The Top Books to Help Writers Hone Their Skills

Writing is a craft that requires continuous development.

No matter where you are in your writing career, there is always an opportunity for learning and growth.  

New and veteran authors alike can learn from each other and continue to improve their writing, organization, and overall strategy. 

One of the best ways to learn as a writer is to read. Not only can you take valuable lessons from the authors you read, but you can (and should) read best books on writing!  

In the wise words of famous horror writer Stephen King, 

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Today, we’ll share some of the best books on writing, the ones that will help you the most along your journey. 

Best books on writing:

The Writing Life: Writes on How They Think and Work

By Marie Arana 

Marie Arana is a Washington Post Book World editor who uses this book to share a glimpse of the inside of many different authors’ creative processes. Based on Arana’s “Writing Life” column from the Washington Post Book World, this book features over 50 contemporary writers who share their best secrets on how they work and handle the tough career of writing. They share their highest highs and lowest lows as writers, their joys and their frustrations. Arana expertly introduces each writer, and the result is a powerful piece that can guide both fiction and nonfiction writers. 

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

By James Scott Bel 

This clear, concise guide will review some key writing guidelines. While it’s highly educational in nature, it’s also entertaining and insightful. Bell will review the differences between literary and popular fiction, how to revise your plot, and more, helping you to expertly edit your book. He pairs the lessons with plot examples from well-known books, simple checklists, and other valuable guidance. After reading this book, you’ll be able to expertly examine your plot and structure. At first glance, the topica may sound like one you should know, but even the most seasoned writers will benefit from the discourse in this book. 

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

By Brandilyn Collins 

Other writers aren’t the only ones who can teach you a thinking or two about character development. Actors are experts at bringing characters to life on stage, and writers can learn a lot from Method Acting. Brandilyn Collins brings her years of theater training to the table to help writers create stronger, more realistic characters. She adapts Method Acting techniques for writers, sharing a detailed guide on the top characterization techniques writers should use to develop their characters. With her tips, you will be able to craft more distinctive, yet realistic, characters that propel your story. 

The Writing Life

By Annie Dillard

Annie Dillard is the author of 11 books, including An American Childhood and Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. She leaves nothing off the table by divulging the struggles and hardships of writing. For a book about writing, this one evokes intense emotion, never failing to grasp the reader. She digs deep into the profession or writing, melding memoir with advice. This book doles out a tough balance of the difficulties and the beauty of writing. One of the most meaningful quotes from this book is “The feeling that the work is magnificent, and the feeling that it is abominable, are both mosquitos to be repelled, ignored, or killed, but not indulged.”

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft 

By Stephen King

Stephen King is better known for his horror stories. Countless movies and shows are based on his stories, and there is no doubt about his talent as a writer. His book On Writing is an absolute must read for all writers. There’s no shortness of entertainment as King shares his personal writing story and a wealth of helpful advice. Anyone who loves a great story will enjoy this one, but it has a host of valuable information for all writers. Learn directly from King himself about the experiences and routines that shaped his incredible writing, while being wildly entertained. 

How to Write Bestselling Fiction 

By Dean Koontz

If anyone would know about writing fiction, it would be thriller author Dean Koontz. The novelist, short story writer, screenwriter, and poet has written 14 hardcovers and 16 paperback books that have reached #1 on The New York Times Best Seller list. In How to Write Bestselling Fiction, Koontz shares a “life changing” memoir of his experience with writing, publishing, and everything in between. You’ll learn details about story structure, character development, and theme, as well as an abundance of tips on writing technique. Koontz shares his perspective on handling editors and agents, also divulging helpful advice on contracts and rights. 

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life 

By Anne Lamott

This is not your average book on writing, it’s filled with humor and powerful emotion that will have you fighting tears right after uncontrollable laughter. Lamott laces her writing advice with humor and wisdom. The book title is based on this famous passage:

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.’”

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

By Donald Maass

Author Donal Maass shares the key takeaways from “breakout novels”. In this book, he details the most important writing techniques that will help first-time novelists and published authors alike. He will teach you how to bring your writing to the next level, helping you stand out in a competitive marketplace. Based on the examples of best-selling authors, Maass will teach you how to weave in subplots, develop characters, explore universal themes, draw narrative tension throughout your story, and set your premise apart from the rest. If you’re looking to bring your writing to the next level, to up the ante, this is a must-read. 

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 

Fix writing and create powerful writing with this book from Sol Stein. Stein is an editor, publisher, and novelist with years of experience in this tough industry. From his decades of work, he’s learned a thing or two that can help fiction and nonfiction writers alike. This book is an opportunity to take a glimpse into all he’s learned over the years from his own work and the work of famous novelists. His advice is direct, yet clear, helping all writers improve their writing and editing skills. In this book, you can expect lessons on dialogue, pacing, flashbacks, trimming, triage revision, and much more. 

On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction

By William Zinsser

Willaim Zinsser has an important and impressive background as a classicist writer. His book On Writing Well has ammassion millions of sales, and it delivers practical writing advice with warmth and clarity. No matter what kind of writing you are doing, or what the subject of your writing is, Zinsser shares advice in this memoir that will help you improve. You’ll gain valuable insight from a distinguished teacher and author, whether writing for a hobby or as your full-time career. It’s become such a classic because it’s approachable and helpful for all levels of writers. 

The Elements of Style

By William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White is a classic book on writing that definitely needs to make your list. It’s commonly recommended by writing teachers and experts for its coverage of elementary principles of composition. The book shares lists of commonly misused words and commonly misspelled words among other important writing elements. According to Time magazine, Elements of Style is one of the 100 most influential books written in English since 1923! It’s certainly stood the test of time for good reason. 

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

By Les Edgerton 

Les Edgerton is a sharp writer who addresses some dark, edgy topics in his novels. There’s no arguing that he hooks readers and keeps them on the edge of their seat. This book is a valuable resource packed with practical advice. It’s blunt and tells it straight, but it’s one that you’ll check back on regularly. The book focuses on crafting a powerful beginning to books, as this is essential for publication. Les shares his experience as a renowned fiction writer, and shares basics, tips for avoiding opening gaffes, and a detailed analysis of some of the best opening lines. 

The books above are excellent resources for all writers. They share practical tips and strategies used by some of the best authors around. After reading the best books on writing, you’ll be better equipped to bring your writing to the next level. To discover more incredible authors or to promote your book, head to Crave Books. We make it fast and easy to promote your book on all the platforms you’d like, so you share your new and improved writing with the world!

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