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25 Best Books on Writing Fiction: Learn How with These Essential Reads!

Kathy Edens

Kathy Edens

ProWritingAid

Many people have opinions about what craft books fiction writers need to read to take their game to a new level.

We've looked at suggestions from New York Magazine, Poets & Writers, Penguin Random House, Goodreads, author Jerry Jenkins, and others to create our top 25 best craft books for fiction writers. Here, in no particular order, are the results.

Final thoughts

1. the elements of style by william strunk, jr..

The Elements of Style

Surely this tops everyone’s list of must-have books on their shelves for perfecting their craft. First published in 1918, it is the style manual everyone consults when they want to improve their writing skills. This book was the first one to promote writing in plain English with your readers in mind.

2. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On Writing

An often-quoted treatise on writing by a best-selling author, you get part memoir, part instruction on how to write well according to the King of Horror. King reveals how he emerged as a writer and offers his best advice and tools of the trade for writers.

3. Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

Story by Robert McKee

Not only for screenwriters, this book includes all the inspiration and experience McKee puts into his wildly popular screenwriting workshops. Writers, producers, development executives, agents, and more attend his lectures and read his book to learn the "magic" of story construction and the relationship between structure and character.

4. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird

With a wonderful family story behind the reason for the title, Lamott uses her platform to give you a step-by-step guide on writing and managing the writer’s life. This book instructs you to keep your eyes open and inspires you through writing and life.

5. Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew by Ursula K. Le Guin

Steering the Craft

Le Guin compares writing to "steering a craft" down a river of words. She challenges your definition of a story, requiring you to see a story as "change." This can result from conflict, per Le Guin, but also "relating, finding, losing, bearing, discovering, [or] parting."

6. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

Writing the Breakout Novel

Both author and literary agent, Donald Maass offers practical guidance for the first-time novelist as well as already-published authors. He claims breakout novels contain the same elements regardless of genre and he can show you writing techniques to write the next big hit.

7. Story Genius: How to Outline Your Novel Using the Secrets of Brain Science by Lisa Cron

Story Genius

Using science-based insights, this book shows you how story structure is built into your brain and how to plumb the details to generate a story scene by scene. In fact, by the end, you’ll get a blueprint of how to write your best novel yet.

8. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers : How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne & Dave King

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

Two professional editors teach you the techniques of editing that turns manuscripts into published novels or short stories. You learn the same processes an expert editor goes through to perfect your manuscript. You’ll also find plenty of examples from hundreds of books they’ve edited.

9. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

Writing Down the Bones

Bringing together Zen meditation and writing uniquely, Goldberg believes that your writing practice is no different from your Zen practice. It’s backed by "two thousand years of studying the mind."

10. Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder

Save the Cat

Told by a showbiz veteran, this book reveals the secrets you need to know to sell your script… if you can save the cat. This is just one of his immutable laws for making your idea more marketable and your script more compelling.

11. 45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt

45 Master Characters

Here you’ll find the most common male and female archetypes and instructions on how to use them to create original characters. Schmidt also includes how other authors used these archetypes to bring life to their novels, films, and television.

12. Stein on Writing by Sol Stein

Stein on Writing

This book is subtitled "A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies." For both fiction and nonfiction writers, Stein’s advice is good for newcomers or seasoned authors, amateurs and professionals.

13. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

Zen in the Art of Writing

This book of must-read essays on writing and creativity is full of inspiration from a master storyteller. Get practical tips on everything from finding original ideas to developing your own style and voice. You’ll also get a peek into Bradbury’s remarkable career.

14. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman

The Emotion Thesaurus

If one of your biggest problems is conveying your character’s emotions, read this book to learn how in a unique and compelling way. With 130 emotions highlighted, you’ll learn about possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each emotion.

15. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler

The Writer's Journey

Says Vogler, "all stories consist of a few common structural elements found universally in myths, fairy tales, dreams, and movies." Based on psychological ideas from Carl Jung and myth ideas from Joseph Campbell, authors use this book to understand what sells and to uncover a blueprint to create their own stories.

