A List of Writing Books on How to Write
What you’ll get out of this article on the best fiction writing books…
I sorted through all of my writing books and highlighted an awesome writing tip to show you a small piece of what the author has to offer. Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. (disclosure)
If something speaks to you, go check out the book. It might be a good match for where you are in your writing journey. Take note, many of these books are in Kindle Unlimited. If you have a subscription, you can read some of them free. Great deal. (Click on the link above to learn more about Kindle Unlimited’s First Month Free option.)
Some books are conversational, some are fun, some are super-detailed, and others nailed home a point I needed to know at the time. I hope by sharing my love of how to write fiction books, you’ll find a new read that guides you to another level in your writing.
I have a problem. Maybe it’s an addiction. I have a mad love for writing books. It started when I was younger. I’d browse book stores scouring for gems, or leave the library with a fat stack of books.
Now, with ebooks, I can keep them all on my iPad and read with Kindle app. Great to always have a selection of books to read nearby.
I have over 160 creative writing books.
Yep. A problem. Only if you have the wrong perspective of course. If I grab a nugget of gold, it’s worth the time and effort of reading the book.
Note: I have all of the books on this list. This is not a random, pie-in-the-sky list where I “heard” they might be good. Nope. These are all happily sitting in my possession. Been there, read them, recommend them.
Let’s get started!
Best Books for Writers – List Starts Here
These are some of the books that stood out for me on my learning journey. Everybody has a different favorite, and these are in no particular order. For example, while I might rave about a John Truby book (which I will), others will rave about Larry Brooks, Robert McKee, or maybe Lisa Cron. There is no right or wrong answer…these are simply books that spoke to me.
I hope one of these awesome reads will inspire you, and help take your writing to the next level.
Speaking of John Truby…
I adore his book, “The Anatomy of Story.” It’s a book I recommend often.
QUOTE: Give your hero a moral need as well as a psychological need. It increases the scope of the character and moves the audience in a powerful way.
The next book is a full series. You’ll thank my later. Check out the entire series of the Emotional Thesaurus books. Positive, Negative, Wounds, and so much more. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi have won many fans – as these books are often mentioned in helpful resource threads between authors.
GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict (Debra Dixon)
QUOTE: people make unusual decisions under pressure. Some decisions lead to humor, some to danger, some to mistakes.
This book is direct, without fluff, and helps you have a few aha moments. Every chapter, every scene needs a GMC.
My Story Can Beat up Your Story (Jeffrey Alan Schechter) I love this clever title! Don’t you?
QUOTE: Heroes ask questions. Villains make arguments.
Concise…great points that really get your attention. A simple statement like the one above…beautifully stated in six words, and in a manner that makes you “get” it.
Save the Cat Writes a Novel (Jessica Brody)
QUOTE: Your hero’s problem should affect their entire world: their work, their home life, and their relationships.
I needed this reminder. I’d get involved in a story, and be so focused on one aspect, I forgot to show how it compromised my hero in all areas of their life. It makes for a well-rounded story when you add those elements.
More of the Best Fiction Writing Books
Save the Cat (Blake Snyder) No, you’re not seeing double. This was written first but was directed at screenwriters. It was a classic, and so good, that when the novel version came out, many snapped it up without needing to think about it. One click, baby.
QUOTE: Stakes must be stakes for people we care about. And what might happen to them from the get-go, so we know the consequences of the imminent threat.
The Secrets of Story (Matt Bird)
QUOTE: Sympathy is great, but it’s not as important as empathy. Tony Soprano, Don Draper, and Walter White…we intensely feel for these anti-heroes, sharing their frustrations, and anguish through not their hates. We are privileged with an intimate understanding of their raw hopes and fears, even if we never sympathize with their goals.
Wow. Powerful stuff. Right? Here’s the thing… These anti-heroes sucked us into their stories. They were well written and grabbed hold of us, because of the deep emotion embedded in them. We got it, even if they weren’t shining examples of heroes. They were unique, in-depth characters that drew us in, making us tune in week after week, just for another taste of an intensely drawn character. We empathized with them as they struggled. Imagine that?
