Insightful Books for Writers, about Writing (that will make you a better writer)

Books about the writing craft and the writing life

You never stop learning (even as a writer). Here are some well-written and insightful books about the writing craft. If you have the time and energy, you may want to consider reading them. Who knows, the knowledge these ‘books for writers’ contain may actually turn you into a better writer (or a better person altogether). Also, if you have an aspiring writer friend, these will serve as wonderful gifts for special occasions.

We hope you enjoy the list. We aim to continue developing it, so please do let us know if there is any title you think is worth including in the list.

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How to Write Short Stories and Get Them Published by Ashley Lister

The definitive, indispensable guide to writing quality short stories and getting them published.

How to Write Short Stories and Get Them Published is the essential guide to writing short fiction. It helps the aspiring writer at all stages of their creative journey, from how to cultivate ideas and express them on the page through to potential outlets for publication and pitching proposals to publishers.

Along the journey this guide considers the most important aspects of creative writing, such as character, plot, point of view, description and dialogue. All of these areas are illustrated with examples and are accompanied by exercises that will help every writer hone their natural skill and talent into the ability to craft compelling short stories.

Ashley Lister is the author of more than fifty books and countless short stories. He has lectured in Creative Writing for more than a decade, writing and running a broad range of courses. He recently completed his PhD in Creative Writing where his thesis considers the relationship between plot and genre in short fiction.

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How to Write Short Stories and Get Them Published

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

In this exuberant book, the incomparable Ray Bradbury shares the wisdom, experience, and excitement of a lifetime of writing.

The first thing a writer should be is – excited

Author of the iconic FAHRENHEIT 451, THE ILLUSTRATED MAN and THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES, Ray Bradbury is one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

Part memoir, part masterclass, ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING offers a vivid and exuberant insight into the craft of writing. Bradbury reveals how writers can each find their own unique path to developing their voice and style.

ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING offers a celebration of the act of writing that will delight, impassion, and inspire.

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Art of writing book

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

There is a reason why Stephen King is one of the bestselling writers in the world, ever. Described in the Guardian as ‘the most remarkable storyteller in modern American literature’, Stephen King writes books that draw you in and are impossible to put down.

Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have.

King’s advice is grounded in the vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999 – and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery.

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On Writing by Stephen King book cover

The Writing Life: Writers On How They Think And Work by Marie Arana

Featuring a gathering of more than fifty of contemporary literature’s finest voices, this volume will enchant, move, and inspire readers with its tales of The Writing Life. In it, authors divulge professional secrets: how they first discovered they were writers, how they work, how they deal with the myriad frustrations and delights a writer’s life affords. Culled from ten years of the distinguished Washington Post column of the same name, The Writing Life highlights an eclectic group of luminaries who have wildly varied stories to tell, but who share this singularly beguiling career. Here are their pleasures as well as their peeves; revelations of their deepest fears; dramas of triumphs and failures; insights into the demands and rewards.

Each piece is accompanied by a brief and vivid biography of the writer by Washington Post Book World editor Marie Arana who also provides an introduction to the collection. The result is a rare view from the inside: a close examination of writers’ concerns about the creative process and the place of literature in America. For anyone interested in the making of fiction and nonfiction, here is a fascinating vantage on the writer’s world-an indispensable guide to the craft.

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The Writing Life: Writers On How They Think And Work

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print by Rennie Browne and Dave King

Hundreds of books have been written on the art of writing. Here at last is a book by two professional editors to teach writers the techniques of the editing trade that turn promising manuscripts into published novels and short stories.

In this completely revised and updated second edition, Renni Browne and Dave King teach you, the writer, how to apply the editing techniques they have developed to your own work. Chapters on dialogue, exposition, point of view, interior monologue, and other techniques take you through the same processes an expert editor would go through to perfect your manuscript. Each point is illustrated with examples, many drawn from the hundreds of books Browne and King have edited.

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Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

Write. Publish. Repeat.: The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant

Write. Publish. Repeat is publishing for beginners and experienced writers alike.

In 2013, Johnny B. Truant and Sean Platt published 1.5 million words and made their full-time livings as indie authors. In Write. Publish. Repeat., they tell you how exactly how they did it: how they created over 15 independent franchises across 50+ published works, how they turned their art into a logical, sustainable business, and how any independent author can do the same to build a sustainable, profitable career with their writing.

Write. Publish. Repeat. explains the current self-publishing landscape and covers the truths and myths about what it means to be an indie author now and in the foreseeable future. It explains how to create books your readers will love and will want to return to again and again. Write. Publish. Repeat. details expert methods for building story worlds, characters, and plots, understanding your market (right down to your ideal reader), using the best tools possible to capture your draft, and explains proven best practices for editing. The book also discusses covers, titles, formatting, pricing, and publishing to multiple platforms, plus a bit on getting your books into print (and why that might not be a good idea!). But most importantly, Write. Publish. Repeat. details the psychology-driven marketing plan that Sean and Johnny built to shape their stories into “products” that readers couldn’t help but be drawn into — thus almost automatically generating sales — and explores ways that smart, business-minded writers can do the same to future-proof their careers.