16. Aspects of the Novel by E. M. Forster

Aspects of the Novel

This collection of Forster’s lectures given at Cambridge University in the 1920s helped writers discuss craft elements like flat and round characters, elements of plot, and others still in use today. You’ll find these essays particularly useful for thinking about plot.

17. Letters to a Young Writer by Colum McCann

Letters to a Young Writer

National Book Award-winning author McCann shares his thoughts on craft, dialogue, characters, and even finding an agent and selecting an MFA program. This is today’s generation of writers’ fatherly guidance on living as a writer.

18. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

The Artist's Way

Have you ever heard of "Morning Pages"? This book guides you through a twelve-week process of building and strengthening your creative life by using her two tools—morning pages and the artist date. She also includes hundreds of inspiration exercises and activities to get you pumped.

19. The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman

The Business of Being a Writer

Everything you need to know about the publishing industry, you’ll find in this book. Especially if you want a long-term career of writing, read this book for in-depth and current information to help position yourself. You’ll learn fundamental business principles as well as how to use digital tools and take advantage of online media.

20. Pep Talks for Writers by Grant Faulkner

Pep Talks

Faulkner is the Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and he offers concrete writing tips. Unlike other books that give vague and artistic explanations, this book give you actionable advice on everything from career choices to plot decisions.

21. 2,000 to 10,000: How to Write Faster, Write Better, and Write More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron

2,000 to 10,000

Rachel Aaron explains exactly how she boosted her daily writing from 2,000 words to over 10,000 each day without sacrificing quality or increasing the time she had to write. Get practical writing advice to increase your daily output, among other areas like creating characters, plot structure, and more.

22. Write. Publish. Repeat: The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success by Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant

Write. Publish. Repeat

Whether you’re an experienced writer or a beginner, you can learn exactly how these two authors became wildly successful indie publishers. They show you how to turn what you love into a logical, sustainable business.

23. Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story by K. M. Weiland

Structuring Your Novel

Besides her best-selling book Outlining Your Novel , Weiland lays out an understanding of proper story and scene structure. This book helps you identify common structural weaknesses and flip them into amazing strengths.

24. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

Steal Like an Artist

You don’t need genius; just be yourself. Kleon claims creativity is everywhere and for everyone, and he gives you examples, exercises, and more to help you get in touch with your creative side. He also shares the 10 things he wishes someone had told him when he was starting out.

25. Your favorite dictionary/thesaurus

No list would be complete without your favorite dictionary/thesaurus combination. Whether you adhere to Oxford Dictionary all the way or you prefer Merriam-Webster, you can choose from tons of dictionaries/thesauruses online and in print to make sure you have the right word for every situation.

There are so many other great craft books out there that this list could conceivably double. What’s your go-to craft book that didn’t get mentioned? Let’s start a list in the comments below.

Looking for more Essential Reading lists? We've got you covered!

  • The Best Mystery Novels of All Time
  • The Best Dystopian Novels of All Time
  • The Best Sci-Fi Novels of All Time
  • The Best Historical Fiction Novels of All Time
  • The Best Horror Novels of All Time
  • The Best Thriller Novels of All Time
  • The Best Romance Novels of All Time
  • The Best Books Ever Written in Each Genre

Are you prepared to write your novel? Download this free book now:

The Novel-Writing Training Plan

The Novel-Writing Training Plan

So you are ready to write your novel. excellent. but are you prepared the last thing you want when you sit down to write your first draft is to lose momentum., this guide helps you work out your narrative arc, plan out your key plot points, flesh out your characters, and begin to build your world..

fiction writing books

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Kathy Edens is a blogger, a ghost writer, and content master who loves writing about anything and everything. Check out her books The Novel-Writing Training Plan: 17 Steps to Get Your Ideas in Shape for the Marathon of Writing and Creating Legends: How to Craft Characters Readers Adore... or Despise.

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10 Best Books on Writing Fiction For Your Reading List

Improve your fiction writing by adding these best books on writing fiction to your reading list.

If you are ready to jump into the world of fiction writing, books are about to become your best friend. Not only can you learn from reading other fiction works, but you can also learn from reading the best books on writing fiction. Creative writing is a skill, and the more you learn about that skill, the better your writing will be.