Story Genius (Lisa Cron)
QUOTE: Story is what happens internally, not externally. Not fully grasping the importance of this is what tanks countless novels….and one more…It’s about what the protagonist has to learn to overcome, to deal with internally in order to solve the problem that the external plot poses.
We get caught up in the details, and sometimes look past a crucial element like this. Story is the character’s change and growth. But he/she needs to deal with it to fix the external issues. Good stuff. I’ve taken one of her online classes on this…some good reminders and eye-opening moments. You can check out a list of writing courses and workshops here.
Writing Books for Fiction Writers Worth Reading
Structuring Your Novel (book/and workbook) – (K.M. Weiland)
QUOTE: Can you identify one way to introduce the essence of his personality or story role through action, and one way to introduce it through dialogue?
I’m not going to lie. I love K.M. Weiland’s stuff. She has an amazing blog, as well as software, and plenty of books. Check out the books on story arcs while you’re at it.
Take Off Your Pants (Libbie Hawker)
QUOTE: Make your character flawed in a serious, big, scary, potentially life-wrecking way.
I love how she words this. Sometimes I need a reminder to go bigger and bolder. This is a quick read, that’s easy to understand. She also mentions in the book, that she was influenced by John Truby’s “Anatomy of Story” – the first book I mentioned at the top. But don’t discount that as not checking out both. Libbie has her own language and really is great at simplifying things in basic language.
Writing About Villains (Rayne Hall)
QUOTE: Spend a moment on the nails. Are they prawn-pink or nicotine-yellow? Splintered, dirty, or perfectly manicured?
Can’t you just visualize that? Such vivid details. I love Rayne Hall’s books. They are to the point, and I always end up highlighting a bunch of information. I’ve read a bunch of them. In fact, the next book listed is another one by Rayne Hall.
Vivid Plots (Rayne Hall)
QUOTE: Often the mentor is reluctant to give advice. She doesn’t think the main character is experienced/s killed enough for the task and warns him not to undertake the suicidal venture…this creates tension because the main character desperately needs the information. He must prove himself worth of the mentor’s guidance.
Yep. Can you see what I’m talking about? Love me some Rayne Hall. They aren’t meaty, thick books, but they are zero filler, and full of solid writing help.
Advanced Brilliant Writing (Susan May Warren)
QUOTE: How can the villain hurt the hero or heroine the most? How can he cause the hero’s or heroine’s greatest fear to come about?
You’ll see another Susan May Warren book popping up on another writing list I’ll be posting soon. I’ve taken many of her classes through her Novel.Academy, and she knows her stuff. I highly respect her writing and ability to teach.
Writing the Breakout Novel (Donald Maass)
QUOTE: Who is the one ally your protagonist cannot afford to lost? Kill that character. What is your protagonists’ greatest physical asset? Take it away… How much time does your protagonist have to solve his main problem? Shorten it.
Gold nuggets of great writing information. Great read. Good info. Not much more to add.
Techniques of the Selling Writer (Dwight V. Swain)
QUOTE: Enter conflict. Conflict is another name for opposition: a man trying to walk through a locked door. It’s irresistible force meeting immovable object…two entities striving to attain mutually incompatible goals. For one to win, the other must lose.
Think about that. Every scene. Even two friends talking over lunch. One must want something from the other. One wins, one loses. It’s how your story moves forward. Otherwise there’s no point to a scene if it’s merely stagnant conversation for the sake of fattening a story.
Another Batch of Great Books on How to Write Fiction
Story Stakes (H.R. Costa)
QUOTE: At the midpoint, raise the stakes by increasing your protagonists’ level of commitment.
Solid information that is wrapped in resourceful writing books. I have a couple of H.R. Costa’s books and have not been disappointed yet.
