• Awards Season
  • Big Stories
  • Pop Culture
  • Video Games
  • Celebrities

13 Must-Read Books & Collections by Indigenous Writers

books story writer

November is Native American Heritage Month and numerous states are participating in this observance. The National Congress of American Indians describes Heritage Month as “an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes” as well as an occasion to acknowledge past and present challenges that Indigenous people face. Moreover, Heritage Month highlights how “tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges” over the years.

President Joe Biden previously issued a proclamation ahead of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and he did the same at the cusp of Native American Heritage Month. President Biden officially declared “November 2021 as National Native American Heritage Month.”  Federal support for America’s Indigenous population is certainly appreciated, but there are also numerous other ways to show support.

Attending rallies for Indigenous-led climate justice efforts, supporting the Land Back movement, and providing mutual aid funds to Indigenous-led organizations are also great ways to honor Heritage Month. You can also educate yourself by reading the works of Indigenous authors and poets. Here, we’ve compiled a list of must-read works by incredible writers. Of course, self-education isn’t all about learning history; while understanding history from other perspectives is essential, these works, which range from coming-of-age memoirs to renowned poetry collections, capture the varied, nuanced experiences of Indigenous folks living in the present-day United States.

“Crazy Brave,” “How We Became Human” & More by Joy Harjo

Most likely, you’re familiar with Joy Harjo because of her award-winning poetry. In fact, Harjo is serving her second term as the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States — and for good reason. From her acclaimed collection An American Sunrise to How We Became Human , Harjo’s poetry is essential reading.

books story writer

But the talented artist and performer has also penned two incredible memoirs, Crazy Brave and Poet Warrior. “I think the story is the story of a lot of Native people and the story of a lot of women, she says, noting  that Crazy Brave, in all its raw, dauntless beauty, was difficult to write. Informed by tribal myth and ancestry, Harjo’s memoir illustrates her journey of becoming a young artist, of reclaiming a lost spirituality and the “intricate and metaphorical language of my ancestors.”

“Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s” by Tiffany Midge

You may recall Tiffany Midge’s “ An Open Letter to White Girls Regarding Pumpkin Spice and Cultural Appropriation ,” a passage from her memoir, Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s . As the title of this excerpted work suggests, Midge is an incredible humorist — but she doesn’t shy away from critique or commentary, either.

books story writer

Bury My Heart at Chuck E. Cheese’s is composed of standalone musings, but all of the passages add up to a unified whole, all while “driv[ing] a spear into the stereotype of Native American stoicism,” as David Treuer, author of The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, puts it . Honest, moving, and rife with satire, this book gives David Sedaris’ best a run for its money.

“There There” by Tommy Orange

Heralded as one of the best novels of 2018 by The New York Times Book Review , NPR, the San Francisco Chronicle and others, Tommy Orange’s There There is a “brilliant, propulsive” ( People Magazine ) bestseller. The book centers on 12 characters, all of whom Orange calls “Urban Indians,” living in Oakland, California.

books story writer

These characters’ distinct stories (and lives) end up colliding on one fateful day. Despite grappling with several centuries’ worth of pain, Orange also infuses the text with humor and beauty. Without a doubt, There There is a modern classic — and near-impossible to put down once you start reading it.

“Abandon Me” by Melissa Febos

Winner of the Lambda Literary Jeanne Cordova Prize for Lesbian/Queer Nonfiction, Abandon Me centers on author’s need for connection. This incredibly vulnerable collection of memoirs sees Melissa Febos examining her own journey of self-discovery, which is marked by both passion and obsession.

books story writer

In reference to the titular story, The Chicago Review of Books  notes that the “memoir is the map” — one that helps us understand Febos, even if the on-page version of her is lost. In fact, Febos is particularly deft at exploring the simultaneous thrill and fear that come along with losing yourself in another person — or people.

“Black Indian” by Shonda Buchanan

For as long as Shonda Buchanan can remember, she has cherished her multi-racial heritage. At the same time, Buchanan and her family suffered — not just because of America’s ongoing racism and ostracizing attitudes, but because there was so much they didn’t know about their past.

books story writer

In this searing memoir, Buchanan digs into her family’s past, exploring what it means to be an African American person, an Indigenous person — and a Black Indigenous person. While her search for truth may not encapsulate the experiences of all biracial folks, Buchanan’s story deeply resonates due, in part, to its specificity and the way the author openly shares her lived experiences.

“We Are Water Protectors” by Carole Lindstrom

“Water is the first medicine,” reads We Are Water Protectors . “It affects and connects us all.” Inspired by the myriad Indigenous-led movements happening across North America, this breathtaking picture book is a sort of call to action, wrapped in lyrical prose and watercolor illustrations crafted by #OwnVoices writer Carole Lindstrom and artist Michaela Goade.

books story writer

Booklist notes that the book was “written in response to the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline [and] famously protested by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe” and that “these pages carry grief, but it is overshadowed by hope in what is an unapologetic call to action.” No matter one’s age, We Are Water Protectors is a must-read, one that gets to the heart of the things that matter and puts Indigenous ideas, groups, creators and leaders rightfully at the center of the movement to safeguard our planet from human-caused climate change and destruction.

“As Long As Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice, From Colonization to Standing Rock” by Dina Gilio-Whitaker

While Indigenous activists have always led the fight for climate and environmental justice, their efforts have become more widely acknowledged by media, the federal government and allies. From the Standing Rock protest to #StopLine3, these fights are far from over — and they’re happening all across the country.

books story writer

Inspired by these fights, Indigenous researcher and activist Dina Gilio-Whitaker authored As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice in 2019. In the text, Gilio-Whitaker explores the ways the federal government has violated tribal treaties, destroyed the land it stole, and made food and water inaccessible to many native peoples. Additionally, the book highlights the leadership of Indigenous women in these fights for environmental justice.

“Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers” by Jake Skeets

Selected as the Best Poetry Book of 2019 by the likes of Electric Literature , Entropy Mag , Auburn Avenue and others, Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers is a masterful collection. The publisher calls Jake Skeets a “dazzling geologist of queer eros” — and that certainly feels like an apt description.

books story writer

In the book, “Drunktown, New Mexico” has been shaped by violence — not just the violence that occurs there, but the violence done to it. Skeet writes that “the closest men become is when they are covered in blood / or nothing at all” in this town. This committed portrait of a place that’s been ravaged and forgotten also highlights the resilience of the people who live there — and the desire to reclaim what’s been taken.

“The Beadworkers: Stories” by Beth Piatote

Called a “poignant and challenging look at the way the past and present collide” by Kirkus Reviews , Beth Piatote’s debut story collection, The Beadworkers , is set in the Native Northwest. From the Battle of Wounded Knee to the Fish Wars of the 1960s, many of the stories in the collection stem from, or meditate on, events from the past.

books story writer

One of Piatote’s narrators notes that, “it’s surprising how much material can be mined from making Indian versions of things” and, in other stories, Piatote does just that, retelling classical stories, like Sophocles’ Antigone, from an Indigenous perspective. With vibrant characters and a beautiful mix of both verse and prose, Piatote’s debut is a must-read collection — and we can’t wait to read more of her stories in the future.

“The Only Good Indians” by Stephen Graham Jones

Stephen Graham Jones ( Ledfeather ) wrote one of the 2020’s most highly anticipated horror novels — and all that anticipation certainly paid off. The Only Good Indians centers on the tale of four childhood friends who grow up, move away from home and then, a decade later, discover that a vengeful entity is hunting them for an act of violence they committed long ago.

books story writer

The novel combines horror, drama and social commentary quite flawlessly, proving NPR’s statement that “Jones is one of the best writers working today regardless of genre.” Rebecca Roanhorse, the bestselling author of Trail of Lightning, wrote that “Jones boldly and bravely incorporates both the difficult and the beautiful parts of contemporary Indian life into his story, never once falling into stereotypes or easy answers but also not shying away from the horrors caused by cycles of violence.”

“An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People” by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Undoubtedly, understanding our collective history is essential to understanding our present. For example, the movements to abolish Columbus Day or stop Line 3 stem from how the first colonizers treated Native people and the land we all live on today. Today, there are more than 500 federally recognized Indigenous nations; roughly 3 million people comprise these nations, but, before the centuries-long genocide by white colonizers, 15 million Indigenous people lived on land that’s the present-day U.S.

books story writer

In An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, historian and Indigenous rights activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz tells the story of the U.S. empire’s rise from an Indigenous perspective — a landmark first. Dunbar-Ortiz’s 2015 bestseller was later adapted, with the help of Jean Mendoza and Debbie Reese, into a book aimed at middle-grade and young-adult readers.

Whether you’re reading one of these books yourself or looking to start a discussion with younger students, these texts allow readers to think critically and examine the way we learn about our history. Filled with archival images and maps, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People  does an exceptionally good job of highlighting 400 years of Indigenous peoples’ resistance and resilience in the fight against colonialism.

“Streaming” by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

Award-winning poet Allison Adelle Hedge Coke explores loss, memory and the future of our planet in this multi-award-winning collection. Joy Harjo, the U.S. National Poet Laureate, noted that the poems in Streaming are “the songs of righteous anger and utter beauty.”

books story writer

Lauded for her musicality, Hedge Coke uses structure and imagery to great effect, crafting poems that are singular. “Hedge Coke uproots the order of poetry and song,” Jennifer Martelli writes in Green Mountain Review  “— or, she finds its massive roots deep beneath the soil of America.”

“Feed” by Tommy Pico

Tommy Pico has won the Whiting Award, an American Book Award, and was a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Now, Feed completes his Teebs Cycle, a series of four books. This riveting collection is ambitious, to say the least, and tackles everything from pop culture to food to being friends with your ex.

books story writer

Shelf Awareness  called it “a dazzling fusion of culture,” noting that “Feed is as much about what we consume as how we consume. Pico’s lines are ever-growing, ever-expanding. And while we might seem lost in the abundance, the sheer variety, Pico is a skilled enough poet to ground us.”


books story writer

The Write Life


books story writer


books story writer


34 of the Best Books On Writing: Inspirational Reads

by Farrah Daniel | Feb 5, 2022

woman reading a book by a window

What’s the number one thing you can do to improve your writing?

Read. A lot.

Read anything and everything you can find, and you’ll become a better writer.

Read your favorite genre, whether that’s historical fiction, creative nonfiction or personal essays. Read books that are similar to what you like to write. And surround yourself with writer paraphernalia , including great books on writing.

