I’m convinced that great writing cannot be learned by reading a book about writing, otherwise there would be a lot more great writing. My primary tools for learning to write are a. writing (go figure.) b. getting feedback on my writing, and c. reading and studying great writing. However, I have read my fair share of books on writing, always on the lookout for that secret ingredient that will make my writing sing. Here are a few of my favorites:

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STORY by Robert McKee: Yes, it’s a screenwriting book, but really, as the title implies, it’s a book about story. So much of it transfers to novel writing, and he was obviously aware that many novelists would be reading the book because he often addresses where a novelists approach would differ from screenwriting. This book is amazing. It’s no wonder that so many of his students have produced some of the most successful film and books in the last twenty years. And bonus! I’ve been watching and enjoying a lot of the old movies he recommends. I’ve never been a movie buff, but I’ve gained new appreciation for film!

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STEIN ON WRITING: I loved this one because he didn’t just say what is good writing and what isn’t, (though he gives plenty of examples,) he also gives practical exercises and advice to really strengthen your writing and make it effective.

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CHARACTER AND VIEWPOINT by Orson Scott Card: It’s no secret. I am passionate about character-driven fiction. I don’t care how exciting the events are, if I don’t connect with the characters, I don’t give a darn. This is the best book I’ve read on the subject. Orson Scott Card gives incredible insight into what makes a character alive, likeable, hateable, redeemed or damned, how to manage the cast and varying characters, how to develop character, and much more wisdom from one of my favorite authors.

What are your favorite books on writing or the creative process?


2 comments

  1. It’s almost cliche at this point, but I love Stephen King’s On Writing.

    James Woods book How Fiction Works isn’t really a practical guide to writing, but his exploration of the various elements of fiction from a critical perspective is great, plus it’s filled with tons of great examples.

  2. I really enjoyed THE FIRE IN FICTION by Donald Maass. (I think I’ve said that in enough places now that he owes me some royalties or something – or at the very least, an offer of representation:) )

    It sounds similar to STEIN ON WRITING: He doesn’t just tell you what good writing is, he gives you specific exercises to do to add those elements to your WIP.

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