One of the things I love most about writing is that there is always something new to learn. From craft-related lessons on outlining and dialogue, to mindset matters and marketing approaches, we writers are perennial students of not only language and story structure, but human psychology and promotional skills as well.
In order to keep our writing fresh, our storytelling strong, our souls fed, and our businesses (if you’re an author, you’re in business, baby!) growing, we need to prioritize learning, and that, as we all know, means reading.
Before I go on, I will say that this wondrous technological age we live in boasts myriad methods for learning. Listening to podcasts, as I discuss here, is one of my favorite ways to stay up to date on marketing trends, hear inspiring conversations with successful authors, and learn timeless insights on what “makes stories work,” to use editor Shawn Coyne’s expression.
In addition to podcasts, YouTube videos, webinars, Facebook groups, and online courses have also become increasingly popular when it comes to conducting research, consuming industry-related info, and keeping one’s creative mind sharp.
The bottom line is that if reading about writing isn’t your jam, there are plenty of other options available to you. It truly doesn’t matter how you learn, just find what works best for you and stick to it!
I’m choosing to share my favorite writing books (as opposed to favorite courses, videos, etc.) because I’m assuming that as a writer, you like to read as much as you like to write. Plus, in my opinion, having physical books on a physical shelf is like having tools in your toolbox; they’re handier and more accessible than digital media, which often escape our minds and are difficult to track down.
Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my top six books for writers.
On Writing by Stephen King
What’s it about?: Stephen King’s personal writing and publishing-related memoirs and best advice for aspiring writers
Who’s it for?: Fiction and non-fiction writers
What will I gain?: Valuable writing assignments, a reading list, insights from a corrected story, nuts-and-bolts advice on character and plot, critical info on the basic building block that is the paragraph, and enlightenment from literary giants such as Grisham, Hemingway, and Lovecraft
Favorite quote: “The scariest moment is always just before you start.”
Buy link: On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
What’s it about?: Getting down to what’s most important about writing and what it really takes to go from “shitty first draft” to bookshelf-ready manuscript
Who’s it for?: Fiction writers
What will I gain?: Lots of laughs and “I can so relate to that” head nods, plenty of inspiration and encouragement, plus practical tips on defeating writer’s block and other mental obstacles. There isn’t a whole lot of writing advice, per se; what Lamott offers is her own hard-learned lessons and enthusiasm for writing chiefly for the joy of it.
Favorite quote: “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”
The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne
What’s it about?: Analyzing your story with a professional editor’s expert shrewdness and skill
Who’s it for?: Writers of commercial fiction
What will I gain?: In a nutshell, an education on how to determine whether your story makes for a satisfying and memorable read. Coyne will help you pinpoint problems in your draft and give you fail-proof ways to fix them. It will also help you better understand your chosen genre, and even inspire you to experiment in other genres.
Favorite quote: “These circumstances are called CONFLICTS. What we do or don’t do when we face conflict is the engine of Storytelling.”
Buy link: The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know
How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn
What’s it about?: Well, as the title says, it’s about marketing your book! 😛
Who’s it for?: Any author – whether non-fiction or fiction, traditionally or indie published – who wants to sell more books!
What will I gain?: Important info on key marketing principles, the truth about prevalent marketing myths, knowledge of what it takes to make your book discoverable, tips for optimizing your book for online sales, advice on short-term marketing and launching your book
Favorite quote: “Writing is about you. Publishing is about the book. Marketing is about the reader.”
Buy link: How to Market a Book Third Edition
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
What’s it about?: Battling – and conquering – our inner demons, what Pressfield calls “Resistance”
Who’s it for?: Artists, writers, entrepreneurs … anyone with a passion-filled dream that’s being challenged by doubt, fear, and debilitating feelings of inadequacy
What will I gain?: Insights as to why so many people fail to achieve their goals, astute revelations on the true (and often underestimated) source of such failures, and most importantly, how to avoid them with confidence and steadfast resolve. The book provides instructions on how to tap into your deepest, most creative self and make wondrously expressive, honest, and meaningful work.
Favorite quote: “The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”
The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
What’s it about?: Exploring the fascinating relationship between mythology and storytelling and outlining timeless archetypes and critical stages of the Hero’s journey
Who’s it for?: Any fiction writer who wants to perfect his or her craft
What will I gain?: Valuable knowledge on storytelling structure, developing strong, dynamic characters, and how to engineer a tight, compelling, purposeful plot
Favorite quote: “A myth… is a metaphor for a mystery beyond human comprehension. It is a comparison that helps us understand, by analogy, some aspect of our mysterious selves. A myth, in this way of thinking, is not an untruth but a way of reaching a profound truth.”
I hope you enjoyed the post! What are some of your favorite writing books? Send me a tweet @dandersontyler and let me know!