So what books should you be searching for at the library or adding to your Amazon wish list? How can your reading lists turn your own writing into the next bestseller? Here are some of the best books on fiction writing that will make you the next Anne Lammot or Stephen King, or at least make your creative writing and story structure just a little better.

1. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

2. story engineering: mastering the 6 core competencies of successful writing, 3. the secrets of story, 4. improv for writers: 10 secrets to help novelists and screenwriters bypass writer’s block and generate infinite ideas, 5. about writing: seven essays, four letters, & five interviews, 6. the art of fiction: notes on craft for young writers, 7. how to write a damn good novel, 8. on writing: a memoir of the craft, 9. bird by bird: some instructions on writing and life, 10. self-editing for fiction writers, the final word on the best books on writing fiction, what books should be on every writer’s bookshelf, who are some of the top authors for fiction writers, further reading.

Audible has a massive library of audiobooks and offers a great returns policy. Take out a free trial and get two free audiobooks

Audible

Yes, this book is talking about nonfiction, but the tools you will learn in On Writing Well will also translate into your fiction writing. This book by William Zinsser was

So what can you glean from this work? This book is full of writing tips on sentence structure, mechanics and overall writing skills. The tone is very conversational, making it an easy read.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

  • Zinsser, William (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 336 Pages - 04/05/2016 (Publication Date) - Harper Perennial (Publisher)

Story Engineering by Larry Brooks

This book by Larry Brooks is vital to fiction writers. Writing short stories and novels requires an understanding of storytelling, or building a story and bringing characters to life, and that’s exactly what this book strives to teach.

The book treats storytellers like engineers. It teaches them how to build a successful story, piece by piece until they have a workable story and plot structure. The writing is a bit intense, but the skills you will learn are helpful in teaching fiction writing.

Story Engineering

  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Brooks, Larry (Author)
  • 288 Pages - 02/24/2011 (Publication Date) - Writer's Digest Books (Publisher)

The Secrets of Story by Matt Bird

Have you ever wondered why some stories are so compelling, and others fall flat? The Secrets of Story tries to unravel the answer to this question. This book by Matt Bird will help you learn how to tell a story that will engage your audience, leaving them wanting to come back for more.

This particular book makes it on the list because it has a handy checklist. With the checklist in hand, you can improve your fiction writing to make it the type of story people feel compelled to read. This is a must-read that should be on the reading lists of all aspiring writers.

The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers

  • Bird, Matt (Author)
  • 368 Pages - 11/01/2016 (Publication Date) - Writer's Digest Books (Publisher)

Improv for Writers by Jorjeana Marie

Every writer, no matter their skill level, will face writer’s block . Improv for Writers by Jorjeana Marie helps writers learn how to overcome that and generate new, fresh ideas that keep the writing flowing.

Like most good books about writing fiction, this title is packed with practical tips written in a positive, affirming manner. The author’s love for writing and writers shows on every page, making it an enjoyable read.

Improv for Writers: 10 Secrets to Help Novelists and Screenwriters Bypass Writer's Block and Generate Infinite Ideas

  • Marie, Jorjeana (Author)
  • 224 Pages - 08/27/2019 (Publication Date) - Ten Speed Press (Publisher)

About Writing by Samuel R. Delany

About Writing explores the specifics of fiction writing. Author Samuel R. Delany explores thoughts like when is it appropriate to use flashbacks and how you can create vivid characters that pull on the reader’s sympathies.

In this book, Delany explores how today’s writers are different than authors of past generations, like Hemingway and Fitzgerald. This helps today’s writers learn how to understand the great classic writers, while still understanding their own needs as a modern author .

About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, & Five Interviews

  • Delany, Samuel R. (Author)
  • 432 Pages - 01/04/2006 (Publication Date) - Wesleyan University Press (Publisher)

The Art of Fiction by John Gardner

Author John Gardner takes classic works of literature and helps young writers understand what makes them great. With The Art of Fiction , new fiction writers can learn to view their craft as a type of art. It assists people in making the transition from reader to writer through criticism, passion and respect for artistic works.

The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers

  • Writers, Fiction, the are of...Notes on Craft for Young Writers
  • ISBN:0679734031
  • John Gardner copyright 1983
  • Gardner, John (Author)

How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey

Dramatic storytelling is an art that James N. Frey explores in this book. Not only does it explore good writing, but it also explores storytelling and story structure.