This book is not a formula with an easy path to follow. It is a guidebook that will help you build a successful indie publishing career, no matter what type of writer you are… so long as you’re the type who’s willing to do the work.

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Write. Publish. Repeat Book cover


Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) by Lisa Cron

Following on the heels of Lisa Cron’s breakout first book, Wired for Story, this writing guide reveals how to use cognitive storytelling strategies to build a scene-by-scene blueprint for a riveting story.

It’s every novelist’s greatest fear: pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into writing hundreds of pages only to realize that their story has no sense of urgency, no internal logic, and so is a page one rewrite.

The prevailing wisdom in the writing community is that there are just two ways around this problem: pantsing (winging it) and plotting (focusing on the external plot). Story coach Lisa Cron has spent her career discovering why these methods don’t work and coming up with a powerful alternative, based on the science behind what our brains are wired to crave in every story we read (and it’s not what you think).

In Story Genius Cron takes you, step-by-step, through the creation of a novel from the first glimmer of an idea, to a complete multilayered blueprint–including fully realized scenes–that evolves into a first draft with the authority, richness, and command of a riveting sixth or seventh draft.

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Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel

Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K Le Guin

Completely revised and rewritten to address the challenges and opportunities of the modern era, this handbook is a short, deceptively simple guide to the craft of writing. Le Guin lays out ten chapters that address the most fundamental components of narrative, from the sound of language to sentence construction to point of view. Each chapter combines illustrative examples from the global canon with Le Guin’s own witty commentary and an exercise that the writer can do solo or in a group. She also offers a comprehensive guide to working in writing groups, both actual and online.

Masterly and concise, Steering the Craft deserves a place on every writer’s shelf.

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Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story

Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler

Christopher Vogler believes that film-makers are heirs to a great storytelling tradition, and that the best of them have used the principles of myth to create masterful stories which are dramatic, entertaining and psychologically true. Based on the work of the mythologist Joseph Campbell, this book examines how storytellers from Hitchcock to Lucas and Speilberg have used mythic structure to create powerful stories. Volger argues that they succeed because they tap into the mythological core that exists in all of us. The book is a practical guide for writers which analyzes films from from “The Wizard of Oz” to “Pulp Fiction”, and “Star Wars” to “Four Weddings and a Funeral”. Step-by-step guidelines for plot structure and creating realistic characters are accompanied by exercises designed to help writers solve problems and improve their own work.

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Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers

The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner

Quickly established as an essential and enduring companion for aspiring writers when it was first published, Betsy Lerner’s sharp, funny, and insightful guide has been meticulously updated and revised to address the dramatic changes that have reshaped the publishing industry in the decade since. From blank page to first glowing (or gutting) review, Betsy Lerner is a knowing and sympathetic coach who helps writers discover how they can be more productive in the creative process and how they can better their odds of not only getting published, but getting published well. This is an essential trove of advice for writers and an indispensable user’s manual to both the inner life of the writer and the increasingly anxious place where art and commerce meet: the boardrooms and cubicles of the publishing house.

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The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers

The Elements of Style by William I. Strunk

Every English writer knows Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. The book’s mantra, make every word tell, is still on point. This much-loved classic, now in its fourth edition, will forever be the go-to guide when in need of a hint to make a turn of phrase clearer or a reminder on how to enliven prose with the active voice.

The only style manual to ever appear on bestseller lists has explained to millions of readers the basic principals of plain English, and Maira Kalman’s fifty-seven exquisite illustrations give the revered work a jolt of new energy, making the learning experience more colorful and clear.

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The Elements of Style

Naked, Drunk, and Writing: Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay by Adair Lara

The material is right there in front of you. You’ve known yourself for, well, a lifetime–and you finally feel ready to share your story with the world. Yet when it actually comes time to put pen to paper, you find that you’re stumped.

Enter Adair Lara: award-winning author, seasoned columnist, beloved writing coach, and the answer to all of your autobiographical quandaries.

Naked, Drunk, and Writing is the culmination of Lara’s vast experience as a writer, editor, and teacher. It is packed with insights and advice both practical (“writing workshops you pay for are the best–it’s too easy to quit when you’ve made no investment”) and irreverent (“apply Part A [butt] to Part B [chair]”), answering such important questions as:

As thorough and instructive as a personal writing coach (and cheaper, too), Naked, Drunk, and Writing is a must-have if you are an aspiring columnist, essayist, or memoirist–or just a writer who needs a bit of help in getting your story told.