The titles below will help you with all aspects of your writing, from learning to write better to finding inspiration to figuring out where to pitch your ideas. We’ve even included some books about how to make money writing .

We explore the best books on writing in these categories:

Books on becoming a better writer, books on overcoming the struggles of writing, books on writing as an art form, books on making money writing, 1. “ on writing ” by stephen king.

Part memoir, part guidebook, this Stephen King classic will appeal even to those who avoid his renowned horror-packed tales. In this book, King discusses how he came to be the writer we know today, plus he shares the basic tools of writing every writer needs.

2. “ Bird by Bird ” by Anne Lamott

“Bird by Bird” is an essential part of any writer’s toolbox. In this work, Lamott shares herself and her craft with readers, including anecdotes that tie the pieces together into all-around great writing. If you need help finding your voice and passion, Lamott’s advice is sure to spark creativity.

3. “ Writer’s Market ” edited by Robert Lee Brewer

“Writer’s Market” helps aspiring writers become published. Its listings contain hundreds of pages of suggested markets for nonfiction writers, as well as those who want to sell short stories, including details for how to pitch your work. Because this guide is updated regularly, you’ll always have the most up-to-date information about how to publish and get paid for your writing.

4. “ On Writing Well ” by William Zinsser

Although this classic book targets nonfiction writers, Zinsser discusses many forms of writing, from interviewing and telling stories about people to writing about travel. In addition to writing tips on consistency, voice, editing and more, he also includes the fundamentals of craft that can help you grow as a writer in any genre.

5. “ The Elements of Style ” by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White

For years, writing teachers have assigned “The Elements of Style” to their students to teach them about grammar, structural writing rules and the principles of composition. Brushing up on the basics from time to time is critical for continually developing your skills, and this book contains simple truths that every writer needs to know.

6. “ The Associated Press Stylebook ” by the Associated Press

AP Style is known by many as the “go-to” writing style for journalists and public relations pros. The Associated Press Stylebook contains more than 3,000 entries detailing rules on grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, abbreviation and word and numeral usage to help you master news writing.

(Heads up: This stylebook is updated annually, so always be sure you purchase and study the most recent version!

7. “ How to Write Bestselling Fiction ” by Dean Koontz

While many books on this list are aimed at nonfiction writers, this one is for those who dream up their own stories to tell. If anyone is qualified to tell people how to write bestselling fiction, its prolific author Dean Koontz, who’s sold more than 450 million copies of his books. This book was written in 1981 and is out of print, so if you buy it online, you’re paying for a collector’s item. But the book has timeless, valuable insights for writers who manage to snag a copy. (Consider checking the local library!). After four decades, it’s still one of the best books on writing fiction.

8. “ Writing Down the Bones ” by Natalie Goldberg

Goldberg’s insightful book examines the craft of writing including how to start brainstorming, the importance of learning how to listen, the vital role verbs play in writing, and even how to find an inspiring place to write. No matter the stage you’re at with writing, this inspiring read will give you the encouragement you need to keep going.

9. “ Plot & Structure ” by James Scott Bell

Written for fiction writers, this book tackles everything from story structure models and methods to a variety of techniques to help you craft great stories from start to finish. You’ll even find tips on how to create plot diagrams, plus the tools to overcome various plot problems that can arise.

10. “ Writing Short Stories ” by Courttia Newland and Tania Hershman

Broken into three comprehensive parts, this book examines the craft of short stories and teaches writers how to do it successfully. It explores the nature and history of this form, provides useful tips from noteworthy short story writers and how to look deeper into your characters. Plus, if you’re struggling with writer’s block, Newland and Hershman’s book can help you there, too.

11. “ I Should Be Writing: A Writer’s Workshop ” by Mur Lafferty

For writers who should be writing — erm, all of us — this book is like your personal writing workshop condensed into a flexibound journal. Lafferty shares writing exercises to help the strength of your writing blossom, plus writer’s prompts, tips on how to refine your creative process and hone your craft. Most of all, you’ll learn how to ignore your inner writing bully. 

12. “ Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets A Novelist Can Learn From Actors ” by Brandilyn Collins

Award-winning and best-selling novelist of 30 books Brandilyn Collins created this in-depth guide to help writers understand the psychology of your characters. That way, you’ll know how to express it in your stories and bring your characters to life. Because it draws on popular acting methods that’ve been used professionally for decades, reading this book will teach you techniques and concepts that’ll change the way you look at writing.

13. “ Self-Editing for Fiction Writers ” by Renni Browne and Dave King

When you can’t hire a professional editor to ensure your manuscript is print-ready, pick up this book to learn how to edit yourself into print. Written by two professional editors, “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” teaches editing techniques like dialogue, exposition, point of view and more so you can turn your work-in-progress into published novels and short stories.

Best Books On Writing

14. “ The Writing Life ” by Annie Dillard

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “An American Childhood”  shares words of wisdom in this handy book where she discusses the difficulties of writing. She writes about how it’s sometimes necessary to destroy paragraphs, phrases and words to reform them as something even better. She also shares advice all writers need a reminder of, like this one: Be more diligent and less self-berating. 

15. “ The Artist’s Way ” by Julia Cameron

From time to time, every writer suffers from burnout or writer’s block, and Julia Cameron understands that. Her book focuses on the craft of writing and training yourself to be even more creative.

She offers valuable techniques, like starting each morning with a free-writing exercise and exploring one subject you find fascinating per week. Her tips for gaining the self-confidence to reinvigorate your creative juices could be of help to any kind of writer.

16. “ Word Work: Surviving and Thriving as a Writer ” by Bruce Holland Rogers

“Word Work” is packed with practical advice to help you navigate core elements of the writing process. Whether you want to overcome procrastination, find happiness in writing and even conquer writer’s block, this roadmap is filled with useful exercises to help you achieve your goals. It also covers how to handle rejection and success.

17. “ A Writer’s Guide to Persistence ” by Jordan Rosenfeld

This book focuses on how to be a happy and successful writer throughout your career. It covers everything from finding joy as a writer to avoiding burnout to the all-important challenge of balancing writing with a busy life. It also discusses how to fine-tune your craft, get in touch with your creative flow, revise your work, find critiques, and learn how to be resilient.

18. “ War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles ” by Steven Pressfield

Published in 2012, this book helps writers and creators of all kinds overcome the biggest obstacle of all: our inner naysayer. The Amazon description says this book is “tough love…for yourself,” so if something inside of you keeps you from your biggest accomplishments, this is the right book to pick up.

PS: If you’re a Steven Pressfield fan, be sure to check out SelfPublishing.com’s podcast interview with the author! You’ll love it!

19. “ Steal Like an Artist ” by Austin Kleon

“Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative” will help you understand that nothing is original. To discover your true artistic side and build a more creative life, read this book to be inspired by Kleon’s transformative principles about the power of embracing influence. Instead of writing what you know, this read will give you the courage to write what you want and be imaginative in your work.

20. “ The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work ” edited by Marie Arana

This book contains columns from a decade of The Washington Post’s “Writing Life” column, with contributors as diverse as Jimmy Carter, Joyce Carol Oates and Carl Sagan. Each essay is paired with biographical information about each author, which helps readers learn more about these skilled contributors and their timeless ideas on the craft of writing.

21. “ The Paris Review Interviews ”

A notable magazine, The Paris Review offers 16 in-depth interviews with some of the leading names in the literature world, from novelists to playwrights and poets. If you want insight into how superstars like Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, Kurt Vonnegut, Toni Morrison and more penned their esteemed works, check out this book to learn from their revelations.

22. “ Art & Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking ” by David Bayles & Ted Orlando

This book reflects on the artistic side of being a writer. Making art is no easy feat, and Bayles and Orlando — both artists themselves — explore the challenges of making art and the various obstacles that can discourage people along the way. Originally published in 1994, “Art & Fear” is now an underground classic, dishing out relatable, valuable advice about what it means to create.

23. “ The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century ” by Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker offers a new take on some of the classic writing manuals. Inside “The Sense of Style”, he analyzes examples of modern prose, pointing out fantastic writing styles from those he considers awful. To help you improve, Pinker also provides tips to spruce up lackluster work.

24. “ Zen in the Art of Writing ” by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury, author of “Fahrenheit 451 , ” put together this book of essays portraying his passion for the craft. It was published in the 90s, but this collection still offers wise advice for aspiring and practicing writers.

25. “ The Lonely Voice: A Study of the Short Story ” by Frank O’Connor

World-renowned Irish author Frank O’Connor takes on the short story in this favorite book on writing. Short stories are challenging, but O’Connor shares tips and tactics that can help any writer begin to feel more confident about mastering the art of the short story and crafting their own works. According to many readers and writers, this is one of the best books on writing short stories.

26. “ Consider This ” by Chuck Palahniuk

In this memoir-like read, Palahniuk reflects on the art of storytelling through advice he shares about what makes writing and sharing stories powerful. In between anecdotes and decades-worth of postcards from his time on the road, you’ll find a love story to the world of fiction paired with concrete examples of strong storytelling.

27. “ The Emotional Craft of Fiction ” by Donald Maass

Readers shouldn’t just read your story; they have to feel it as well — that’s what makes strong fiction, according to “The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface.” A former literary agent, Maass breaks down story elements to show you how to write fiction that creates an emotional experience for your readers.


28. “ Published.: The Proven Path From Blank Page To 10,000 Copies Sold ” by Chandler Bolt

Published. equips readers with the key to unlock the story that has been burning inside them, calling them to share their wisdom with the world. Published. turns writers into authors. Then it shows authors how to scale their impact, influence, and income from their books. Grab a copy today!

29. “ Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook: The Step-by-Step Guide to the Legal Issues of Self-Publishing ” by Helen Sedwick

Attorney and self-published author Helen Sedwick uses her 30+ years of legal experience to help aspiring self-publishers navigate the business side of writing. This first-of-its-kind guidebook covers everything from business set up to spotting scams to helping keep writers at their desks and out of court.

30. “ How to Make a Living With Your Writing ” by Joanna Penn

Joanna Penn’s “How to Make a Living With Your Writing” and her companion workbook can help any writer examine their current writing situation and make a plan for the future. Penn discusses her multiple income streams and shares the breakdown of her six-figure writing income, which includes book sales, affiliate marketing commissions, a series of courses she offers and speaking fees.