With the writing advice in this book, writers can create a first draft that is compelling and effective. Fiction writers who are interested in novel writing must put this one on their list.

How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling

  • Jacket - yellow with black and red lettering
  • Hardcover Book
  • Frey, James N. (Author)
  • 192 Pages - 12/15/1987 (Publication Date) - St. Martin's Press (Publisher)

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Books written by exceptional storytellers are always great to add to the writer’s library, and Stephen King offers up On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. King goes back to his childhood to explore what made him into the famous writer he is today. This gives the reader a little peek into the mind of a master storyteller.

Along the way, King also explores the structure and mechanics that make writing work. He also touches on the lifestyle of a writer, and that makes his book a must-read for anyone who is truly passionate about fiction writing. The book has much practical advice woven into an engaging memoir.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (A Memoir of the Craft (Reissue))

  • King, Stephen (Author)
  • 320 Pages - 06/02/2020 (Publication Date) - Scribner (Publisher)

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott explores what it means to be a writer in Bird by Bird. She believes that many people have a book inside of them but may need a little help to let it out. Her witty approach to exploring the writing life can help you understand exactly what it will take to overcome writer’s block and create your next new book or screenplay.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

  • Lamott, Anne (Author)
  • 256 Pages - 09/01/1995 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

Not all books on this writer’s book list are about plot structure and character development. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King teaches writers how to use solid editing techniques to edit their own work. It explores everything from dialogue to point of view to ensure your writing is solid before you send it to the publisher.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print

  • Browne, Renni (Author)
  • 288 Pages - 04/13/2004 (Publication Date) - William Morrow Paperbacks (Publisher)

Writing fiction is a skill that takes time to polish and develop. Many of us have our own stories to tell, but you may need a little bit of help to get it out. Before hiring a literary agent or seeking a publisher, first, take some time to do a little reading for yourself from this list of must-read books for writers .

FAQs on the Best Books on Writing Fiction

The best books for your bookshelf will depend on the writing you are going to tackle. Non-fiction writers need different reading material than fiction writers. For non-fiction writers, books on grammar and structure, like The Elements of Style are critical. For fiction writers, books on how to overcome writer’s block and how to build a plot structure are a good choice.

As a fiction writer, you should read books by other fiction writers. Renni Browne, Dave King, Stephen King, Anne Lamott and Larry Brooks are all excellent authors with practical advice for aspiring writers.

  • Our Always Up-to-Date List of Great Books to Read
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Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.

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Writers.com

Whether you’ve been struck with a moment of inspiration or you’ve carried a story inside you for years, you’re here because you want to start writing fiction. From developing flesh-and-bone characters to worlds as real as our own, good fiction is hard to write, and getting the first words onto the blank page can be daunting.

Daunting, but not impossible. Although writing good fiction takes time, with a few fiction writing tips and your first sentences written, you’ll find that it’s much easier to get your words on the page.

Let’s break down fiction to its essential elements. We’ll investigate the individual components of fiction writing—and how, when they sit down to write, writers turn words into worlds. Then, we’ll turn to instructor Jack Smith and his thoughts on combining these elements into great works of fiction. But first, what are the elements of fiction writing?

Introduction to Fiction Writing: The Six Elements of Fiction

Before we delve into any writing tips, let’s review the essentials of creative writing in fiction. Whether you’re writing flash fiction , short stories, or epic trilogies, most fiction stories require these six components:

  • Plot: the “what happens” of your story.
  • Characters:  whose lives are we watching?
  • Setting: the world that the story is set in.
  • Point of View: from whose eyes do we see the story unfold?
  • Theme: the “deeper meaning” of the story, or what the story represents.
  • Style: how you use words to tell the story.

It’s important to recognize that all of these elements are intertwined. You can’t build the setting without writing it through a certain point of view; you can’t develop important themes with arbitrary characters, etc. We’ll get into the relationship between these elements later, but for now, let’s explore how to use each element to write fiction.

1. Fiction Writing Tip: Developing Fictional Plots

Plot is the series of causes and effects that produce the story as a whole. Because A, then B, then C—ultimately leading to the story’s  climax , the result of all the story’s events and character’s decisions.

