5 Great Books For Writers

I’ve written all my life, but I only seriously started writing a handful of years ago, and I didn’t know nearly as much about writing or what it takes to get published as I thought I did.

In part, that might be a good thing. Sometimes being naive when starting a journey can be helpful. After all, when you don’t know how difficult something is, it can be easier to begin.

While there’s no substitute for putting your butt in the chair and actually writing, there are a lot of books out there that can help point you in the right direction. These are some of the ones I’ve found most helpful.

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On Writing, by Stephen King

Part how-to, part encouragement, there’s so much great advice in this book. Whether or not you actually like Stephen King, this book should be on every writer’s shelf.

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Story Engineering: Mastering the Core Competencies of Successful Writing, by Larry Brooks

This book is my writing bible. No, seriously, it really is. It’s highlighted with tons of post-its stuck to the pages. It lays the structure of a story out in a concrete, simple way that works for my literal brain.

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Write Great Fiction: Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint, by Nancy Kress

My writing critique group told me that my characters needed more agency until I was ready to explode. They also told me that my main characters were “wishy-washy” and “gray.” It’s not that I didn’t agree with them; it’s just that I had no idea how to fix the issue. This is the first book that actually made sense to me as to how to build good characters and sustain them through an entire book.

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Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert

As much as I love writing, sometimes I just get burned out from doing it. I do it because I love it, but sometimes keeping all the balls in the air of juggling plot, character, conflict, etc drives me a little crazy. I read this book at exactly the time in my life that I needed to, and it helped me remember why I fell in love with stories.

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Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done, by Laura Vanderkam

This isn’t technically a book on writing, but if there’s one thing I hear from most people who write, it’s “I wish I had more time to write!” This book has an excellent practical and philosophical take on how to get more done and make the most use of the time we have.

If you write, are there any books you’ve found especially helpful?

What I’ve Been Reading

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky:  I’m not sure why I’ve never read this book before.  This is one of those books that I’m pretty sure everyone has read except me.  I enjoyed it quite a bit.  The narrator has an interesting and unique voice.  He’s writing letters to an unknown person, and at first I thought that would annoy me, but it was done well enough that I liked it.  The characters were quirky and memorable, and I found the teenage drama believable.  I definitely recommend.

The Face by Dean Koontz:  This is one of my favorite Dean Koontz books.  An anarchist has a plot to mess up the life of the world’s biggest movie star.  The head of security is a nice guy who has to match wits with him.  Add in some paranormal stuff, like the head of security’s recently deceased ex-best friend, who might not be so dead after all, and it’s a book I can’t put down.

Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing by Larry Brooks:  If you’re a fiction writer, you have to read this book.  A friend recommended it, and I figured it would be like every other writing book ever made; chock full of good writing advice, but lacking any concrete tips.  Wrong!  This book is so useful, and has made me love writing even more than I did.  It’s gotten me excited about storytelling because it tells me where all my ideas should go in the narrative.  I’ve tried outlining a million times, which has never quite worked for me.  This one has.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls:  I’ve been wanting to reread this one for awhile.  It’s technically young adult, though it was published when that genre didn’t exist.  If there’s anyone out there who hasn’t read it, it’s a coming of age book about a young boy who works to get hunting dogs, and their bond and adventures together.  It makes me laugh and cry, no matter how many times I read it.  There are always certain parts I hope will magically change, so that when I read the book this time, I don’t have to be sad.  I read it anyway because there’s magic in the pages.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell:  This is one of my favorite new books.  (Okay, it’s not new, but it’s new to me.)  Neither Eleanor nor Park quite fit in, and they don’t like one another either.  Until they do.  They’re wonderful characters, with a sweet, believable romance.  I didn’t realize that I’d read until 3 a.m. until I finished the book and realized I was half asleep.  It was that good.

Have you read any of these?  What’d you think?