31. “ Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success ” by Kelly James-Enger

Divided into five sections James-Enger ’s book dives into critical topics, such as when it makes sense to ignore per-word rates, how to ask for more money, how to set goals and even how to fire troublesome clients. This book is a valuable read if you want to build a sustainable career as a full-time freelance writer.

32. “ Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living ” edited by Manjula Martin

In her new anthology, Martin includes a series of essays and interviews from well-known literary icons such as Roxanne Gay, Cheryl Strayed, Jennifer Weiner, and Jonathan Franzen where they discuss the intersection of writing and money.

33. “ Everybody Writes ” by Ann Handley

This content-creation book, “Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content , ” drives home the point that anyone with a website or social media channels is a writer.

It focuses on how to craft quality writing that boosts business and helps find and retain customers. Plus, it includes writing tips, content help, grammar rules and much more. Despite the growing world of hashtags and abbreviations, writing matters more now than ever.

34. “ The Breakout Novelist : How to Craft Novels That Stand Out and Sell” by Donald Maass

This must-have reference for novel writers provides innovative and practical information about how to turn your writing into engaging and marketable fiction that stands out. With more than 70 exercises to help you evaluate your writing and lessons from Maass’ 30+ years in publishing, you’re sure to walk away with knowledge and strategies to become an author with a successful career.

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!

This is an updated version of a story that was previously published. We update our posts as often as possible to ensure they’re useful for our readers.

Photo via Andrii Kobryn/  Shutterstock

Want to write a book, but no idea where to start?

Grab our free book outline template!

Memoir Writing Masterclass

Memoir Writing Masterclass

Taught by a 6-Time Bestselling Author

Learn the 3 Core Elements of Every Memorable Memoir That You Need to Get Right

20 Websites for Finding Paid Writing Gigs

How to start a blog: a guide for writers, how to write a synopsis for your book: a guide for fiction and nonfiction writers, a complete guide to understanding, obtaining and using an isbn for your book, write about your furry friends: 18 pet publications that want your stories.


Tools, ebooks and courses, all vetted by our team


Find the perfect editor for your book ➔

Find the perfect editor for your next book

1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy, come meet them.

Last updated on May 31, 2022

The 40 Best Books About Writing: A Reading List for Authors

For this post, we’ve scoured the web (so you don’t have to) and asked our community of writers for recommendations on some indispensable books about writing. We've filled this list with dozens of amazing titles, all of which are great — but this list might seem intimidating. So for starters, here are our top 10 books about writing:

But if you're ready to get into the weeds, here are 40 of our favorite writing books.

Books about becoming a writer

1. on writing by stephen king.

books story writer

Perhaps the most-cited book on this list, On Writing is part-memoir, part-masterclass from one of America’s leading authors. Come for the vivid accounts of his childhood and youth — including his extended "lost weekend" spent on alcohol and drugs in the 1980s. Stay for the actionable advice on how to use your emotions and experiences to kickstart your writing, hone your skills, and become an author. Among the many craft-based tips are King’s expert takes on plot, story, character, and more.

From the book: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” 

2. The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig

If you haven’t checked out Wendig’s personal blog, head over there now and bookmark it. Unfiltered, profane, and almost always right, Wendig’s become a leading voice among online writing communities in the past few years. In The Kick-Ass Writer , he offers over 1,000 pearls of wisdom for authors, ranging from express writing tips to guidance on getting published. Written to be read in short bursts, we’re sure he’d agree that this is the perfect bathroom book for writers.

From the book: “I have been writing professionally for a lucky-despite-the-number 13 years. Not once — seriously, not once ever — has anyone ever asked me where I got my writing degree… Nobody gives two ferrets fornicating in a filth-caked gym sock whether or not you have a degree… The only thing that matters is, Can you write well? ” 

3. Find Your Voice by Angie Thomas

Taking advice from famous authors is not about imitation, but about finding your own voice . Take it from someone who knows: Thomas is the New York Times #1 Bestselling author of The Hate U Give , On the Come Up , and Concrete Rose . While she’s found her calling in YA literature , she has plenty of insight into finding your own voice in your genre of choice. Written in the form of a guided journal, this volume comes with step-by-step instructions, writing prompts, and exercises especially aimed at helping younger creatives develop the strength and skills to realize their vision.

From the book: “Write fearlessly. Write what is true and real to you.” 

4. The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner

Since its publication in 2000, The Forest for the Trees has remained an essential resource for authors at various stages in their careers. As an editor, Lerner gives advice not only on producing quality content, but also on how to build your career as an author and develop a winning routine — like how writers can be more productive in their creative process, how to get published , and how to publish well . 

From the book: “The world doesn't fully make sense until the writer has secured his version of it on the page. And the act of writing is strangely more lifelike than life.”

Perfect your book with professional help

Meet the top book editors, designers, and marketers on Reedsy

Learn how Reedsy can help you craft a beautiful book.

5. How to Write Like Tolstoy by Richard Cohen

books story writer

From the book: “Great writers can be inhibiting, and maybe after one has read a Scott Fitzgerald or Henry James one can’t escape imitat­ing them; but more often such writers are inspiring.”

6. Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith

Smith is well-known for her fiction, but she is also a prolific essay writer. In Feel Free , she has gathered several essays on recent cultural and political developments and combined them with experiences from her own life and career. In “The I Who Is Not Me”, she explores how her own lived experience comes into play in her fiction writing, and how she manages to extrapolate that to comment on contemporary social contexts, discussing race, class, and ethnicity.

From the book: “Writing exists (for me) at the intersection of three precarious, uncertain elements: language, the world, the self. The first is never wholly mine; the second I can only ever know in a partial sense; the third is a malleable and improvised response to the previous two.”

Books about language and style 

7. dreyer’s english by benjamin dreyer.

A staple book about writing well, Dreyer’s English serves as a one-stop guide to proper English, based on the knowledge that Dreyer — a senior copy editor at Random House — has accumulated throughout his career. From punctuation to tricky homophones, passive voice, and commas, the goal of these tools should be to facilitate effective communication of ideas and thoughts. Dreyer delivers this and then some, but not without its due dosage of humor and informative examples. 

From the book: “A good sentence, I find myself saying frequently, is one that the reader can follow from beginning to end, no matter how long it is, without having to double back in confusion because the writer misused or omitted a key piece of punctuation, chose a vague or misleading pronoun, or in some other way engaged in inadvertent misdirection.”

8. The Elements of Style (Illustrated) by William Strunk, Jr., E. B. White, and Maira Kalman

books story writer

A perfect resource for visual learners, this illustrated edition of The Elements of Style has taken the classic style manual to a new, more accessible level but kept its main tenet intact: make every word tell. The written content by Strunk and White has long been referred to as an outline of the basic principles of style. Maira Kalman’s illustrations elevate the experience and make it a feast for both the mind and the eye. 

From the book: “A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”

9. Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale

If you’re looking to bring a bit of spunk into your writing, copy editor Constance Hale may hold the key . Whether you’re writing a work-related email or the next rap anthem, she has one goal: to make creative communication available to everyone by dispelling old writing myths and making every word count. Peppered with writing prompts and challenges, this book will have you itching to put pen to paper.

From the book: “Verbose is not a synonym for literary.”

10. The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker

Combining entertainment with intellectual pursuit, Pinker, a cognitive scientist and dictionary consultant, explores and rethinks language usage in the 21st century . With illustrative examples of both great and not-so-great linguistic constructions, Pinker breaks down the art of writing and gives a gentle but firm nudge in the right direction, towards coherent yet stylish prose. This is not a polemic on the decay of the English language, nor a recitation of pet peeves, but a thoughtful, challenging, and practical take on the science of communication. 

From the book: “Why is so much writing so bad, and how can we make it better? Is the English language being corrupted by texting and social media? Do the kids today even care about good writing—and why should we care?”

11. Eats, Shoots, & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

books story writer

From the book: “A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air. "Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife annual and tosses it over his shoulder. "I'm a panda," he says, at the door. "Look it up." The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation. Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”

Books about story structure

12. save the cat by blake snyder.

Best known as a screenwriting manual, Save the Cat! is just as often named by authors as one of their most influential books about writing. The title comes from the tried-and-true trope of the protagonist doing something heroic in the first act (such as saving a cat) in order to win over the audience. Yes, it might sound trite to some — but others swear by its bulletproof beat sheet. More recently, there has been Save the Cat! Writes a Novel , which tailors its principles specifically to the literary crowd. (For a concise breakdown of the beat sheet, check this post out!)

From the book: “Because liking the person we go on a journey with is the single most important element in drawing us into the story.” 

13. The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne

Shawn Coyne is a veteran editor with over 25 years of publishing experience, and he knows exactly what works and what doesn’t in a story — indeed, he’s pretty much got it down to a science. The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know outlines Coyne’s original “Story Grid” evaluation technique, which both writers and editors can use to appraise, revise, and ultimately improve their writing (in order to get it ready for publication). Coyne and his friend Tim Grahl also co-host the acclaimed Story Grid podcast , another great resource for aspiring writers.

From the book: “The Story Grid is a tool with many applications. It pinpoints problems but does not emotionally abuse the writer… it is a tool to re-envision and resuscitate a seemingly irredeemable pile of paper stuck in an attack drawer, and it can inspire an original creation.”

14. Story Structure Architect by Victoria Schmidt

For those who find the idea of improvising utterly terrifying and prefer the security of structures, this book breaks down just about every kind of story structure you’ve ever heard of. Victoria Schmidt offers no less than fifty-five different creative paths for your story to follow — some of which are more unconventional, or outright outlandish than others. The level of detail here is pretty staggering: Schmidt goes into the various conflicts, subplots, and resolutions these different story structures entail — with plenty of concrete examples! Suffice to say that no matter what kind of story you’re writing, you’ll find a blueprint for it in Story Structure Architect .

From the book: “When you grow up in a Westernized culture, the traditional plot structure becomes so embedded in your subconscious that you may have to work hard to create a plot structure that deviates from it… Understand this and keep your mind open when reading [this book]. Just because a piece doesn’t conform to the model you are used to, does not make it bad or wrong.”

15. The Writer's Journey  by Christopher Vogler

Moving on, we hone in on the mythic structure. Vogler’s book, originally published in 1992, is now a modern classic of writing advice; though intended as a screenwriting textbook, its contents apply to any story of mythic proportions. In The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers , Vogler takes a page (literally) from Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces to ruminate upon the most essential narrative structures and character archetypes of the writing craft. So if you’re thinking of drawing up an epic fantasy series full of those tropes we all know and love, this guide should be right up your alley.