If you don’t know where to start your story, but you have a few story ideas, then start with the conflict . Some novels take their time to introduce characters or explain the world of the piece, but if the conflict that drives the story doesn’t show up within the first 15 pages, then the story loses direction quickly.

That’s not to say you have to be explicit about the conflict. In Harry Potter, Voldemort isn’t introduced as the main antagonist until later in the first book; the series’ conflict begins with the Dursley family hiding Harry from his magical talents. Let the conflict unfold naturally in the story, but start with the story’s impetus, then go from there.

2. Fiction Writing Tip: Creating Characters

Think far back to 9th grade English, and you might remember the basic types of story conflicts: man vs. nature, man vs. man, and man vs. self. The conflicts that occur within stories happen to its characters—there can be no story without its people. Sometimes, your story needs to start there: in the middle of a conversation, a disrupted routine, or simply with what makes your characters special.

There are many ways to craft characters with depth and complexity. These include writing backstory, giving characters goals and fatal flaws, and making your characters contend with complicated themes and ideas. This guide on character development will help you sort out the traits your characters need, and how to interweave those traits into the story.

3. Fiction Writing Tip: Give Life to Living Worlds

Whether your story is set on Earth or a land far, far away, your setting lives in the same way your characters do. In the same way that we read to get inside the heads of other people, we also read to escape to a world outside of our own. Consider starting the story with what makes your world live: a pulsing city, the whispered susurrus of orchards, hills that roil with unsolved mysteries, etc. Tell us where the conflict is happening, and the story will follow.

4. Fiction Writing Tip: Play With Narrative Point of View

Point of view refers to the “cameraman” of the story—the vantage point we are viewing the story through. Maybe you’re stuck starting your story because you’re trying to write it in the wrong person. There are four POVs that authors work with:

  • First person—the story is told from the “I” perspective, and that “I” is the protagonist.
  • First person peripheral—the story is told from the “I” perspective, but the “I” is not the protagonist, but someone adjacent to the protagonist. (Think: Nick Carraway, narrator of  The Great Gatsby. )
  • Second person—the story is told from the “you” perspective. This point of view is rare, but when done effectively, it can create a sense of eeriness or a personalized piece.
  • Third person limited—the story is told from the “he/she/they” perspective. The narrator is not directly involved in the lives of the characters; additionally, the narrator usually writes from the perspective of one or two characters.
  • Third person omniscient—the story is told from the “he/she/they” perspective. The narrator is not directly involved in the lives of the characters; additionally, the narrator knows what is happening in each character’s heads and in the world at large.

If you can’t find the right words to begin your piece, consider switching up the pronouns you use and the perspective you write from. You might find that the story flows onto the page from a different point of view.

5. Fiction Writing Tip: Use the Story to Investigate Themes

Generally, the themes of the story aren’t explored until after the aforementioned elements are established, and writers don’t always know the themes of their own work until after the work is written. Still, it might help to consider the broader implications of the story you want to write. How does the conflict or story extend into a bigger picture?

Let’s revisit Harry Potter’s opening scenes. When we revisit the Dursleys preventing Harry from knowing about his true nature, several themes are established: the meaning of family, the importance of identity, and the idea of fate can all be explored here. Themes often develop organically, but it doesn’t hurt to consider the message of your story from the start.

6. Fiction Writing Tip: Experiment With Words

Style is the last of the six fiction elements, but certainly as important as the others. The words you use to tell your story, the way you structure your sentences, how you alternate between characters, and the sounds of the words you use all contribute to the mood of the work itself.

If you’re struggling to get past the first sentence, try rewriting it. Write it in 10 words or write it in 200 words; write a single word sentence; experiment with metaphors, alliteration, or onomatopoeia . Then, once you’ve found the right words, build from there, and let your first sentence guide the style and mood of the narrative.

Now, let’s take a deeper look at the craft of fiction writing. The above elements are great starting points, but to learn how to start writing fiction, we need to examine the craft of combining these elements.

