13 Best Books on Writing
By “best books on writing”, I mean my favorite books on the writing craft–specifically the fiction or novel craft. These have been the books that taught me the most and motivated me the most.
- The Story Within by Alicia Rasley
- The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass
- Like his Writing the Break-out Novel, this books looks at the best books of our time and analyzes what makes them best. How do those authors infuse such fire into their own words and how can you?
- Create a Plot Clinic by Holly Lisle.
- I love Holly Lisle’s approach to writing. She uses an excellent method for the organized writer, and her books are straightforward, hands-on, and step-by-step. For beginners like myself, she offers a great way to learn the craft, to ensure you’re not just writing crap, and to keep you motivated. You can find all her great books here, and then a link to her fabulous workshop is here.
- The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman
- As a writer, you have only about 5 pages to get a reader’s interest. Lukeman lays out the aspects necessary to hook a reader as well as all the aspects that will instantly lose your reader. From adjectives and adverbs to melodrama to characterization, this book is a great way to improve a finished manuscript.
- Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass
- Fabulous. Like #2 on the list, he takes you through examples to illustrate why breakout novels are “breakout”. Best of all, at the end of each chapter, he provides hands-on methods for you to apply these breakout techniques to your own WIP.
- How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card
- This was my first book on writing, and it remains a favorite. I love Card’s novels, and I love his approach to writing almost as much. He discusses the definitions behind genres, how to create plausible worlds, the basics on how to write well, and finally, the business side of writing.
- Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress
- This is a part of the WRITE GREAT FICTION series, and like its brothers, it’s thorough, educational, and indispensable. Kress does a great job of teaching you how to create characters and how your characters are linked to emotions and viewpoint.
- Dialogue by Gloria Kempton
- Another from the WRITE GREAT FICTION series. A wonderful book on how to write dialogue, which is an often overlooked skill for beginners. How do you make natural dialogue? How do you make characters that don’t all sound the same? What are the basic rules with regards to grammar/punctuation? And, what are the most common mistakes made in dialogue?
- Self- Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
- This book covers the various mistakes that arise in a manuscript, why these mistakes can break the novel, and how to fix those errors. I read this before I started writing, and though it was a bit frightening (who knew there were so many places for potential flubs?), it did prevent me from making some glaring, beginner errors right at the start (e.g. said-bookisms, head-hops, info-dumps, etc.).
- Revisions and Self-Editing by James Scott Bell
- Another from the WRITE GREAT FICTION series. Bell covers all the other components of a manuscript: from characters, plot, and POV to voice, exposition, and theme. It’s a great book for your first time editing an entire novel (which is daunting!) since it breaks all the components down into easy units.
- Point of View by Alicia Rasley
- I knew that POV could be complicated; I knew that multiple third POV was not recommended for beginners; and I knew that there were a thousand mistakes that could stem from POV and that would interrupt the flow of the story. It wasn’t until I tried my hand at writing in third person that I realized just how difficult it is to do POV right. This book became a guide for me as I worked through my own first chapters and became comfortable with a limited third person POV.
- How to Write Killer Fiction by Carolyn Wheat
- This was actually a Christmas gift, so I only just finished it recently. Nonetheless, it is a fantastic guide to mystery and suspense writing. You needn’t write in the mystery or suspense genre to use the book (I’m writing a young adult historical!) because all novels can benefit from clues and anxiety. Think of Harry Potter–unknown villains and terrifying scenes abound!
- Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Ah… Where would my list be without a book from my favorite writer? This book covers the basic elements of narrative (from the sound of language to the use of punctuation), but it’s all in the context of self-expression and spiritual adventure. It’s a book that will help you find yourself in your writing, that will help you hone your voice and style, and that will help you create beauty.
I hope this offers a good starting point for all beginners (and even experienced writers, too). I taught myself practically everything I know about writing through these enlightening books.
Remember, though: no matter what a book promises to do, no matter what gospel sits between its covers, and no matter how many books you own, it’s up to you and you alone to write your novel. You get what you put in, and no book about writing will mean you have to put in less work. Books about writing are meant to guide you, organize you, motivate you, offer methods or approaches, and above all, help you hone your craft.
Here’s G-Dragon in “A Boy”. I have to admit, I dig G-Dragon’s music (for all his androgyny and suspicious clothing selections).
January 7, 2010 @ 2:17 pm
Writing and having a book published has been a long time dream of mine….excellent list this week!!
Happy day to you.
January 7, 2010 @ 3:45 pm
I’ve copied this to my files. Thanks! Happy T13!
Julie From Momspective
January 7, 2010 @ 4:32 pm
Here’s my 13 favorite comedies!
January 7, 2010 @ 5:18 pm
I agree with many of those.
Have a great day!
January 7, 2010 @ 6:20 pm
I used to have so many writing books–I’d buy them at used book stores. I’ve given most away. I still have a 4 v. Famous Writers School set. Then I discovered blogging and that seemed to settle it. No rejection letters. Just hit “publish.”
Great list–someone will definitely benefit from your advice.