composition, and commonly misused words and expressions, plus so much more.

Thankfully, we have the internet at our fingertips to look up questions about grammar and spelling, but sometimes grammatical advice is subjective. The Elements of Style is a proven and believed-in resource that you should read all the way through as well as reference sporadically when you have specific questions.


13. Guide to Literary Agents 2019: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published

AUTHOR: Robert Lee Brewer, Editor

BOOK TYPE: Reference

SUMMARY: Want to get published and paid for your writing? Guide to Literary Agents is the best place to start.

Each year a new edition comes out that’s packed with every single literary agent. It also lists detailed info about them like the genres they represent, their rules for submission, and other important caveats you need to know when pitching to them.

This is extremely important for all authors—whether you write fiction or nonfiction; adult or children’s; epic sci-fi or historical fiction. You’ll find everything you ever wanted to know about literary agents—and a lot you didn’t even know you needed to know—in these pages.


14. Writer’s Market 2019: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published

AUTHOR: Robert Lee Brewer, Editor

BOOK TYPE: Reference

SUMMARY: Writer’s Market is the be all end all book if you have any desire to get published.

Just like Guide to Literary Agents, it lists every current agent and their representing genres and submission rules, but it also has complete lists of book publishers, consumer magazines, trade journals, and writing contests and awards.

A new edition comes out every year with the latest lists of all the people, places, and things that matter in the publishing world.


Do you have any writing books you consider a must-read? Leave them in the comments below!

share this post:

  1. I had requested ON WRITING from the library a few months ago, but it finally arrived when i had my concussion and couldn’t read for two months! figures. i sent it back, so I guess I’ll need to request it again. I’ve really been wanting to read this book; i hear such good things about it. Thanks for also including the literary agent guide and writers market book. i’ve already written my novel — now i just need to get an agent and get it published. querying agents is just a process i don’t have patience for. having a list of who looks for what would be extremely helpful!

    • Kelsey says:

      YES, On Writing is a MUST READ! And that’s so amazing you’ve finished your novel! Congratulations! What genre is it?

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MY NAME'S KELSEY AND I'M A BOOK SLUT

Categories

Would I say my reading addiction is a problem?

Would you consider the fact that I've blown my daughter's future college fund on new books an issue? Cool, me either. I knew we'd be friends.

BOOK Lists

KINDLE DIRECT PUBLISHING

CHICK LIT WRITING ADVICE

popular posts

The best of Wilmington

How to host a wine tasting

Decorating with Flowers

Best of Boho Outdoors

insiDer

become an

SUPER JUICY BOOK NEWS AND PUBLISHING TIPS
DELIVERED WEEKLY

BOOKISH THINGS