The 12 Most Helpful Writing Books Every Writer Needs

writing books

All writers need to be readers, too. After all, reading makes us better writers. We not only need to be better writers by learning grammar and punctuation, but how to structure our stories. Most importantly, we need to be the best communicator we can be.

Becoming a good writer takes time and practice. Reading books about writing help us learn our craft better. Like with any job, we don’t learn if we don’t take classes or read books to learn the skills.

I’ve created this list on the most helpful writing books I’ve seen over the years of being a writer. Several of them I’ve read and even have on my bookshelves. The others are on my wish list for books to be read in the near future.

1. On Writing by Stephen King

King’s On Writing is a classic writing book. It’s full of his own personal story of how he became a writer — from his childhood to his near-fatal accident in 1999. At the same time you learn how you can avoid the mistakes he made.

I’ve been a fan of King’s novels since high school. The first book I ever read written by King was Christine. I was hooked from then on.

I’ve read On Writing a couple of times, and each time I get a little more out of it. When I’ve seen the question about the best writing books posted in my writing groups, this book is always named over and over.

2. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Lamott’s Bird by Bird is a book about inspiring writers. She inspires you by writing in a direct way. She doesn’t beat around the bush.

I read this book as part of a creative writing class as a sophomore in college. I remember how blunt Lamott was. This book was like no other book I had read at this point.

3. On Writing Well by William Zinsser

On Writing Well has sold over a million copies, making it one of those must-have writing books. This book will help you learn to write and, if you’re already writing, will help you write every day.

This books sits on my bookshelf. It was another required book for that creative writing class. I learned quite a bit from this book even though it wasn’t as inspiring as Lamott’s book was.

4. The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

Published in 1918, The Elements of Style is a book every writer should have on their bookshelf. The book is thin and has nothing but rules of writing, a simple and easy-to-understand book.

I have owned this book for a long time — since I started writing. It’s right up there with King’s On Writing. I still use it as a reference from time to time.

5. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

Annie Dillard has a great way of telling a story. The Writing Life is a must-read for beginning writers, but, of course, all writers could read it. It’s a short reflection about the writing craft.

I haven’t read this book by Dillard, but I did read An American Childhood for an English class in college. I loved this book because it was true stories I enjoyed.

6. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

If you’re looking for a writing book to inspire you, Writing Down the Bones is it. Goldberg’s book is a personal reflection about writing. She inspires writers and helps them push through writer’s blocks.

This is another book I read for that creative writing class. I haven’t read it in a long time, but I remember how inspired I was after reading it.

7. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Pressfield’s The War of Art is a book that teaches writers to get writing and stop procrastinating. He is direct in what he says. If you need help breaking through obstacles to writing, then this book is one you should read.

I’ve seen this book recommended by Jeff Goins. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my wish list.

8. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

If you’re having trouble writing, then give The Artist’s Way a try. Cameron teaches you how to write morning pages, a free write you do each morning to get the creative juices flowing. This book offers other writing techniques to help you.

I hadn’t heard of this book until the last couple of years. I have a hard time writing in the mornings because I don’t always have the time, but I have journaled in the evenings at times.

9. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas

For beginning writers as well as those already published, Writing the Breakout Novel is a book all writers need to read. Maas teaches you all kinds of techniques to help your books stand out above all of the other books.

Again, like the previous book, I’ve heard of this one in the last few years.

10. Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

Show Your Work isn’t so much about writing, but it’s more about “stealing” from the creative community and becoming known. This book offers rules to help you do just that.

I learned about this book from the 10 Minute Novelists group. The leader of the group did a series of chats over this book. I found it to be an interesting book even though I hadn’t read it yet.

11. Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland

If you’re struggling with the plot of your novel, then Weiland’s Structuring Your Novel will help you. She helps you strengthen your novel by looking at its structure, like the weak spots in the plot and the saggy middle.

I’ve been following Weiland for the last few years. Her website, Helping Writers Become Authors, is a great resource, too. I’ve read a third of this book and find it to be a great resource as is her outlining book.

12. Write a Novel in 10 Minutes a Day by Katharine Grubb

Grubb’s book will get you writing 10 minutes a day. Write a Novel in 10 Minutes a Day teaches you ways to find at least 10 minutes a day, if not off and on throughout the day, to write that novel you’ve always wanted to write.

A couple of years ago, I found a group on Facebook called 10 Minute Novelists. The leader of the group, Katharine Grubb, published this book in 2015, and, of course, I had to have a copy. I was working two jobs at the time and didn’t have much time to write.

I actually ended up with an autographed copy from the author herself! This book is full of helpful tips, and I’ve learned so much.

If you’re a new writer, I hope I’ve given you some resources for you to get started. And if you’ve been writing for a while, I hope I’ve given you a refresher of resources or maybe some new ones.

What other writing books would you suggest? I would love to hear about any that I’ve not mentioned!
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