From the book: “The Hero’s Journey is not an invention, but an observation. It is a recognition of a beautiful design… It’s difficult to avoid the sensation that the Hero’s Journey exists somewhere, somehow, as an external reality, a Platonic ideal form, a divine model. From this model, infinite and highly varied copies can be produced, each resonating with the essential spirit of the form.”

16. Story Genius by Lisa Cron

books story writer

From the book: “We don't turn to story to escape reality. We turn to story to navigate reality.”

17. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders

More than just a New York Times bestseller and the winner of the Booker Prize, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is a distillation of the MFA class on Russian short stories that Saunders has been teaching. Breaking down narrative functions and why we become immersed in a story, this is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand and nurture our continued need for fiction.

From the book: “We’re going to enter seven fastidiously constructed scale models of the world, made for a specific purpose that our time maybe doesn’t fully endorse but that these writers accepted implicitly as the aim of art—namely, to ask the big questions, questions like, How are we supposed to be living down here? What were we put here to accomplish? What should we value? What is truth, anyway, and how might we recognize it?”

Books about overcoming obstacles as a writer

18. bird by bird by anne lamott .

Like Stephen King’s book about writing craft, this work from acclaimed novelist and nonfiction writer Anne Lamott also fuses elements of a memoir with invaluable advice on the writer’s journey. Particularly known for popularizing the concept of “shitty first drafts”, Bird by Bird was recently recommended by editor Jennifer Hartmann in her Reedsy Live webinar for its outlook take on book writing. She said, “This book does exactly what it says it will do: it teaches you to become a better writer. [Lamott] is funny and witty and very knowledgeable.”

From the book: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”

19. Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker 

books story writer

From the book: “When it comes to the eternal quandary of pantsing or plotting, you can keep a foot in each camp. But if your goals will require you to write with speed and confidence, an effective outline will be your best friend.”

20. Writing into the Dark by Dean Wesley Smith 

And for those who eschew structure altogether, we’ll now refer you to this title from profile science fiction author Dean Wesley Smith . Having authored a number of official Star Trek novels, he definitely knows what he’s talking about when he encourages writers to go boldly into the unknown with an approach to writing books that doesn’t necessarily involve an elaborate plan. It might not be your action plan, but it can be a fresh perspective to get out of the occasional writer’s block .

From the book: “Imagine if every novel you picked up had a detailed outline of the entire plot… Would you read the novel after reading the outline? Chances are, no. What would be the point? You already know the journey the writer is going to take you on. So, as a writer, why do an outline and then have to spend all that time creating a book you already know?”

21. No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty

If you’re procrastinating to the point where you haven’t even started your novel yet, NaNo founder Chris Baty is your guy! No Plot, No Problem is a “low-stress, high-velocity” guide to writing a novel in just 30 days (yup, it’s great prep for the NaNoWriMo challenge ). You’ll get tons of tips on how to survive this rigorous process, from taking advantage of your initial momentum to persisting through moments of doubt . Whether you’re participating in everyone’s favorite November write-a-thon or you just want to bang out a novel that’s been in your head forever, Baty will help you cross that elusive finish line.

From the book: “A rough draft is best written in the steam-cooker of an already busy life. If you have a million things to do, adding item number 1,000,001 is not such a big deal.”

22. The 90-Day Novel by Alan Watt

And for those who think 30 days is a bit too steam cooker-esque, there’s always Alan Watt’s more laid-back option. In The 90-Day Novel , Watt provides a unique three-part process to assist you with your writing. The first part provides assistance in developing your story’s premise, the second part helps you work through obstacles to execute it, and the third part is full of writing exercises to unlock the “primal forces” of your story — aka the energy that will invigorate your work and incite readers to devour it like popcorn at the movies.

From the book: “Why we write is as important as what we write. Grammar, punctuation, and syntax are fairly irrelevant in the first draft. Get the story down… fast. Get out of your head, so you can surprise yourself on the page.”

23. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

If you feel like you’re constantly in the trenches of your “inner creative battle,” The War of Art is the book for you. Pressfield emphasizes the importance of breaking down creative barriers — what he calls “Resistance” — in order to defeat your demons (i.e. procrastination, self-doubt, etc.) and fulfill your potential. Though some of his opinions are no doubt controversial (he makes repeated claims that almost anything can be procrastination, including going to the doctor), this book is the perfect remedy for prevaricating writers who need a little bit of tough love.

From the book: “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”

Free course: Create a Solid Writing Routine

Learn to banish your procrastination gremlins and finish writing your book. Get started now.

Books about writing as a lifestyle and career

24. steal like an artist by austin kleon.

As Kleon notes in the first section of Steal Like an Artist , this title obviously doesn’t refer to plagiarism. Rather, it acknowledges that art cannot be created in a vacuum, and encourages writers (and all other artists) to be open and receptive to all sources of inspiration. By “stealing like an artist,” writers can construct stories that already have a baseline of familiarity for readers, but with new twists that keep them fresh and exciting .

From the book: “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.”

25. Mouth Full of Blood by Toni Morrison

books story writer

From the book: “A writer's life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.”

26. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

No matter what stage you’re at in your writing career, Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones will help you write more skillfully and creatively. With suggestions, encouragement, and valuable advice on the many aspects of the writing craft, Goldberg doesn’t shy away from making the crucial connection between writing and adding value to your life. Covering a range of topics including taking notes of your initial thoughts, listening, overcoming doubt, choosing where to write, and the selection of your verbs, this guide has plenty to say about the minute details of writing, but excels at exploring the author life.

From the book: “Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”

27. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

What does it take to become a great author? According to the beloved writer Ray Bradbury , it takes zest, gusto, curiosity, as well as a spirit of adventure. Sharing his wisdom and experiences as one of the most prolific writers in America, Bradbury gives plenty of practical tips and tricks on how to develop ideas, find your voice, and create your own style in this thoughtful volume. In addition to that, this is also an insight into the life and mind of this prolific writer, and a celebration of the act of writing. 

From the book: “Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a land mine. The land mine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces back together. Now, it's your turn. Jump!”

28. The Kite and the String by Alice Mattison

One of the most common dilemmas an author faces is the struggle between spontaneity and control. Literary endeavors need those unexpected light-bulb moments, but a book will never be finished if you rely solely on inspiration. In The Kite and the String , Mattison has heard your cry for help and developed a guide for balancing these elements throughout the different stages of writing a novel or a memoir. Sure, there may be language and grammar rules that govern the way you write, but letting a bit of playfulness breathe life into your writing will see it take off to a whole new level. On the other hand, your writing routine, solitude, audience, and goal-setting will act as the strings that keep you from floating too far away. 

From the book: "Don’t make yourself miserable wishing for a kind of success that you wouldn’t enjoy if you had it."

29. How to Become a Successful Indie Author by Craig Martelle

This one’s for all the indie authors out there! Even if you’ve already self-published a book , you can still learn a lot from this guide by Craig Martelle , who has dozens of indie books — “over two and a half million words,” as he puts it — under his belt. With patience and expertise, Martelle walks you through everything you need to know: from developing your premise to perfecting your writing routine, to finally getting your work to the top of the Amazon charts.

From the book: “No matter where you are on your author journey, there’s always a new level you can reach. Roll up your sleeves, because it’s time to get to work.”

Free course: Amazon Algorithms

Send your book to the top of its category by using Amazon's recommendation system to your advantage. Get started now.

30. How to Market a Book by Ricardo Fayet 

books story writer

From the book: “Here’s the thing: authors don’t find readers; readers find books . [...] Marketing is not about selling your book to readers. It’s about getting readers to find it.”

31. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

The full title of Handley’s all-inclusive book on writing is actually Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content — which should tell you something about its broad appeal. Not only does Handley have some great ideas on how to plan and produce a great story, but she also provides tips on general content writing, which comes in handy when it’s time to build your author platform or a mailing list to promote your book. As such, Everybody Writes is nothing like your other books on novel writing — it’ll make you see writing in a whole new light.

From the book: “In our world, many hold a notion that the ability to write, or write well, is a gift bestowed on a chosen few. That leaves us thinking there are two kinds of people: the writing haves — and the hapless, for whom writing well is a hopeless struggle, like trying to carve marble with a butter knife. But I don’t believe that, and neither should you.” 

Free course: Author Mailing Lists

Acquire more readers, sell more books, and make more money with the only indispensable tool in the book marketer's arsenal. Get started now.

Books on writing poetry 

32. madness, rack, and honey by mary ruefle.

With a long history of crafting and lecturing about poetry, Ruefle invites the reader of Madness, Rack, and Honey to immerse themselves into its beauty and magic. In a powerful combination of lectures and musings, she expertly explores the mind and craft of writers while excavating the magical potential of poetry. Often a struggle between giving and taking, poetry is, according to Ruefle, a unique art form that reveals the innermost workings of the human heart.

From the book: “In one sense, reading is a great waste of time. In another sense, it is a great extension of time, a way for one person to live a thousand and one lives in a single lifespan, to watch the great impersonal universe at work again and again”

33. Threads by Sandeep Parmar, Nisha Ramayya, and Bhanu Kapil

If you’re looking for something that explores the philosophical aspects of writing, Threads asks big questions about writing and the position of the writer in an industry that has largely excluded marginalized voices. Where does the writer exist in relation to its text and, particularly in the case of poetry, who is the “I”? Examining the common white, British, male lens, this collection of short essays will make it hard for you not to critically consider your own perceptions and how they affect your writing process.

From the book: “It is impossible to consider the lyric without fully interrogating its inherent promise of universality, its coded whiteness.”

34. The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner

Despite its eye-catching title, this short essay is actually a defense of poetry . Lerner begins with his own hatred of the art form, and then moves on to explore this love-hate dichotomy that actually doesn’t seem to be contradictory. Rather, such a multitude of emotions might be one of the reasons that writers and readers alike turn to it. With its ability to evoke feelings and responses through word-play and meter, poetry has often been misconceived as inaccessible and elitist; this is a call to change that perception. 

From the book: “All I ask the haters — and I, too, am one — is that they strive to perfect their contempt, even consider bringing it to bear on poems, where it will be deepened, not dispelled, and where, by creating a place for possibility and present absences (like unheard melodies), it might come to resemble love.”