Jack Smith

Primer on the Elements of Fiction Writing

First, before we get into the craft of fiction writing, it’s important to understand the elements of fiction. You don’t need to understand everything about the craft of fiction before you start keying in ideas or planning your novel. But this primer will be something you can consult if you need clarification on any term (e.g., point of view) as you learn how to start writing fiction.

The Elements of Fiction Writing

A standard novel runs between 80,000 to 100,000 words. A short novel, going by the National Novel Writing Month , is at least 50,000. To begin with, don’t think about length—think about development. Length will come. It is true that some works lend themselves more to novellas, but if that’s the case, you don’t want to pad them to make a longer work. If you write a plot summary—that’s one option on getting started writing fiction—you will be able to get a fairly good idea about your project as to whether it lends itself to a full-blown novel.

For now, let’s think about the various elements of fiction—the building blocks.

Writing Fiction: Your Protagonist

Readers want an interesting protagonist , or main character. One that seems real, that deals with the various things in life we all deal with. If the writer makes life too simple, and doesn’t reflect the kinds of problems we all face, most readers are going to lose interest.

Don’t cheat it. Make the work honest. Do as much as you can to develop a character who is fully developed, fully real—many-sided. Complex. In Aspects of the Novel , E.M Forster called this character a “round” characte r. This character is capable of surprising us. Don’t be afraid to make your protagonist, or any of your characters, a bit contradictory. Most of us are somewhat contradictory at one time or another. The deeper you see into your protagonist, the more complex, the more believable they will be.

If a character has no depth, is merely “flat,” as Forster terms it, then we can sum this character up in a sentence: “George hates his ex-wife.” This is much too limited. Find out why. What is it that causes George to hate his ex-wife? Is it because of something she did or didn’t do? Is it because of a basic personality clash? Is it because George can’t stand a certain type of person, and he didn’t realize, until too late, that his ex-wife was really that kind of person? Imagine some moments of illumination, and you will have a much richer character than one who just hates his ex-wife.

And so… to sum up: think about fleshing out your protagonist as much as you can. Consider personality, character (or moral makeup), inclinations, proclivities, likes, dislikes, etc. What makes this character happy? What makes this character sad or frustrated? What motivates your character? Readers don’t want to know only what —they want to know why .

Usually, readers want a sympathetic character, one they can root for. Or if not that, one that is interesting in different ways. You might not find the protagonist of The Girl on the Train totally sympathetic, but she’s interesting! She’s compelling.

Here’s an article I wrote on what makes a good protagonist.

Also on clichéd characters.

Now, we’re ready for a key question: what is your protagonist’s main goal in this story? And secondly, who or what will stand in the way of your character achieving this goal?

There are two kinds of conflicts: internal and external. In some cases, characters may not be opposing an external antagonist, but be self-conflicted. Once you decide on your character’s goal, you can more easily determine the nature of the obstacles that your protagonist must overcome. There must be conflict, of course, and stories must involve movement. Things go from Phase A to Phase B to Phase C, and so on. Overall, the protagonist begins here and ends there. She isn’t the same at the end of the story as she was in the beginning. There is a character arc.

I spoke of character arc. Now let’s move on to plot, the mechanism governing the overall logic of the story. What causes the protagonist to change? What key events lead up to the final resolution?

But before we go there, let’s stop a moment and think about point of view, the lens through which the story is told.

Writing Fiction: Point of View as Lens

Is this the right protagonist for this story? Is this character the one who has the most at stake? Does this character have real potential for change? Remember, you must have change or movement—in terms of character growth—in your story. Your character should not be quite the same at the end as in the beginning. Otherwise, it’s more of a sketch.

Such a story used to be called “slice of life.” For example, what if a man thinks his job can’t get any worse—and it doesn’t? He started with a great dislike for the job, for the people he works with, just for the pay. His hate factor is 9 on a scale of 10. He doesn’t learn anything about himself either. He just realizes he’s got to get out of there. The reader knew that from page 1.

Choose a character who has a chance of undergoing change of some kind. The more complex the change, the better. Characters that change are dynamic characters , according to E. M. Forster. Characters that remain the same are  static  characters. Be sure your protagonist is dynamic.

Okay, an exception: Let’s say your character resists change—that can involve some sort of movement—the resisting of change.

