What are the best books on writing to help you improve your fiction writing skills? Here, I’ll list some of my favorite titles. These creative writing books carry a wealth of incredibly useful style tips, plot structuring ideas, and other advice to guide your authorial efforts.
I think these books about writing will give you the confidence to dive into your passion with greater ease. However, please also remember that very few authors enjoy overnight success. Instead, we all need many years of practice to fine-tune our writing skills. So, be sure to stay committed and keep those ideas coming!
My list of best books on writing to enhance your fiction writing skills.
1. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Who doesn’t know Stephen King? An international household name, King has given us some of the most iconic horror stories of all-time, selling millions of books along the way.
The first half of On Writing is essentially King’s memoir of his early life as an author. This is a highly engrossing read in and of itself!
However, I think aspiring creative writers will especially love the second part. Here, King shares concrete fiction writing tips to help us on our journey. This includes telling us how to get rid of needless adverbs, the art of showing not telling, building engaging dialogue, and so much more.
In short, I find On Writing to be one of the best books on writing available. King knows how to hook you in, all while contextually teaching you how to vastly improve your fiction writing skills.
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2. The Elements of Style
The Elements of Style is widely regarded as one of the best books about writing ever, for both fiction and nonfiction authors alike. Originally published a century ago, the tips inside have largely remained timeless, helping millions to improve their authorial style along the way.
The book is a back-to-basics approach. It teaches us often overlooked grammar rules, the skill of concise writing, good sentence structures, and much more. In addition, this 2018 revised edition updates any earlier advice that might have become obsolete or less relevant in recent years.
I think it’s fair to note that quite a few reviewers still prefer the Fourth ‘pure’ edition of The Elements of Style – which includes credits to E. B. White. However, personally, I welcome the revisions made in this specific version.
In short, The Elements of Style doesn’t focus on more specific fiction writing techniques. However, it’s a solid starting point which covers the core stylistic elements of English writing that, in the long run, will empower your skills as an author. The more tools in your arsenal, the better!
3. Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer
Roy Peter Clark is among America’s most influential writing teachers. Condensing thirty years of experience, Writing Tools is packed with some truly phenomenal tips on improving your creative craft.
The book comprises four main sections: ‘nuts and bolts’, ‘special effects’, ‘blueprints for stories’, and ‘useful habits’. Together, they’ll guide you on mastering key writing basics as you learn how to put together exciting stories that’ll pull your readers in.
In addition, I love how Clark successfully breaks down his generous info into 55 concise and easy-to-digest tips. This makes it much more convenient to flip to a specific page to remind yourself daily of good fiction writing practices to uphold.
In short, Writing Tools is by far one of the best books about writing to inspire you to greater creative heights. An incredibly valuable toolbox for all aspiring authors!
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4. The Making of a Story A Norton Guide to Creative Writing
Alice LaPlante offers great insights into the art of creative writing. She walks you through the entire process – from nurturing your initial idea spark to creating story arcs and characters that leap off your pages.
The Making of a Story is full of writing lessons that are all wonderfully supported with clear real-world examples (both fiction and nonfiction). In addition, LaPlante uses simple language to explain her points, keeping things both engaging and educational.
I particularly loved her chapter on how adopting different viewpoints can impact the way readers understand a story. In addition, she guides you in putting together effective dialogue that smoothly pushes your narrative along, without forsaking character development.
Overall, I highly recommend The Making of a Story as a go-to resource for anyone keen to take their creative writing to the next level.
5. Story Genius
Lisa Cron has released one of the best creative writing books on the market – with a twist! Specifically, she grounds all her tips in scientifically inspired strategies that’ll hugely aid in improving your storytelling effectiveness.
I’m really won over by Lisa’s lighthearted style that makes her creative writing points fun to learn and follow. In addition, she shares a lot of unique advice that isn’t found in most other books on writing. This includes, among other things, learning how to write strong risk / opportunity scenarios that neurologically stimulate readers to keep turning your pages.
In short, I think Story Genius works as a great companion book to The Making of a Story.
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6. Save the Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last Book On Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need
You gotta love the quirky title! However, beyond that, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel is a five-star reviewed treasure trove filled with awesome writing tips.
In essence, ‘Save the Cat!’ is a tried-and-tested story-writing methodology for fiction authors. Here, Jessica Brody guides you through 15 major plot ‘beats’ to help shape your novel from its early stages to completion. These cover narrative, character development, conflict and resolution, and so on.
Above all, I think the Save the Cat! approach is very useful to both ‘pansters’ and ‘plotters’. It aids everyone in striking a good balance between creative flow and coherent structure, thus keeping readers’ interests alive.
In short, if you’re looking for the best books on writing, give Save the Cat! Writes a Novel a try. You’ll take in a truckload of useful pointers that’ll inspire your writing for years to come!
7. How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript
Writing electrifying dialogue is a key part of great storytelling. With this focus in mind, How to Write Dazzling Dialogue specializes in helping you breathe life into all your characters and their interactions.
James Scott Bell covers a lot of ground. This includes showing you how to write riveting tension into your dialogue, tips on crafting memorable conversations, using effective punctuation for impact, and much more.
