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The 7 Best Books on Writing Fiction

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I have never met a writer who didn't have a hard time writing. So, it's a good thing there are so many amazing books out there dedicated to helping writers improve on their craft.

Here is a list of some of the best books on writing fiction (or nonfiction) that I have read and love. These books have each impacted my writing career in a positive way over the past 17 years, and I hope they will help you with yours.

7 of the Best Books on Writing Fiction (and Nonfiction) blog title overlay

Classic Books on Writing

Embrace Your Weird by Felicia Day

I cannot love on this book enough. Which is why it's always at the very top of my list.

Felicia Day does more than just help you discover or hone your creativity in this book. She guides you along a journey of self-discovery. She walks you through several exercises all designed to help you find out who you really are, what makes you tick, and what makes you creative so you can let it out.

Will this book help you quit your day job to become an artist? No.

It's not that kind of book.

But it will help you embrace what you love to do without the burden of trying to be perfect at it.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr.

First published in 1919, “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. has become one of the most influential books on writing in history. Written as a concise guide to English grammar and style, this book covers everything from punctuation rules to sentence structure. Despite its age, “The Elements of Style” remains relevant today due to its clear and concise writing style.

The book is divided into sections based on specific aspects of grammar or style, making it easy to reference when needed. One key takeaway from this book is its emphasis on brevity–Strunk believes that good writing should be concise and free from unnecessary words or phrases.

Overall, “The Elements of Style” provides an invaluable foundation for any aspiring writer looking to improve their mastery of English grammar and style. Its timeless advice has made it a classic in the field of writing.

Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott's “Bird by Bird” is an excellent guide to writing and the writing life. It is packed with advice, anecdotes, and insights that help aspiring writers work through their doubts and insecurities. The book is structured in short chapters that cover different aspects of writing and the struggles that come with it.

The author emphasizes the importance of practice, perseverance, and patience to become a skilled writer. The book's title comes from an anecdote where Anne's father advises her brother to tackle a huge school project one step at a time, just like tackling a birdhouse “bird by bird.” This advice inspires the author to approach writing in the same way: breaking down the work into small manageable tasks.

She encourages writers to start with what they know and build from there. Anne also stresses the value of being open to feedback and criticism, even if it stings at first.

One key takeaway from “Bird by Bird” is that good writing often emerges from self-discovery. Writers who are willing to be vulnerable and honest about their experiences can create engaging stories that resonate with readers on a deeper level.

On Writing by Stephen King

Stephen King was the first author I ever truly binged. Back in middle school, every time I went to the library, I was walking out with a stack of books and no less than three of those books were by Stephen King.

He was also the first author whose books I read and reread over and over again.

So of course, as soon as I saw that Stephen King put out a book on writing I grabbed it up.

This does give a short autobiography of Stephen King's life and the role that writing played in his life as well as what his life looks like since his car accident in 1999 that almost ended his career. His advice is relevant and tactical no matter what genre you write in.

Finding Your Voice by Les Edgerton

If ever there was a quote that I live by, it's this: whoever said that nothing great comes from your comfort zone, they definitely weren't a writer.

The thing is, the best writing out there almost always comes from when the author is so deep inside their comfort zone that theirs is the only voice they can hear.

This is also a book I recommend to all of my clients. So many people come to me with a book idea that they are scared is not original enough…and my advice is always “no one can write your story the way you can.” This book can help show you just what that means and how to do it.

Dear Writer, You Need to Quit by Becca Syme

This is book one of five in the QuitBooks for Writer's series, and it is definitely my favorite.

Becca forces you to take a deep look into your need to please your clients (don't try to deny it – we both know that's a big issue) and start setting up some boundaries and systems that will actually work for you.

This is something that I am always telling other writers as well – writing advice is like eating at a buffet: take what you need and don't sneeze on the rest. What works for one may not work for someone else.

Or worse – what works for one might be downright detrimental for another.

Build a system that works for you using the tools that work best for you, and if you need to make an adjustment, then tweak one thing at a time.

Books on Character Development

Plot Versus Character by Jeff Gerke

I have mixed feelings on this book, and it almost didn't make this list. But I do really like how Jeff Gerke talks about the Myers-Briggs 16 personality types and using those to create deep characters with different layers.

Additionally, I love the way he breaks down and addresses the internal struggle; something that can be easily forgotten when we're banging out action events and plot-driving forces.

That said, and there's some definite room for improvement – get ready to sit through a lot of “here's what not to do” examples from other authors. This isn't necessarily bad, I think it's important to see examples of what works and what doesn't – but I really wish he would have used his own writing to create these examples instead of only showing his writing in the “what to do” side and only showing writing from other authors in the “what not to do” side.

Still, though, if you're struggling to find a balance between character and plot, this is a good starting point for you.

The Craft of Character: How to create deep and engaging characters your audience will never forget by Mark Paul Boutros

Writing a book can be daunting and the process filled with self-doubt. So when a book comes along that can make that process easier with tips that can be implemented quickly, I grab it.

One of the things I like best about this book is that it Boutros gets straight to the point, jumping into a lesson right from the beginning.

Anyone who has ever struggles with building out relatable and believable characters will benefit from the tips and exercises in this book.

Writing Unforgettable Characters: How to Create Story People Who Jump Off the Page by James Scott Bell

In this book, James Scott Bell goes into all the considerations you need to make to help your reader go deeper than just relating to your character, but they can really bond with your characters.

Don't be deceived by its size; this book is not as long as some others out there, but it is packed with helpful information, exercises, and tips to help you write characters that jump off the page.

Build Better Characters: The psychology of backstory & how to use it in your writing to hook readers by Eileen Cook

I don't know if you know this or not, but my master's degree is in psychotherapy—not writing. Sometimes I question whether or not getting a degree in writing would have been helpful, but I never question how helpful it's been to have this understanding of psychology for helping me develop deep, layered characters.

And that's exactly what this book is designed to help you do as well; to really get inside your characters' heads and develop their backstory so they can make an impact on your story.

Books on World-Building

Building Imaginary Worlds: The Theory and History of Subcreation” by Mark J.P. Wolf

Although a little dry at times, this book gives a thorough

Save the Cat, Writes a Novel! by Jessica Brody

People ask me all the time about plotting out a novel and how to get started with it. Save the Cat is one of my favorite plot structures because it sets up the protagonist as a likeable character right from the outset.

And it just works.

The only problem was that it wasn't designed for novels, not really. Blake Snyder designed this particular plot structure for the big screen. If you wanted to try to use it for a novel, you had to try to dissect the screenplay format and apply it that way – tedious for experienced writers, and downright torturous for new writers.

Jessica Brody does an amazing job of breaking down the entire structure for novel format.

The Imaginary World of _______________ by Keri Smith

If you are looking for a world building workbook, this is one of the best ones out there.

This book was first recommended to me during a Dungeons and Dragons game to help me build out a custom world for my players and let me tell you, it's amazing. Not just for role-playing games, but also for writing.

And the best part is that this book works no matter what kind of a world you're trying to create – whether you're basing your story in the real world and just need a bit of help determining the setting or building a complete world from scratch. Either way, this book will help you establish a real, layered world that feels as real and immersive to your readers as it does to you.

It probably goes without saying that this is not an exhaustive list. These are some of my favorites, but there are plenty more that are out there that will have a positive impact on your writing career.

Did you enjoy this article? Here are some more posts on writing you may like:

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