Here’s another thing to look at on protagonists—a blog I wrote: https://elizabethspanncraig.com/writing-tips-2/creating-strong-characters-typical-challenges/

Writing Fiction: Point of View and Person

Usually when we think of point of view, we have in mind the choice of person: first, second, and third. First person provides intimacy. As readers we’re allowed into the I-narrator’s mind and heart. A story told from the first person can sometimes be highly confessional, frank, bold. Think of some of the great first-person narrators like Huck Finn and Holden Caulfield. With first person we can also create narrators that are not completely reliable, leading to dramatic irony : we as readers believe one thing while the narrator believes another. This creates some interesting tension, but be careful to make your protagonist likable, sympathetic. Or at least empathetic, someone we can relate to.

What if a novel is told in first person from the point of view of a mob hit man? As author of such a tale, you probably wouldn’t want your reader to root for this character, but you could at least make the character human and believable. With first person, your reader would be constantly in the mind of this character, so you’d need to find a way to deal with this sympathy question. First person is a good choice for many works of fiction, as long as one doesn’t confuse the I-narrator with themselves. It may be a temptation, especially in the case of fiction based on one’s own life—not that it wouldn’t be in third person narrations. But perhaps even more with a first person story: that character is me . But it’s not—it’s a fictional character.

Check out my article on writing autobiographical fiction, which appeared in  The   Writer  magazine. https://www.writermag.com/2018/07/31/filtering-fact-through-fiction/

Third person provides more distance. With third person, you have a choice between three forms: omniscient, limited omniscient, and objective or dramatic. If you get outside of your protagonist’s mind and enter other characters’ minds, you are being omniscient or godlike. If you limit your access to your protagonist’s mind only, this is limited omniscience. Let’s consider these two forms of third-person narrators before moving on to the objective or dramatic POV.

The omniscient form is rather risky, but it is certainly used, and it can certainly serve a worthwhile function. With this form, the author knows everything that has occurred, is occurring, or will occur in a given place, or in given places, for all the characters in the story. The author can provide historical background, look into the future, and even speculate on characters and make judgments. This point of view, writers tend to feel today, is more the method of nineteenth-century fiction, and not for today. It seems like too heavy an authorial footprint. Not handled well—and it is difficult to handle well—the characters seem to be pawns of an all-knowing author.

Today’s omniscience tends to take the form of multiple points of view, sometimes alternating, sometimes in sections. An author is behind it all, but the author is effaced, not making an appearance. BUT there are notable examples of well-handled authorial omniscience–read Nobel-prize winning Jose Saramago’s Blindness  as a good example.

For more help, here’s an article I wrote on the omniscient point of view for  The Writer : https://www.writermag.com/improve-your-writing/fiction/omniscient-pov/

The limited omniscient form is typical of much of today’s fiction. You stick to your protagonist’s mind. You see others from the outside. Even so, you do have to be careful that you don’t get out of this point of view from time to time, and bring in things the character can’t see or observe—unless you want to stand outside this character, and therein lies the omniscience, however limited it is.

But anyway, note the difference between: “George’s smiles were very welcoming” and “George felt like his smiles were very welcoming”—see the difference? In the case of the first, we’re seeing George from the outside; in the case of the second, from the inside. It’s safer to stay within your protagonist’s perspective as much as possible and not describe them from the outside. Doing so comes off like a point-of-view shift. Yet it’s true that in some stories, the narrator will describe what the character is wearing, tell us what his hopes and dreams are, mention things he doesn’t know right now but will later—and perhaps, in rather quirky stories, the narrator will even say something like “Our hero…” This can work, and has, if you create an interesting narrative voice. But it’s certainly a risk.

The dramatic or objective point of view is one you’ll probably use from time to time, but not throughout your whole novel. Hemingway’s “Hills like White Elephants” is handled with this point of view. Mostly, with maybe one exception, all we know is what the characters say and do, as in a play. Using this point of view from time to time in a longer work can certainly create interest. You can intensify a scene sometimes with this point of view. An interesting back and forth can be accomplished, especially if the dialogue is clipped.

