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Helpful Books for Writers

Updated: Sep 25, 2020

One of the things I’m asked often by my students is “What books do you recommend about writing?”

As both a writer and a writing instructor, I read a lot of books on writing.  Some of them are helpful, some are somewhat helpful, and some are… well… not that helpful.

But then there are a few that pretty much blew my mind.

So, if you’re a writer looking to grow your craft, here are my top suggestions for writing books that will shake up your thinking, set off lots of mind-explosions, and push you to grow.

(You’re welcome!)

Here are my top book recommendations for writers:

This book is geared for self-publishing authors, but it has loads of valuable info for authors of ALL kinds.   If you’re into self-publishing, it might just be life-changing.   If you’re not, you can still skip to the chapters on their writing process and take away plenty of tips for approaching writing.  They also have a writing app that I’m dying to try, but… it’s a monthly subscription so I’m having to budget for it.  Hopefully I’ll be able to report back on that soon.  (If you are into self-publishing, after reading WPR, you’ll also want to read the sequel, Iterate and Optimize.)  I’d also suggest following their podcast, because things in the indie author world change quickly, and it’s really important to stay on top of the changes to the industry!  Their podcast will help you do that.

And the “Helping Writers Become Authors” blog by K.M. Weiland… pretty much just anything by K.M. Weiland.   She has a methodical, extremely structured approach to writing that I — frankly — find slightly overwhelming.  However, reading her books totally transformed how I thought about my own writing, and gave me lots of new tools for creating my own style of planning and outlining.   She also does story-structure analyses of popular movies on her blog, and these are extremely helpful for seeing the story structure concepts play out in concrete examples.  I highly recommend checking out her work!

This one takes a slightly different approach than K.M. Weiland, but I found it extremely helpful as a contrasting explanation of the same concepts.   This book will give you a framework through which to understand all the many aspects of story and how they function as a whole, and will provide plenty of examples to help cement the concepts.  I recommend this one as well.

This is a great book for anyone hoping to increase productivity as a writer.  I listened to this book on audio last summer during my daily exercise, and ended up not only enlightened but also inspired to try many of her ideas.

This book is not exclusively for writers, but it has so much to offer.   It’s really for any creatives looking to bolster or improve their process, their business, and their art.  And it’s full of awesome quotes and some pretty amusing images.

Once you’ve gotten a good grasp of story structure (check out options 2 & 3 above if you need help with that!), this book is an incredible way to turn all that on its head and see it from a new angle.  If you’ve ever wondered whether a story has to be written in order, or like experimenting with how you approach a story, or just want to understand story structure more deeply, this is the book for you.

I almost forgot this one, and then gasped in horror at my oversight.  This screenwriting book completely revolutionized my own approach to outlining my stories.  Yes, it’s for screenwriters, but it works for novels, too! (There’s also a newer version specifically for that, as well!) We used it in the collaborative novel-writing class I teach, and it worked wonders for helping build out the story among ideas and input from 8 different student writers.   They actually chose Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet method out of several different options I presented them, and it worked wonderfully!

These are my all-time favorites (so far) of writing books I’ve read in the past few years.   They are all available in e-book on Amazon (and maybe elsewhere!) and some of them are also available in print.  Some of these books I’m still reading (or re-reading!), but I’m far enough in to know they’re all great books for writers.  I also have some others on my list to read soon, so I’m sure I’ll have more to add in the future!

I hope you benefit from these books as much as I did.    But of course, the best way to become a better writer is to write!   I recommend you read these, and then go try putting them in action.  🙂

2020 Update: I also now have my own book on Fiction Writing! You can find it here.

Happy reading and writing!


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