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Naked, Drunk, and Writing: Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Non-Fiction by William Zinsser

On Writing Well has been praised for its sound advice, its clarity and the warmth of its style. It is a book for everybody who wants to learn how to write or who needs to do some writing to get through the day, as almost everybody does in the age of e-mail and the Internet. Whether you want to write about people or places, science and technology, business, sports, the arts or about yourself in the increasingly popular memoir genre, On Writing Well offers you fundamental priciples as well as the insights of a distinguished writer and teacher. With more than a million copies sole, this volume has stood the test of time and remains a valuable resource for writers and would-be writers.

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On Writing Well

Word Work: Surviving and Thriving As a Writer by Bruce Rogers

Combining sympathy with practical advice, this guide enables writers to overcome mental and spiritual battles to get words on a page. Anecdotes from established authors, psychological theory, and hands-on exercises help writers understand and move beyond writer’s block. Topics include preventing procrastination, generating inspiration, staying passionate, targeting long-term happiness, the role of relationships, and dealing with both rejection and success. This sound advice will give any writer, beginner or professional, a road map to greater productivity, confidence, and satisfaction.

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Word Work: Surviving and Thriving As a Writer

The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways To Write Great Fiction, Get Published, And Earn Your Audience by Chuck Wendig

The journey to become a successful writer is long, fraught with peril, and filled with difficult questions: How do I write dialogue? How do I build suspense? What should I know about query letters? How do I start?

The best way to answer these questions is to ditch your uncertainty and transform yourself into a Kick-Ass writer. This new book from award-winning author Chuck Wendig combines the best of his eye-opening writing instruction–previously available in e-book form only–with all-new insights into writing and publishing. It’s an explosive broadside of gritty advice that will destroy your fears, clear the path, and help you find your voice, your story, and your audience.

Whether you’re just starting out or you need one more push to get you over the top, two things are for certain–a kick-ass writer never quits, and chuck Wendig won’t let you down in this high-octane guide to becoming the writer you were born to be.

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Kick Ass Writer Book Cover

Writing into the Dark: How to Write a Novel without an Outline by Dean Wesley Smith

With more than a hundred published novels and more than seventeen million copies of his books in print, USA Today bestselling author Dean Wesley Smith knows how to outline. And he knows how to write a novel without an outline. In this WMG Writer’s Guide, Dean takes you step-by-step through the process of writing without an outline and explains why not having an outline boosts your creative voice and keeps you more interested in your writing. Want to enjoy your writing more and entertain yourself? Then toss away your outline and Write into the Dark.

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Writing into the dark book cover

Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Contentby Ann Handley

In Everybody Writes, top marketing veteran Ann Handley gives expert guidance and insight into the process and strategy of content creation, production and publishing, with actionable how-to advice designed to get results. These lessons and rules apply across all of your online assets – like web pages, home page, landing pages, blogs, email, marketing offers, and on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media.

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Everybody writes

Letters to a Young Writer by Colum McCann

From the critically acclaimed Colum McCann, author of the National Book Award winner Let the Great World Spin, comes a paean to the power of language, and a direct address to the artistic, professional and philosophical concerns that challenge and sometimes torment an author.

Comprising fifty-two short prose pieces, Letters to a Young Writer ranges from practical matters of authorship, such as finding an agent, the pros and cons of creative writing degrees and handling bad reviews, through to the more joyous and celebratory, as McCann elucidates the pleasures to be found in truthful writing, for: ‘the best writing makes us glad that we are – however briefly – alive.’

Emphatic and empathetic, pragmatic and profound, this is an essential companion to any author’s journey – and a deeply personal work from one of our greatest literary voices.

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Letters to a Young Writer Book Cover

Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster

E.M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel is an innovative and effusive treatise on a literary form that, at the time of publication, had only recently begun to enjoy serious academic consideration. This Penguin Classics edition is edited with an introduction by Oliver Stallybrass, and features a new preface by Frank Kermode.

First given as a series of lectures at Cambridge University, Aspects of the Novel is Forster’s analysis of this great literary form. Here he rejects the ‘pseudoscholarship’ of historical criticism – ‘that great demon of chronology’ – that considers writers in terms of the period in which they wrote and instead asks us to imagine the great novelists working together in a single room. He discusses aspects of people, plot, fantasy and rhythm, making illuminating comparisons between novelists such as Proust and James, Dickens and Thackeray, Eliot and Dostoyevsky – the features shared by their books and the ways in which they differ. Written in a wonderfully engaging and conversational manner, this penetrating work of criticism is full of Forster’s habitual irreverence, wit and wisdom.

In his new introduction, Frank Kermode discusses the ways in which Forster’s perspective as a novelist inspired his lectures. This edition also includes the original introduction by Oliver Stallybrass, a chronology, further reading and appendices.