35. Poemcrazy by Susan G. Wooldridge

If you’ve ever felt that the mysterious workings of poetry are out of your reach and expressly not for you, Wooldridge is here to tell you that anyone who wants to can write poetry . An experienced workshop leader, she will help you find your inner voice and to express it through the written word. Giving you advice on how to think, use your senses, and practice your writing, Wooldrige will have you putting down rhyme schemes before you know it. 

From the book: “Writing a poem is a form of listening, helping me discover what's wrong or frightening in my world as well as what delights me.”

36. Writing Better Lyrics by Pat Pattison

books story writer

From the book: “Don't be afraid to write crap — it makes the best fertilizer. The more of it you write, the better your chances are of growing something wonderful.”

Books about writing nonfiction

37. on writing well by william zinsser.

Going strong with its 30th-anniversary edition, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction is an evergreen resource for nonfiction writers which breaks down the fundamental principles of written communication. As a bonus, the insights and guidelines in this book can certainly be applied to most forms of writing, from interviewing to camp-fire storytelling. Beyond giving tips on how to stay consistent in your writing and voice, how to edit, and how to avoid common pitfalls, Zinsser can also help you grow as a professional writer, strengthening your career and taking steps in a new direction. 

From the book: “Don’t try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience—every reader is a different person.”

38. Essays by Lydia Davis

Ironically enough, this rather lengthy book is a celebration of brevity. As one of the leading American voices in flash-fiction and short-form writing, Davis traces her literary roots and inspirations in essays on everything, ranging from the mastodonic work of Proust to minimalism. In both her translations and her own writing, she celebrates experimental writing that stretches the boundaries of language. Playing with the contrast between what is said and what is not, this collection of essays is another tool to the writing shed to help you feel and use the power of every word you write.

From the book: “Free yourself of your device, for at least certain hours of the day — or at the very least one hour. Learn to be alone, all alone, without people, and without a device that is turned on. Learn to experience the purity of that kind of concentration. Develop focus, learn to focus intently on one thing, uninterrupted, for a long time.”

39. Essayism by Brian Dillon

In this volume, Dillon explores the often overlooked genre of essay writing and its place in literature’s past, present, and future. He argues that essays are an “experiment in attention” but also highlights how and why certain essays have directly impacted the development of the cultural and political landscape, from the end of the Middle Ages until the present day. At its heart, despite its many forms, subject areas, and purposes, essayism has its root in self-exploration. Dip in and out of Dillon’s short texts to find inspiration for your own nonfiction writing.

From the book: “What exactly do I mean, even, by 'style'? Perhaps it is nothing but an urge, an aspiration, a clumsy access of admiration, a crush.”

40. Naked, Drunk, and Writing by Adair Lara

books story writer

From the book: “Write it down. Whatever it is, write it down. Chip it into marble. Type it into Microsoft Word. Spell it out in seaweeds on the shore. We are each of us an endangered species, delicate as unicorns.”

With a few of these books in your arsenal, you’ll be penning perfect plots in no time! And if you’re interested in learning more about the editing process, check these books on editing out as well!

ZUrlocker says:

11/03/2019 – 19:46

I'm familiar with several of these books. But for new authors, I urge you caution. It is very tempting to read so many books about writing that you never get around to writing. (I did this successfully for many years!) So I will suggest paring it down to just two books: Stephen King on Writing and Blake Snyder Save the Cat. Snyder's book is mostly about screenwriting, so you could also consider Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. Best of luck!

Comments are currently closed.

Continue reading

Recommended posts from the Reedsy Blog

books story writer

Title Capitalization Rules: Learn Which Words To Capitalize

Whether you're using a style guide like AP, APA, MLA, or Chicago, or just want to make sure you're capitalizing your titles properly, this post explains all the rules so you know which words to capitalize or not.

books story writer

Lay vs. Lie: A Definitive Explanation

To lay or to lie? Learn when to use each verb, and how to distinguish between them.

books story writer

Grammarly Review: A Writer's Best Friend?

Can Grammarly really help authors? Find out in this in-depth review of the popular proofreading tool.

books story writer

Campfire Write Review: Everything You Need to Know

For writers doing a lot of worldbuilding and outlining, especially in fantasy or sci-fi, Campfire Write is a handy, if not potentially expensive, writing software.

books story writer

Hyphen vs Dash: How to Pick the Right One

Not sure when to use a hyphen or a dash? Check out this post to learn some quick rules!

books story writer

What is Blackout Poetry? The Ultimate Guide to Erasure Verse

Wondering what blackout poetry is? Learn its history and how to make your own erasure poem in this post.

Join a community of over 1 million authors

Reedsy is more than just a blog. Become a member today to discover how we can help you publish a beautiful book.

1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy, come meet them.

Enter your email or get started with a social account:

We have an app for that

Build a writing routine with our free writing app.

books story writer

Curiosity Never Killed the Writer

Tom Farr

Jun 20, 2015

11 Books to Read to Become a Better Fiction Writer

By tom farr, originally posted on the whisper project ..

Great writers learn from others who have done it well. I’ve read a number of books on fiction writing over the last several years that have been really helpful in developing my own storytelling approach. Here’s a list of the ones I’d recommend most.

Anatomy of Story

Byjohn truby.

John Truby’s Anatomy of Story is easily my favorite book on writing stories. It’s actually a book on screenwriting, but it’s equally valuable to fiction writers as well. I love the way Truby breaks down the story elements down to their core. He outlines a story as a journey that reflects the way real life works when you’re trying to overcome a problem. He’s adamantly against the concept of 3-act structure, even though his 22 steps fit into 3-act structure. I find his 22 steps more valuable than the idea of 3-act structure. Out of all the books I have on the craft of writing, this is the one I go back to the most.

by Stephen King

King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft almost needs no explanation. It’s definitely a tough second for me behind Anatomy of Story. King is the master of fiction writing, and in this book, he reveals all of his craft secrets. King describes story as something discovered by the writer rather than something structured from the outside. In this way, he’s similar to Truby. The book has some great advice on the tools a writer brings to writing fiction. I love how he handles description and authentic dialogue. On Writing is also a memoir of King’s writing journey.

by Robert McKee

Robert McKee’s Story , while a book primarily directed at screenwriters, is yet another great exploration of the inner workings of story. I love the way he explores the structuring of scenes and acts. He describes story as several turning points over the course of a set amount of time. A character goes on a journey with many turning points. Really helpful advice on structure and on craft. It’s a great book.

Story Engineering

By larry brooks.

I love Larry Brooks’ blog Storyfix.com , and Story Engineering covers Brooks’ approach to fiction writing. I love his core competencies, which include concept, character, theme, plot, scene construction, and writing voice. His breakdown of the difference between idea and concept is brilliant. And his breakdown of structure is very similar to John Truby’s.

Story Physics

Similar to John Truby’s Anatomy of Story, Story Physics covers the internal forces that work from within a story to make it a good one. This is a deeper exploration of story structure in continuation from Story Engineering. One of the most valuable elements of this book is Brooks’ breakdown of the story physics of The Help and The Hunger Games.

Plot and Structure

By james scott bell.

Plot and Structure is one of the best books on how to approach 3-act structure for fiction writers. This is especially helpful when it comes to the often slow middle that causes many writers to give up. Another helpful part of this book is Bell’s advice on how to approach writing scenes. The book includes many great examples from authors such as Dean Koontz, a true master of storytelling.

Wired for Story

By lisa cron.

Wired for Story explores why people are so impacted by stories, and it’s a great resource for writers on figuring out how to write truly compelling fiction. There’s some great research findings in this book for fiction writers to tap into the potential of the human brain in order to write better stories.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

By renni browne and dave king.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is one of the most invaluable books for fiction writers. It covers some of the most common mistakes that writers make and how to fix them. The examples show how to make your writing better.

Story Trumps Structure

By steven james.

Steven James has been one of my favorite writers for a long time, and he’s an expert at crafting a compelling and complex story. His book outlines his unorthodox approach to writing fiction. James doesn’t believe in story structure at all and insists that outlining beforehand kills a story before you even get started. He gives his strategies for writing a story organically, wrestling with certain questions in the journey of your character’s story. Though he argues against structure, I’d say the book is really arguing a different type of structure. Nevertheless, Story Trumps Structure is a great book for learning how to develop narrative force in your story.

The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Dialogue

By john hough, jr..

The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Dialogue is a fairly new book, but it has a ton of advice on how to write authentic-sounding dialogue. One of the common mistakes fiction writers make is to write dialogue the way people actually speak to one another in real life, but this is often repetitive and more messy than we realize. Hough, Jr. helps fiction writers be more economical with their word choice and write dialogue that carries the story forward.

Bird by Bird

By anne lamott.

I think no list of books about writing would be complete without Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird . I’m just reading it for the first time after hearing it recommended over and over, and I have to agree with all the resounding voices that this book is really that good. Lamott shares all that she knows about writing from her vast experience as both a writer and writing instructor. You’ll learn how to tackle projects little by little, accept that you’re first draft will be terrible, and how to develop authentic characters, and so much more. If you’ve never read Bird by Bird and you’re a writer, you should check it out.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider scrolling down and Recommending it here on Medium. Visit The Whisper Project for more writing tips. You can also sign up for my author newsletter here .

Tom Farr is a blogger, storyteller, and screenwriter who teaches English Language Arts to high school students. He loves creating and spending time with his wife and three children. He blogs regularly about writing and storytelling at The Whisper Project .

The 5 Books You Need to Read to Make You More Creative

If you like what you just read, please hit the green ‘Recommend’ button below.

This collection is sister to The Curious Cat Project (CCP), a website that connects writers from all over the world. Follow CCP on Facebook .

More from Curiosity Never Killed the Writer

Collecting words, phrases, pops of poetry, and all things about writing. Refer to our guidelines for submitting. https://www.facebook.com/curiosityneverkilledthewriter

About Help Terms Privacy

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store

Tom is a writer and high school English teacher. He loves creating and spending time with his wife and children. For freelancing, email [email protected] .

Text to speech

books story writer

books story writer

20 Great Writers on Their Favorite Story Collections

Lauren groff, george saunders, samanta schweblin and more.

Receiving the right collection of stories at the right moment can be a gift to any writer. Especially when starting out. In the spring of 1943, for example, when she was a student at George State College for Women, Mary Flannery O’Connor was given Dubliners  and it was in imitating the fellow Irish Catholic writer that she began the process of sounding like herself.