Moreover, I love the section that teaches us how to smartly mix in descriptive actions (e.g. character verbs) with powerful dialogue that sticks in readers’ minds.
An enticing plot always benefits from convincing and purposeful speech. In this regard, I consider How to Write Dazzling Dialogue to be easily one of the best books on writing available.
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8. The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface
Building a strong plot is a major part of novel-writing. However, to truly stand out, you’ll also need to stir people’s emotions. Here, Donald Maass teaches you how to evoke memorable feelings among your readers, thus elevating the overall power of your work.
The biggest takeaway I had from reading this book is the importance of revealing one’s inner and outer journeys. In other words, you’ll need to lift the veil on a character’s emotional state as he / she interacts with his / her physical environment and others.
Ultimately, Maass explains how the end-goal of all emotional storytelling is to allow readers to experience what your characters are really going through on a deeper, more visceral level.
Overall, I believe The Emotional Craft of Fiction is one of the best creative writing books that shows you the way to add emotional weight to your words.
9. Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story Structure
Good fiction often rests on compelling character arcs. Here, K. M. Weiland shares her approach to creating dynamic / evolving characters that work to retain readers’ interests. Much of her advice builds upon the classic Three-Act Story Structure.
Personally, I find Weiland’s tips to be highly nuanced. For example, she details how authors should avoid pitting their character arcs against the grain of the main plot. Instead, these two aspects of storytelling should compliment each other for the sake of a greater whole. In addition, Weiland consistently raises key writing questions for you to ponder over as you craft your own novel.
However, keep in mind that a lot of her book focuses on constructing ‘positive’ character arcs – less so on ‘flat’ or ‘negative’ ones.
Overall, I strongly recommend Creating Character Arcs as a good resource for strengthening your character development skills – a big asset of the creative writing process.
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10. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within
Looking for books on writing that are both fun to read and informative? Writing Down the Bones is a great place to start! Natalie Goldberg walks you through all the fiction writing basics. This includes tutorials on how to let your creative ideas flow, using verbs effectively, learning to listen as you write, and so on.
I also loved Goldberg’s coverage of less-often discussed authorial topics. For example, she explains the importance of finding an ideal physical location to write (e.g. the perfect cafe, etc.) – as well as her tips on overcoming writer’s block and self-doubt.
In addition, I think what makes Goldberg’s book unique is her weaving in of spirituality – specifically, her view of writing as a highly spiritual process. This distinct perspective separates her from other best creative writing books on this list.
Overall, Writing Down the Bones offers a little bit of everything for aspiring authors. Its spiritual tone might not be everyone’s cup of tea. However, I think the book is a great fit for anyone who sees writing as both a practical craft and psychological mindset.
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11. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
With thousands of five-star reviews, I regard Bird by Bird as a proven classic filled with writing wisdom for all fiction authors. Anne Lamott dispenses tons of creative writing tips (e.g. working on your first drafts, choosing the best plot ideas, etc.).
In addition, she also explores the many meaningful joys – and challenges – of striving to become a professional writer.
12. How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method
Nope, Randy Ingermanson isn’t calling you a ‘snowflake’! Instead, the Snowflake Method is a 10-step approach that maps out your entire creative writing process. The book also presents its ideas through the lens of a fictitious novelist. Meta, much?
In short, when it comes to the best books on writing, How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method is an ideal fit for those looking for a zany – yet, fruitfully methodical – technique to authoring your bestseller.
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13. Write Your Novel From The Middle
Write Your Novel From the Middle posits a distinct writing strategy – start your novel from the middle, not the beginning or end!
For bestselling writing instructor James Scott Bell, working from the middle of your plot lets you quickly uncover the true heart of your story, early on. Subsequently, you’ll find it far easier to develop the rest of your book around this narrative epicenter. Brilliant!
14. Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity
I see Ray Bradbury as one of the best sci-fi writers of all time! So, naturally, I also fell in love with Zen in the Art of Writing. Through several essays, he shares his seasoned wisdom on how to master the craft of creative writing.
Above all, Bradbury’s highly motivational advice will inspire you to keep writing, refining your skills through passion, practice, and patience.
15. Stein On Writing
After so many years, I love how Stein on Writing has stayed relevant to millions of fiction and nonfiction authors today.
Unlike some best books on writing, Stein focuses less on strict theory. Instead, he pragmatically guides you on ‘fixing’ specific writing issues. This includes trying to liven up a flat story, repairing pacing issues, and so much more.
16. Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go
Ever read a book you just couldn’t put down? If so, you’ll soon realize every author needs to weave a certain kind of magic to create a true page-turner.
In this regard, Les Edgerton presents you with his special formula to consistently produce alluring scenes that hold your readers’ attention throughout. In short, Hooked teaches you all that its title suggests!
17. Writing the Breakout Novel
How do you write a novel that truly stands out the rest? Donald Maass is once again here to help! In Writing the Breakout Novel, he details many of the common characteristics that today’s bestselling books tend to share.
Eye-opening and easy-to-read, I believe this essential writing guide will greatly improve your chances of authorial success!