E. M. Forster (1879-1970) was a noted English author and critic and a member of the Bloomsbury group. His first novel, Where Angels Fear To Tread appeared in 1905. The Longest Journey appeared in 1907, followed by A Room With A View (1908), based partly on the material from extended holidays in Italy with his mother. Howards End (1910) was a story that centered on an English country house and dealt with the clash between two families, one interested in art and literature, the other only in business. Maurice was revised several times during his life, and finally published posthumously in 1971.

If you enjoyed Aspects of the Novel, you might like Forster’s A Room with a View, also available in Penguin Classics.

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Aspects of the Novel Book Cover

Writing to Deadline: The Journalist at Work by Donald M. Murray

Writing to Deadline takes the reader into the mind of the nonfiction writer, demystifying the process by which journalists clarify confusion and present significant information under demanding restrictions of time and space. This is an essential book for working journalists, professors and students of journalism, directors of newspaper inservice writing programs, and anyone who wants to learn more about:

  • the news-writing process
  • reporting and writing for surprise
  • focusing your story
  • draft writing
  • editing and fine-tuning
  • case studies of real journalists at work.

Combining his knowledge as a composition researcher and theorist with his practical experience as a teacher and journalist, Donald Murray both explains and demonstrates the writing process as he allows the reader to look over his shoulder – and the shoulders of other journalists – as they practice the craft of the immediate.

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Writing to Deadline Book Cover

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

For more than twenty years Natalie Goldberg has been challenging and cheering on writers with her books and workshops. In her groundbreaking first book, she brings together Zen meditation and writing in a new way. Writing practice, as she calls it, is no different from other forms of Zen practice —”it is backed by two thousand years of studying the mind.”

This new edition, which marks almost twenty years since the original book’s publication, includes a new preface in which Goldberg expresses her trademark enthusiasm for writing practice, as well as a depth of appreciation for the process that has come with time and experience. Also included is an interview with the author in which she reflects on the relationship between Zen sitting practice and writing, the importance of place, and the power of memory.

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Writing Down the Bones Book Cover

Lifelong Writing Habit: The Secret to Writing Every Day: Write Faster, Write Smarter by Chris Fox

Are you tired of writing intermittently? Would you like to install a lifelong writing habit, one that gets your butt in the chair every single day? Then this is the book for you. Lifelong Writing Habit draws on well tested neuroscience to help you install a daily writing habit that will endure for life.

It contains a simple to understand system, with actionable steps at the end of every chapter. You’ll learn:

  • How to install a permanent writing habit
  • How to get organized
  • How to set and achieve writing goals
  • How to harness discipline and motivation

It’s time to make a permanent shift in your writing. Let’s get moving!

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Lifelong writing habit book cover

The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot by Charles Baxter

Charles Baxter inaugurates The Art of, a new series on the craft of writing, with the wit and intelligence he brought to his celebrated book Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction.

Fiction writer and essayist Charles Baxter’s The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot discusses and illustrates the hidden subtextual overtones and undertones in fictional works haunted by the unspoken, the suppressed, and the secreted. Using an array of examples from Melville and Dostoyevsky to contemporary writers Paula Fox, Edward P. Jones, and Lorrie Moore, Baxter explains how fiction writers create those visible and invisible details, how what is displayed evokes what is not displayed.

The Art of Subtext is part of The Art of series, a new line of books by important authors on the craft of writing, edited by Charles Baxter. Each book examines a singular, but often assumed or neglected, issue facing the contemporary writer of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. The Art of series means to restore the art of criticism while illuminating the art of writing.

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The Art of Subtext Book Cover

The Art of Description: World into Word by Mark Doty

“It sounds like a simple thing, to say what you see,” Mark Doty begins. “But try to find words for the shades of a mottled sassafras leaf, or the reflectivity of a bay on an August morning, or the very beginnings of desire stirring in the gaze of someone looking right into your eyes . . .” Doty finds refuge in the sensory experience found in poems by Blake, Whitman, Bishop, and others. The Art of Description is an invaluable book by one of America’s most revered writers and teachers.

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The Art of Description Book Cover

The Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer’s Journey by Joanna Penn

Being a writer is not just about typing. It’s also about surviving the roller-coaster of the creative journey.

Self-doubt, fear of failure, the need for validation, perfectionism, writer’s block, comparisonitis, overwhelm, and much more. When you’re going through these things, it can feel like you’re alone. But actually, they are part of the creative process, and every author goes through them too.

This book collects the mindset issues that writers experience, that I have been through myself over the last nine years, and that perhaps you will experience at different times on the creative journey.

Each small chapter tackles a possible issue and then offers an antidote, so that you can dip in and out over time. It includes excerpts from my own personal journals as well as quotes from well-known writers. I hope it helps you on the road to becoming a successful author.

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The Successful Author Mindset

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