Tacking away to get closer to one’s own voice can take years. It often means bouncing off distant moons. Here are the collections our best short story writers frequently say make for excellent compass points—from O’Connor’s own,  A Good Man is Hard to Find , to  Ficciones  by Jorge Luis Borges.

books story writer

Collected Stories , Isaac Babel

– George Saunders, author of  Lincoln in the Bardo

The Collected Stories by Grace Paley

The Collected Stories  by Grace Paley

The Collected Stories by Grace Paley is a marvel of a book, a brilliant example for any writer who is looking to understand voice, concision, humor, the passage of time, and how to convey political passion lightly. Paley started out as a poet, and it shows. I usually start classes with the very tiny “A Man Tells Me The Story of His Life,” because it’s a clear and smart way to illustrate how a good story has more than one story in it.

– Lauren Groff, author of  Florida

Isaac Babel’s Red Cavalry

Red Cavalry , Isaac Babel

Every writer has his or her own things to say, and every writer discovers those things in his or her own way and says them in his or her own way—so I’m dubious that it’s possible to learn much about making one’s own writing by reading someone else’s. But I do think that the written evidence of a good writer’s mind is exhilarating and fortifying and can sharpen one’s aspirations—and if you want to read spectacularly graceful distillations of spectacularly intense, complex, ephemeral experience, you could hardly do better than stories in Isaac Babel’s  Red Cavalry .

–Deborah Eisenberg, author of Your Duck is My Duck, forthcoming in September

Drifting House by Krys Lee

Drifting House,  Krys Lee

Drifting House by Krys Lee is one of those books I’m constantly pressing into students’ hands. With both pinpoint focus and a large communal scope, the stories in this collection flash upon all aspects of the contemporary Korean/Korean-American experience—emigrating, being left behind, prosperity and poverty, crossings and the clash of the contemporary against the traditional. The stories can be subtle, like “At the Edge of the World” in which a North Korean father tries to adjust to a new life and a new family in LA. Or there can be a tour-de-force feel, as is found in “Beautiful Women,” which is sweeping in its portraits of the fates of vulnerable women in Korea. Behind all these stories is the vision of a serious literary artist, dealing with universal notions of alienation, dislocation and abandonment. There’s connection and self-fulfillment, too, as is found by the narrator of “Goose Father.” This is the opposite of escapist reading—it takes you to a new place, challenges you and then rewards your efforts.

–Adam Johnson, author of  Fortune Smiles

The Collected Stories,  Grace Paley

I argued with myself a lot over what collection I’d recommend to students, partly because in my life as a teacher of creative writing I rarely suggest a single book to all students: my recommendations are generally bespoke.

In the end I chose the collection that my own teachers chose piecemeal for me. When I was in her undergraduate workshop at Boston University, Sue Miller read us “An Interest in Life.” The next year, at the Iowa Writers Workshop, Allan Gurganus read “A Conversation With My Father.” Even now, about three decades later, I hear each story in each teacher’s voice. And who does the world need more these days than Grace Paley? I’m fudging, of course, because these two stories were published originally in different books, but  The Collected Stories  by Grace Paley is as good a manual as I know of what fiction can accomplish on the page and in the world.

–Elizabeth McCracken, author of Thunderstruck

open secrets

Open Secrets , Alice Munro

Alice Munro’s Open Secrets is so liberating and exciting for any new story writer to feel her open textures, her bold reach, her plainness, with no showing off, no special effects. She reminds us that there’s no formula for a story, it can be as loosely woven as you like, as long as the inner logic works organically. Easier said of course, much easier said, than done.

–Tessa Hadley, author of Bad Dreams and Other Stories

Tobias Wolff's Our Story Begins

Our Story Begins,  Tobias Wolff

Tobias Wolff’s Our Story Begins is much more than a vast manual of examples of how to build great characters, unforgettable situations, and powerful dialogues. It shows how great stories are always born of small details and grow thanks to a power of invocation that is reinforced word by word, as a vital spell, which can only be built by walking hand in hand with the reader.

–Samanta Schweblin, author of Fever Dream

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five , Kurt Vonnegut

(Eds: We know this isn’t a short story collection, but…) The book I most recommend to writers starting out is Slaughterhouse-Five  by Kurt Vonnegut. The fact that it is a sci-fi autobiographical book shows how we have to tell any story any which way we want. A story about death can be funny a story about losing can actually be uplifting and the story of your life doesn’t necessarily have to be hyper realistic. The ability to expose that one-of-a-kind feeling of a human experience calls for a vivid cocktail of sincerity and imagination and Vonnegut has both big time.

–Etgar Keret, author of Seven Good Years

Behind the Short Story: From First to Final Draft edited by Ryan G. Van Cleave and Todd James Pierce 

Behind the Short Story: From First to Final Draft, edited by Ryan G. Van Cleave and Todd James Pierce

It is a thoughtfully put together book, designed as a craft book with writing prompts after each story. But the best parts are the essays accompanying each story, written by the author, commenting on the inspiration and the challenges to writing that story, and in the process demystifying the process of writing. The essays are so informal, speaking directly and honestly to the aspiring writer. Authors include: George Saunders, Mary Gaitskill, etc.

–Helon Habila, author of  The Chibok Girls and editor of The Granta Book of the African Short Story

Flannery O'Connor a good man is hard to find

A Good Man Is Hard to Find,  Flannery O’Connor

Every young writer should read Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find at least three or four times. If you’ve ever thought creativity was opposed to clarity, or that funny stories aren’t serious, or that stories about abnormal people are about abnormal people, or that the road to the realistic was through realism—O’Connor is here to disabuse you, with pleasure. And do take note of her characterization and story structure, too! Textbook.

–Gish Jen, author of Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap

Flannery O’ Connor’s Collected Stories,

The Complete Stories , Flannery O’Connor

I’d put in a plug for Flannery O’Connor’s  Complete Stories , since I thought they were marvelous instruction in how to manage deadpan comedy and potentially melodramatic violence (or the threat of violence) in the service of getting around the modern reader’s defenses, since, as she put it, when you’re writing literature, you’re trying to get people who don’t want to listen to listen, and trying to get people who don’t want to see to see.

– Jim Shepard, author of The World to Come

A Manual for Cleaning Women

A Manual For Cleaning Women , Lucia Berlin

These days I most often recommend Lucia Berlin’s  A Manual for Cleaning Women.  It’s essential reading for writers trying to capture the texture of life on the margins of our increasingly brutal society without the prose itself becoming brutal or brittle. I was introduced to Berlin’s work by one of her protégés, Chip Livingston, whose tremendously supple collection of prose,  Naming Ceremony , I also highly recommend.

–Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Gold Fame Citrus

O’Connor’s works are full of evil mockery, occasionally reminiscent of Baudelaire or Kundera. Don’t expect to find things like love, tenderness, or sentiment in her stories. This makes me tremendously happy.

–A Yi, author of Grey Stories  and A Perfect Crime

The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol

The Collected Tales , Nikolai Gogol

That’s easy. Mostly and mainly for the short story “The Nose”—which teaches more in one story about calmly building a reality than pretty much any work I can name. It’s an impossible story to execute, and he does it so simply and naturally. A man wakes up without his nose and chases it around town trying to talk it back onto his face. Perfection!

– Nathan Englander, author of Dinner at the Center of the Earth

The Secret Self: A Century of Short Stories by Women edited by Hermione Lee.

The Secret Self: A Century of Short Stories by Women,  edited by Hermione Lee

This book is stuffed full of superstars from Nobel Prize winners (Lessing, Munro) to Pulitzer winners (Walker, Welty, Porter, Stafford) and Booker Prize winners (Atwood, Gordimer). The classics are here too, Mansfield with  The Daughters of the Late Colonel , Cather’s  Coming, Aphrodite ! and O’Connor’s  Revelation . The anthology is an overwhelming display of substance and skill, with dazzling variations in style and voice. I read it when I first started writing (and reading as a writer) and it has been one of my best investments. I also credit it with introducing me to the work of Anita Desai and Jean Rhys, who over the years became favorite, influential writers.

–Leila Aboulela, author of Elsewhere, Home


Magic For Beginners , Kelly Link

A one-size-fits-all story collection does not exist, of course—sometimes a writer needs some Borges and sometimes she needs some Lydia Davis. The writer who’s never heard of Barry Hannah probably requires a dose of Airships , and the writer who has never read Steven Millhauser needs to fall into “In the Reign of Harad IV” ASAP.

But if there’s one collection I find myself recommending more than others lately, it’s Kelly Link’s Magic For Beginners . Lots of student writers read Harry Potter or Percy Jackson as kids; maybe in their teens they moved on to Stephen King or Bradbury or Gaiman or (one hopes) LeGuin. I’m learning that these writers, when they’re being asked to read Edith Wharton or John Updike or Melville, are dazzled by Link’s ability to plant multiple limbs in multiple genres. She fuses childhood terrors with adult estrangement; her stories are gorgeous, delicate, spooky, human, and deeply layered.

–Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See

The Essential Tales Of Chekhov

–Olga Tokarczuk, author of Flights


Ficciones,  Jorge Luis Borges

Ficciones  by Jorge Luis Borges is no longer my favorite short story book. I could name dozens I love more and held more dear—but when I read it, at age 12 I think, maybe younger, it blew my mind in a way that taught me that fiction was a territory of freedom unlike any other, where if I’d venture, I’d have immense powers. The possibilities that these stories offer, the sheer power of the imagination displayed here, is unforgettable. And for me to read it in Spanish, to read this kind of wizardry in my language, was just a joy.

–Mariana Enriquez, author of Things We Lost in the Fire


Airships , Barry Hannah

Hannah’s work was an attack on  hungry time itself —his words—and the campaign was successful.  His stories are alive.  I recommend them to readers and writers for the surprise and uplift of his prose. His sentences abound with syntactical twists, archaic words, bardlike phrases, Biblical notes.  Where else are the lovers so wild with longing they confess “I want to rip her arm off. I want to sleep in her uterus with my foot hanging out.”  Humor, horror, heartbreak, and the music he makes with those sentences all are to be found in Airships .

–Christine Schutt, author of Pure Hollywood

Rennai Shosetsushu (Collected Love Stories), Edited and Translated by Sachiko Kishimoto

This (from a Japanese perspective) is a foreign collection of strange love stories, including Ali Smith’s “May,” A.M. Holmes’ “A Real Doll, ” and Ray Vukcevich’s “By the Time We Get to Uranus,” among others. These various loves probably considered odd by “ordinary” people have been brought together in one compact sample that strikes me for its sheer unadulterated purity.  This book also teaches us about the freedom of fiction. A place that is closer to truth than reality can be really strange, and I love how this magical book leads us there.

