7 Favorite Books on Writing

Most authors have a list of  their favorite books about the writing process that they’d recommend to others.  Here’s my top seven:

1. Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass — via hands-on exercises and examples from successful novels, this workbook teaches authors how to “develop and strengthen aspects of [their] prose.”



2. Self-editing for Fiction Writers  by Renni Browne and Dave King — “Chapters on dialogue, exposition, point of view, interior monologue, and other techniques take you through the same processes an expert editor would go through to perfect your manuscript. Each point is illustrated with examples, many drawn from the hundreds of books Browne and King have edited.”


3. Stein on Writing by Sol Stein — “Stein explains here, ‘This is not a book of theory. It is a book of usable solutions–how to fix writing that is flawed, how to improve writing that is good, how to create interesting writing in the first place.’ With examples from bestsellers as well as from students’ drafts, Stein offers detailed sections on characterization, dialogue, pacing, flashbacks, trimming away flabby wording, the so-called “triage” method of revision, using the techniques of fiction to enliven nonfiction, and more.”


4. The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life by Twyla Tharp — Although this not a writing book, it’s a book about harnessing your creativity. “Whether you are a painter, musician, businessperson, or simply an individual yearning to put your creativity to use, The Creative Habit provides you with thirty-two practical exercises based on the lessons Twyla Tharp has learned in her remarkable thirty-five-year career.”


5. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King — “On Writing is both a textbook for writers and a memoir of Stephen’s life.”




6. The Successful Novelist by David Morrell — “distills forty years of writing and publishing experience into this single masterwork of advice and instruction that has been praised by authors as famed as Peter Straub and Dean Koontz.”



7. Conflict & Suspense by James Scott Bell — “Writers will learn how to craft scenes, create characters, and develop storylines that build conflict and use suspense to carry the story to its gripping conclusion.”




Have favorites of your own? Feel free to list them in the comments so you can help other writers find great resources.






  1. Excellent list, Janice! So many great choices (love the Twyla Tharp). I would add BIRD BY BIRD (Lamott), HOW FICTION WORKS (Wood), and the WRITERS ON WRITING volumes from the New York Times

  2. Thanks so much for adding some of your favorites Robb. I’ll have to check them out. Another great book for those who write Children’s fiction is Children’s Writer’s Word Book by Alijandra Mogilner.

  3. Excellent list, Janice!

    Here are two I highly recommend for the revision and editing stage:

    REVISION & SELF-EDITING by James Scott Bell

    THANKS, BUT THIS ISN’T FOR US, by Jessica Page Morrell

    (and by the way, aspiring authors also love my Style That Sizzles & Pacing for Power! It’s short, to the point, and highly skimmable.)

    – Jodie Renner, editor and author of craft-of-writing guides

  4. Thanks so much for the additions to the list Jodie – I’ll definitely be checking them all out. Revision and editing skills are important to master.

  5. Thanks. I also have the D. Maass book that preceded the workbook. “The Power of Point of View” and the ultimate inspirational read from Ray Bradbury: http://www.amazon.com/Zen-Art-Writing-Essays-Creativity/dp/1877741094/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387301777&sr=1-10&keywords=ray+bradbury

  6. Great list! I’d add:
    • All the others by Donald Maass (can I get away with that as one?)
    • A Story is a Promise by Bill Johnson
    • Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon
    • Story by Robert McKee
    • Hooked by Les Edgerton
    • No More Rejections by Alice Orr
    …there are just so many, but I recommend these all the time as well as several on your list.

  7. I have to recommend Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer (and the accompanying website: http://wonderbooknow.com/ ).

  8. “The Forest For The Trees” by Betsy Lerner. Inspiring, informative, and entertaining advice for writers by an editor. I can’t put it down but when I do, I can’t stop writing.

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