Must-Have Books on Writing

Most writers can’t go past a book on writing, and I’m one of them. The following list of my favourites includes books I dip into often, have highlighted heavily, or were recommended to me by publishing professionals I admire. I’ve included links to my reviews on Goodreads or here on Story Forge.


Story: Substance, Structure, Style and Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee (While this book is for screenwriters, there is plenty book writers can learn)

The Elements of Story: Field Notes on Nonfiction Writing by Francis Flaherty

The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life by Priscilla Long

Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch: Let Verbs Power Your Writing by Constance Hale

Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel by Lisa Cron

Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway. When I first bought this one, it was touted as a text book used in many university-level creative writing courses. I’m not sure if that’s still true, but I dip into it every now and again when I need clarification on a writing technique.

How to Read like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose. This one offers examples of aspects of writing, like voice and point of view. It includes a stimulating reading list at the end.

Creativity & Productivity

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert [* Read my review here.]

The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering Your Creative Self by Julia Cameron [* Read my review here.]

The War of Art: Break Through Your Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Stephen Pressfield [* Read my review here.]

Editing & Publishing

The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself by Susan Bell

Publishing 101 by Jane Friedman

Successful Self-Publishing: How to Self-Publish and Market Your Book in e-Book and Print by Joanna Penn

Looking After Your Writer-Self

The Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer’s Journey by Joanna Penn. Joanna is a legend. Interestingly, she and I started writing around the same year and at the same place, the Queensland Writers’ Centre. A decade and a bit later, she’s got around thirty books to her name, both fiction and nonfiction. She’s a trusted brand around the world for presenting in her blog and hundreds of podcasts no-nonsense, timely information about indie publishing and more. If you haven’t mined her resources, I highly recommend you check out her website.

The Healthy Writer: Reduce Your Pain, Improve Your Health, and Build a Writing Career for the Long Term by Joanna Penn

The Pursuit of Perfection: And How it Harms Writers by Kristine Rusch

Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence by William Kenower

Writing for Kids & Young Adults

Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole [* Read my review here.] This is my most heavily highlighted and annotated writing book.

Writing Great Books for Young Adults: Everything You Need to Know, from Crafting the Idea to Landing a Publishing Deal by Regina Brooks

Genre How-Tos

Fight Like A Girl by Aiki Flinthart

Writing the Cozy Mystery by Nancy J Cohen

Making It In Historical Fiction by Libbie Hawker

Inspirational Author Biographies

On Writing: A Memoir of Craft by Stephen King [* Read my review here.]

Over to You

I’d love to know your favourite books on writing. If you know of a goodie that’s not on my list, please leave a comment!

Image Credits

Photo by hannah grace on Unsplash

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Photo by Stephen Andrews on Unsplash

4 responses to “Must-Have Books on Writing”

  1. Karen Tyrrell Author Avatar
    Karen Tyrrell Author

    Thanks Ali,
    For sharing this very motivational, yet informative post for writers,


  2. Great list! I love the War of Art & have just finished reading On Writing. Fearless Writing is sitting on my bookshelf unread ….. I need to rectify this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love The Art of War, too. Thanks for stopping by!


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