– Sayaka Murata, author of Convenience Store Woman , as translated here by Ginny Tapley Takemori

books story writer

The preceding is from the new  Freeman’s  channel at Literary Hub, which will feature excerpts from the print editions of  Freeman’s , along with supplementary writing from contributors past, present and future. The latest issue of  Freeman’s , a special edition featuring 29 of the best emerging writers from around the world, is available now.

John Freeman

John Freeman

Previous article, next article, to the lithub daily, popular posts.

books story writer

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

books story writer

The Last Days of Robert F. Kennedy

Literary Hub

Created by Grove Atlantic and Electric Literature

Advertisers: Contact Us

Privacy Policy

books story writer

8 Fictional Books About Writers and the Writing Life

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, you’ve probably discovered by now that finding a balance between writing and life can be challenging. Most writers have other things going on in their lives — school, families, jobs, and so on — and don’t have the resources to write full-time with no other responsibilities, whether that’s what we want or not. A writer can be any kind of person with any kind of life, which is one of the things that makes it so great to be a reader — there is a story for everyone. And sometimes the stories we want are exactly that: stories of what it is like to be a writer.

There are memoirs and biographies, of course, and published journals and letters. But sometimes I am in the mood for fiction. What writerly lives have real writers created in their imaginations? I have assembled this list of eight novels about writers and the writing life. Some of the titles focus first and foremost on the writing, while others are about other aspects of the lives of people who just happen to be writers. Some are contemporary, some are not; there’s romance, young adult, literary, and middle grade titles about multiple types of writers. Enjoy!

8 Books About Writers and the Writing Life

beach read cover

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Romance novelist January and literary fiction author Augustus are former college rivals and current neighbors, and they both have problems. Grief, trauma, and writer’s block are getting in their way. They challenge each other to swap genres, and find out a lot about each other in the process. Also there is banging and feelings. It’s the perfect book for anyone looking for a mix of the highs and very lows of real life.

Breasts and Eggs book cover

Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami

This book is told from the perspectives of Natsuko, a 30-year-old aspiring writer, and Midoriko, her 12-year-old niece who is journaling about her inner thoughts about adolescence. I am still reading this one, but reviews suggest that the second half is from a younger Natsuko’s perspective and is a meditation on whether she wants to pursue motherhood without a partner — or at all. It’s contemplative and very funny.

The Downstairs Girl book cover

The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee

Set in the late 1800s, this is a charming YA novel about Jo Kuan, lady’s maid by day and “Dear Sweetie” by night. She writes an advice column for the gentile ladies of Atlanta, doing her best to help fix society’s ills. When she pushes back on race and gender roles, angry readers try to find out who Miss Sweetie is. Then Jo receives an anonymous letter that could lead to the identity of her birth parents, and she has a lot of decisions to make.

Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Okay, so most writers probably don’t have to juggle single parenthood, writer’s block, and being mistaken for a contract killer — let alone finding themself with an actual dead body. But I guess you might , and this book is a great read whether you find it instructive or not. I particularly love how real it is about the challenges of mothering small children and trying to get literally anything else done.

happily ever afters cover

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

Sixteen-year-old Tessa Johnson just got into a prestigious creative writing program, and she has a problem: no ideas. Her best friend Caroline suggests that Tessa needs a real-life romance to inspire her, and gives her a list to complete in order to win over Nico, the boy of her dreams — who unfortunately already has a girlfriend. Tessa is determined, but what if it turns out this isn’t the love story she wants?

Hazel's Theory of Evolution book cover

Hazel’s Theory of Evolution by Lisa Jenn Bigelow

In this touching middle grade novel, Hazel has to change schools and cope with her feelings about a potential younger sibling when one of her moms gets pregnant after two miscarriages. Hazel’s best friend is still at her old school and they’re growing apart. She gets teased for living on a farm, and struggles with not being interested in romance. She copes with all of it (in part) by journaling, which is an important kind of writing that can fit into anyone’s life.

Spoiler Alert cover

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

April and Marcus both write fan fiction for their favorite TV series, and share it with each other under their anonymous screen names on an internet forum. But what April doesn’t know is that her online friend Book!AeneasWouldNever is actually Marcus, who plays Aeneas on the series. Who she is currently fake dating after an unfortunate incident on Twitter. Fanfic writers are real writers, and this book shows some of the ups and downs that can happen when fiction meets reality.

Topaz by Beverly Jenkins

Topaz by Beverly Jenkins

Kate Love is a Black journalist in the 1800s investigating a a railroad stock swindler. When she gets in trouble, she is rescued by Dix Wildhorse, a Black Seminole Marshal sent by her father, who has promised her in marriage to pay his gambling debts. This historical romance novel has it all — Kate is ambitious and independent, Dix is capable and kind, and Miss Bev pulls no punches in presenting a vibrant love story in a realistic (historical) setting.

Further Reading

Looking for even more? We’ve got you covered. Check these out:

You Might Also Like

The Nobel Prize In Literature Winners You Need to Read

11 best books on writing

The 12 Best Books on Writing I’ve Ever Read

Regardless how many books I’ve written (nearly 200) and sold (over 70 million), I fear if I’m not learning, I’m stagnating.

My late mother was a convincing example of one who never believed she had arrived. Mom was not only a piano teacher well into her eighties, but she was also a piano student.

So it’s the memory of my mother that spurs me also to keep reading everything there is to read—especially about writing.

The books below (in alpha order by author) represent a fraction of those available. You could read one per day for the rest of your life and not exhaust the resources . But, in my opinion, these are the best books on writing available.

Some require wearing your big kid pants due to language, which I have noted.

1. The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work

By Marie Arana

This book came from ten years of Ms. Arana’s  Washington Post Book World  column. More than fifty fiction and nonfiction authors share how they discovered they were writers and how they work. I was fascinated by what pleases and annoys them. Arana also profiles each writer.

Click here to get the book .

2. Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot that Grips Readers from Start to Finish

By James Scott Bell (friend and colleague)

Anything but a dry textbook, this breezy guide is from a former trial lawyer who keeps you entertained while covering basics like how plot impacts structure, the difference between popular and literary fiction, and how to serve as your own book doctor.

3. Getting into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors

By Brandilyn Collins (friend and colleague)

Calling on her theater training, Collins teaches bringing characters to life the way actors do on stage. She draws on the Method Acting approach to explain and adapt characterization techniques for novelists.

4. The Writing Life

By Annie Dillard

Dillard’s hauntingly ethereal prose soars even when she’s writing about writing. That’s rare. I resonate with her honesty about how grueling the craft can be. This is one of the best books on writing available.

5. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft [language]

By Stephen King (acquaintance)

At the risk of hyperbole , there’s so much to recommend here that I hardly know where to begin. Besides all the practical advice, you get King’s own rags-to-riches story in his inimitable voice. You  learn a ton  while being wildly entertained.

6. How to Write Bestselling Fiction   [mild language]

By Dean Koontz

I’m not overstating it that this book changed my life. It informed the way I wrote the Left Behind series, which has sold more than 60 million copies and still sells six figures every year, nearly a decade since the last title was released. I use this as a textbook when I teach writing.

7. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life   [language]

By Anne Lamott

Lamott has you howling with laughter one minute and weeping the next as she recounts, with brutal honesty, the joys and travails of the writing life, single parenting, overcoming addiction, and coming to faith.

8. Writing the Breakout Novel: Insider Advice for Taking Your Fiction to the Next Level

By Donald Maass

An agent challenges you to do more than just spin a yarn, but to also think “big concept,” tackle major themes, and write life-changing works.

9. Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies

By Sol Stein (acquaintance)

Novelist, editor, publisher (Stein & Day), and writing teacher, Stein is one of the deans of the American literary scene. His career spans decades, and he shares insider stories of famous novelists and their work, as well as everything he learned along the way. I sat under his teaching years ago and still follow his advice.

10. On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction

By William Zinsser

Zinsser’s background  should not be missed. He was a graceful classicist as a writer, and this million-seller has been lauded for its warmth and clarity. Zinsser offers sound tips on the fundamentals of writing any kind of nonfiction you can think of.

Now, don’t read  any  of those books for writers, until…

…you’ve read the bible of writing books:

11. The Elements of Style

By William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

Failing to start your reading on writing with anything other than this undisputed classic would be akin to reading the top ten Christian classics while ignoring the Bible. This short paperback is recommended by every writing teacher I know. I’ve read it at least once a year for more than 40 years. Its simple truths cover everything from style and grammar and usage. Make them second nature.

12. Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Let’s Them Go

By Les Edgerton

Les is one of the most powerfully edgy writers in the business, and you must have your big kid pants on to read his novels. But any writer will benefit from this great resource.

Packed with helpful, practical advice, it carries his blunt tone (but nothing offensive). I refer to it regularly.

If you’ve read none of the other books on this list, start with Stephen King’s  On Writing . A short course in mistakes to avoid while writing, it’ll remind you why you wanted to be an author . Then, especially if you want to be a novelist, read Dean Koontz’s  How to Write Bestselling Fiction .

You could learn more in just those two books than in an entire college writing course.

BONUS:   Before investing in one of these, download my free guide:  How to Write a Book: Everything You Need to Know in 20 Steps . 

Amateur writing mistake

Are You Making This #1 Amateur Writing Mistake?

White blooming flower

Faith-Based Words and Phrases

books story writer

What You and I Can Learn From Patricia Raybon

books story writer

Before you go, be sure to grab my FREE guide:

How to Write a Book: Everything You Need to Know in 20 Steps

Just tell me where to send it:

Enter your name and email to instantly access How to Write a Book: Everything You Need to Know in 20 Steps

Become a Writer Today

10 Best Books on Writing Fiction For Your Reading List

Improve your fiction writing by adding these best books on writing fiction to your reading list.

If you are ready to jump into the world of fiction writing, books are about to become your best friend. Not only can you learn from reading other fiction works, but you can also learn from reading the best books on writing fiction. Creative writing is a skill, and the more you learn about that skill, the better your writing will be.

So what books should you be searching for at the library or adding to your Amazon wish list? How can your reading lists turn your own writing into the next bestseller? Here are some of the best books on fiction writing that will make you the next Anne Lammot or Stephen King, or at least make your creative writing and story structure just a little better.

1. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

2. story engineering: mastering the 6 core competencies of successful writing, 3. the secrets of story, 4. improv for writers: 10 secrets to help novelists and screenwriters bypass writer’s block and generate infinite ideas, 5. about writing: seven essays, four letters, & five interviews, 6. the art of fiction: notes on craft for young writers, 7. how to write a damn good novel, 8. on writing: a memoir of the craft, 9. bird by bird: some instructions on writing and life, 10. self-editing for fiction writers, the final word on the best books on writing fiction, faqs on the best books on writing fiction, further reading.

Audible has a massive library of audiobooks and offers a great returns policy. Take out a free trial and get two free audiobooks


Yes, this book is talking about nonfiction, but the tools you will learn in On Writing Well will also translate into your fiction writing. This book by William Zinsser was originally published in 1976, and since that time it has grown into a classic.

Best Books on Writing Fiction

So what can you glean from this work? This book is full of writing tips on sentence structure, mechanics and overall writing skills. The tone is very conversational, making it an easy read.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

This book by Larry Brooks is vital to fiction writers. Writing short stories and novels requires an understanding of storytelling, or building a story and bringing characters to life, and that’s exactly what this book strives to teach.

The book treats storytellers like engineers. It teaches them how to build a successful story, piece by piece until they have a workable story and plot structure. The writing is a bit intense, but the skills you will learn are helpful in teaching fiction writing.

Story Engineering

Have you ever wondered why some stories are so compelling, and others fall flat? The Secrets of Story tries to unravel the answer to this question. This book by Matt Bird will help you learn how to tell a story that will engage your audience, leaving them wanting to come back for more.

This particular book makes it on the list because it has a handy checklist. With the checklist in hand, you can improve your fiction writing to make it the type of story people feel compelled to read. This is a must-read that should be on the reading lists of all aspiring writers.

The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers

Every writer, no matter their skill level, will face writer’s block . Improv for Writers by Jorjeana Marie helps writers learn how to overcome that and generate new, fresh ideas that keep the writing flowing.

Like most good books about writing fiction, this title is packed with practical tips written in a positive, affirming manner. The author’s love for writing and writers shows on every page, making it an enjoyable read.

Improv for Writers: 10 Secrets to Help Novelists and Screenwriters Bypass Writer's Block and Generate Infinite Ideas

About Writing explores the specifics of fiction writing. Author Samuel R. Delany explores thoughts like when is it appropriate to use flashbacks and how you can create vivid characters that pull on the reader’s sympathies.

In this book, Delany explores how today’s writers are different than authors of past generations, like Hemingway and Fitzgerald. This helps today’s writers learn how to understand the great classic writers, while still understanding their own needs as a modern author .

About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, & Five Interviews

Author John Gardner takes classic works of literature and helps young writers understand what makes them great. With The Art of Fiction, new fiction writers can learn to view their craft as a type of art. It assists people in making the transition from reader to writer through criticism, passion and respect for artistic works.

The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers

Dramatic storytelling is an art that James N. Frey explores in this book. Not only does it explore good writing, but it also explores storytelling and story structure.

With the writing advice in this book, writers can create a first draft that is compelling and effective. Fiction writers who are interested in novel writing must put this one on their list.

How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling

Books written by exceptional storytellers are always great to add to the writer’s library, and Stephen King offers up On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. King goes back to his childhood to explore what made him into the famous writer he is today. This gives the reader a little peek into the mind of a master storyteller.

Along the way, King also explores the structure and mechanics that make writing work. He also touches on the lifestyle of a writer, and that makes his book a must-read for anyone who is truly passionate about fiction writing. The book has much practical advice woven into an engaging memoir.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (A Memoir of the Craft (Reissue))

Anne Lamott explores what it means to be a writer in Bird by Bird. She believes that many people have a book inside of them but may need a little help to let it out. Her witty approach to exploring the writing life can help you understand exactly what it will take to overcome writer’s block and create your next new book or screenplay.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Not all books on this writer’s book list are about plot structure and character development. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King teaches writers how to use solid editing techniques to edit their own work. It explores everything from dialogue to point of view to ensure your writing is solid before you send it to the publisher.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print

Writing fiction is a skill that takes time to polish and develop. Many of us have our own stories to tell, but you may need a little bit of help to get it out. Before hiring a literary agent or seeking a publisher, first, take some time to do a little reading for yourself from this list of must-read books for writers .

What books should be on every writer’s bookshelf?

The best books for your bookshelf will depend on the writing you are going to tackle. Non-fiction writers need different reading material than fiction writers. For non-fiction writers, books on grammar and structure, like The Elements of Style are critical. For fiction writers, books on how to overcome writer’s block and how to build a plot structure are a good choice.

Who are some of the top authors for fiction writers?

As a fiction writer, you should read books by other fiction writers. Renni Browne, Dave King, Stephen King, Anne Lamott and Larry Brooks are all excellent authors with practical advice for aspiring writers.

Join over 15,000 writers today

Get a FREE book of writing prompts and learn how to make more money from your writing.

Success! Now check your email to claim your prompts.

There was an error submitting your subscription. Please try again.

books story writer

Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.

View all posts

Authors & Events


New Stories to Listen to

Penguin Random House

The Best Books on Writing

Writing is, as a general rule, hard. defining yourself as a writer can be even harder. from grammar rules to publishing advice to personal narratives, these books on writing reveal in intimate detail the ins and outs of what it means to call yourself a writer.  these are some of the best books on writing with insight and wisdom that can support you at all stages of your writing process..

Dreyer's English Book Cover Picture

Dreyer’s English

By benjamin dreyer, paperback $18.00, buy from other retailers:.

The Forest for the Trees (Revised and Updated) Book Cover Picture

The Forest for the Trees (Revised and Updated)

By betsy lerner.

The Elements of Style Illustrated Book Cover Picture

The Elements of Style Illustrated

By william strunk, jr. and e. b. white.

Sin and Syntax Book Cover Picture

Sin and Syntax

By constance hale, paperback $17.00.

Naked, Drunk, and Writing Book Cover Picture

Naked, Drunk, and Writing

By adair lara, paperback $15.99.

Bird by Bird Book Cover Picture

Bird by Bird

By anne lamott.

Poemcrazy Book Cover Picture

by Susan G. Wooldridge

Paperback $16.00.

Writing Better Lyrics Book Cover Picture

Writing Better Lyrics

By pat pattison, paperback $20.99.

Walking on Water Book Cover Picture

Walking on Water

By madeleine l’engle.

Story Genius Book Cover Picture

Story Genius

By lisa cron.

Visit other sites in the Penguin Random House Network

Raise kids who love to read

Today's Top Books

Want to know what people are actually reading right now?

An online magazine for today’s home cook

Stay in Touch

By clicking Sign Up, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to Penguin Random House's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use and understand that Penguin Random House collects certain categories of personal information for the purposes listed in that policy, discloses, sells, or shares certain personal information and retains personal information in accordance with the policy . You can opt-out of the sale or sharing of personal information anytime.

Become a Member

Start earning points for buying books! Just for joining you’ll get personalized recommendations on your dashboard daily and features only for members.

Point Status This is where you’ll see your current point status and your earned rewards. To redeem, copy and paste the code during the checkout process. See Account Overview


  1. 5 Profound Life Lessons I Learned from Writing My New Book

    books story writer

  2. 11 Top Tips for Writing a Book People Will Want to Read • Online Logo Maker's Blog

    books story writer

  3. Storybird

    books story writer

  4. Author Writing A Novel At Home Stock Photo

    books story writer

  5. Person writing in a book

    books story writer

  6. Story Writer

    books story writer


  1. reading a book #book #books #shorts #shortvideo

  2. the story book abouts

  3. Short books to read 📚

  4. Books You Should Read!!

  5. Top Books To Read



  1. 19 of the Best Books of 2021

    A bookworm is happiest when they’re surrounded by books — both old and new. Undoubtedly, 2021 was a great year for both fiction and nonfiction, with bestsellers like Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters and Second Place by Rachel Cusk.

  2. 13 Must-Read Books & Collections by Indigenous Writers

    November is Native American Heritage Month and numerous states are participating in this observance. President Joe Biden previously issued a proclamation ahead of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and he did the same at the cusp of Native American H...

  3. What Is the Definition of a “news Story”?

    A news story is a factual, prose story for print or broadcast media about a person, place or event answering these five questions: who, what, when, where, why and how. A news story is written in the inverted-pyramid style, giving the most i...

  4. Storybird

    9 million writers in more than 100 countries around the world use Storybird to tell their stories. Read the best writers, publish your work, and get expert

  5. 20 Best Story Writing Books of All Time

    Not easy to do.In this book, #1 bestselling writing teacher James Scott Bell explains the essential ingredient for a successful short story, no matter the genre

  6. 34 of the Best Books On Writing: Inspirational Reads

    Books on becoming a better writer · 1. “On Writing” by Stephen King · 2. “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott · 3. “Writer's Market” edited by Robert Lee

  7. The 40 Best Books About Writing: A Reading List for Authors

    The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig · Dreyer's English by Benjamin Dreyer · The Elements of Style by Strunk, White, and Kalman · The Story Grid

  8. 11 Books to Read to Become a Better Fiction Writer

    1. Anatomy of Story. byJohn Truby ; 2. On Writing. by Stephen King ; 3. Story. by Robert McKee ; 4. Story Engineering. by Larry Brooks ; 5. Story Physics. by Larry

  9. 20 Great Writers on Their Favorite Story Collections

    Lauren Groff, George Saunders, Samanta Schweblin and More · The Collected Stories by Grace Paley · Red Cavalry, Isaac Babel · Drifting House, Krys

  10. 8 Fictional Books About Writers and the Writing Life

    A writer can be any kind of person with any kind of life, which is one of the things that makes it so great to be a reader — there is a story

  11. The 12 Best Books on Writing I've Ever Read

    12 Books Every Aspiring Author Should Read · 1. The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work · 2. Plot & Structure: Techniques and

  12. 10 Best Books On Writing Fiction (2023)

    10 Best Books on Writing Fiction For Your Reading List · 1. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction · 2. Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core

  13. Book & eBook Writing

    Book & eBook Writing · Craft a captivating and compelling book description · Write engaging and creative short stories for you · Ghost write 40,000 words ebook

  14. The Best Books on Writing

    The Best Books on Writing · Writing is, as a general rule, hard. Defining yourself as a writer can be even harder. · Dreyer's English · by Benjamin Dreyer · The