The Emotional Craft of Fiction (Donald Maass)
QUOTE: Pick a moment of challenge, reckoning, betrayal, set back, or coming up short. For your protagonist, what’s the worst part of this situation? What makes it excruciating? What makes it a personal failure?
Yep. Another by Donald Maas. Reading this quote, can you see why he rated another book on my list of awesome writing books for writers? Good reminders, and excellent points.
Write Great Fiction – Plot and Structure (James Scott Bell)
QUOTE: Once you get a character with a problem, a serious problem, plotting is just the fancy name for how he or she tries to get out of the predicament.
No list would be complete without a nod to James Scott Bell. I have multiple books by this fabulous author, that always seems to be able to explain things in a way that makes it click. You won’t regret picking this book up.
Dynamic Story Creation in Plain English (Maxwell Alexander Drake)
QUOTE: We discover that themes must speak to the reader on a visceral level, and that if a theme isn’t invisible, it ruins our story because the reader will feel we’re preaching at them, instead of asking them to contemplate a question.
I love this book. I love the simple reminders, and solid information. Don’t preach to your readers. Really. Don’t. People hate that. It’s like getting a lecture. Let them come along for the ride and make up their own mind. Good reminder.
Writing for Emotional Impact (Karl Iglesias)
QUOTE: On tension: “The competent writer always tries to make the reader anxious over how things will turn out, and then delays the resolution for as long as it’s effective. Control the balance between frustration and reward.
I remember reading this book years ago. Years ago. Yep, I still remember it, because it spoke to me in a way that had me going aha, over and over again.
Writing Books for Creative Writers
Break Into Fiction (Mary Buckham and Dianna Love)
QUOTE: It isn’t enough that a character is still striving for a goal. There have to be enough roadblocks thrown in the character’s path to make the goal worth achieving. We cheer for people who succeed against all odds.
Don’t go easy on your peeps. When you think you have enough – toss more issues on your character, more conflict, turn up the screws, and push them to their limits. It makes for a stronger story.
The Plot Whisperer (Martha Alderson)
QUOTE: The energy of the Universal Story flows through three phases: comfort and separation, resistance and struggle, and transformation and return.
We relate to universal stories. They speak to us, because we all understand those elements.
Understanding Conflict (Janice Hardy)
QUOTE: …Make it harder for the protagonist to make decisions, because choosing what to do has emotional consequences, and often, the right choices is the one that protagonist doesn’t want to make.
Confession: I have more than one Janice Hardy book. Love them all. She also has a great website for writers. Be sure to check out her full list of writing books over at Amazon or your favorite ebook retailer. You won’t regret it. She writes in an easy to understand style and nails home the point of what you’re hoping to learn.
My hands are numb. I need to take a quick breather and stretch my fingers. This was quite a list!
Okay. I’m back. Are you ready to wrap this up?
13 Steps to Evil: How to Craft Superbad Villains (Sacha Black)
QUOTE: We don’t need real monsters to scare us: they’re already in our heads.
Ooh. I love that. It cuts to the heart of it. Our deepest fears, they linger in our subconscious until the moment they unleash themselves and taunt us.
Well, there you have it. 19 awesome writing books about how to write. That’s a mouthful, huh?
Be sure to join my newsletter to hear about new helpful articles. Here’s a post on that focuses on books about writing romance — and here’s one for writing books for writing mysteries. I’d love to include Sci-Fi, etc, but I don’t write in that genre, and don’t tend to buy books on writing those topics. I’d hate to include a book I can’t truly recommend. I’d prefer to stick to the actual books I’ve read, not simply heard about.
I hope you’ve found something that speaks to you. Never stop learning. Knowledge is something that never grows old. Sometimes it’s in the way something is phrased. Other times, it’s simply the reminder you needed at the right time. Maybe it’s a topic you’ve been meaning to tackle. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Dig in and keep learning. Happy reading!
Looking for another helpful article? Have you checked out my list of writing questions for new writers?