I’ve saved the second-person point of view for the last. I would advise you not to use this point of view for an entire work. In his short novel Bright Lights, Big City , Jay McInerney famously uses this point of view, and with some force, but it’s hard to pull off. In lesser hands, it can get old. You also cause the reader to become the character. Does the reader want to become this character? One problem with this point of view is it may seem overly arty, an attempt at sophistication. I think it’s best to choose either first or third.

Here’s an article I wrote on use of second person for  The Writer magazine. Check it out if you’re interested. https://www.writermag.com/2016/11/02/second-person-pov/

Writing Fiction: Protagonist and Plot and Structure

We come now to plot, keeping in mind character. You might consider the traditional five-stage structure : exposition, rising action, crisis and climax, falling action, and resolution. Not every plot works this way, but it’s a tried-and-true structure. Certainly a number of pieces of literature you read will begin in media re s—that is, in the middle of things. Instead of beginning with standard exposition, or explanation of the condition of the protagonist’s life at the story’s starting point, the author will begin with a scene. But even so, as in Jerzy Kosiński’s famous novella Being There , which begins with a scene, we’ll still pick up the present state of the character’s life before we see something that complicates it or changes the existing equilibrium. This so-called complication can be something apparently good—like winning the lottery—or something decidedly bad—like losing a huge amount of money at the gaming tables. One thing is true in both cases: whatever has happened will cause the character to change. And so now you have to fill in the events that bring this about.

How do you do that? One way is to write a chapter outline to prevent false starts. But some writers don’t like plotting in this fashion, but want to discover as they write. If you do plot your novel in advance, do realize that as you write, you will discover a lot of things about your character that you didn’t have in mind when you first set pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard. And so, while it’s a good idea to do some planning, do keep your options open.

Let’s think some more about plot. To have a workable plot, you need a sequence of actions or events that give the story an overall movement. This includes two elements which we’ll take up later: foreshadowing and echoing (things that prepare us for something in the future and things that remind us of what has already happened). These two elements knit a story together.

Think carefully about character motivations. Some things may happen to your character; some things your character may decide to do, however wisely or unwisely. In the revision stage, if not earlier, ask yourself: What motivates my character to act in one way or another? And ask yourself: What is the overall logic of this story? What caused my character to change? What were the various forces, whether inner or outer, that caused this change? Can I describe my character’s overall arc, from A to Z?  Try to do that. Write a short paragraph. Then try to write down your summary in one sentence, called a log line in film script writing, but also a useful technique in fiction writing as well. If you write by the discovery method, you probably won’t want to do this in the midst of the drafting, but at least in the revision stage, you should consider doing so.

With a novel you may have a subplot or two. Assuming you will, you’ll need to decide how the plot and the subplot relate. Are they related enough to make one story? If you think the subplot is crucial for the telling of your tale, try to say why—in a paragraph, then in a sentence.

Here’s an article I wrote on structure for  The Writer : https://www.writermag.com/improve-your-writing/revision-grammar/find-novels-structure/

Writing Fiction: Setting

Let’s move on to setting . Your novel has to take place somewhere. Where is it? Is it someplace that is particularly striking and calls for a lot of solid description? If it’s a wilderness area where your character is lost, give your reader a strong sense for the place. If it’s a factory job, and much of the story takes place at the worksite, again readers will want to feel they’re there with your character, putting in the hours. If it’s an apartment and the apartment itself isn’t related to the problems your character is having, then there’s no need to provide that much detail. Exception: If your protagonist concentrates on certain things in the apartment and begins to associate certain things about the apartment with their misery, now there’s reason to get concrete. Take a look, when you have a chance, at the short story “The Yellow Wall-Paper.” It’s not an apartment—it’s a house—but clearly the setting itself becomes important when it becomes important to the character. She reads the wallpaper as a statement about her own condition.

Here’s the URL for ”The Yellow Wall-Paper”: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/theliteratureofprescription/exhibitionAssets/digitalDocs/The-Yellow-Wall-Paper.pdf

Sometimes setting is pretty important; sometimes it’s much less important. When it doesn’t serve a purpose to describe it, don’t, other than to give the reader a sense for where the story takes place. If you provide very many details, even in a longer work like a novel, the reader will think that these details have some significance in terms of character, plot, or theme—or all three. And if they don’t, why are they there? If setting details are important, be selective. Provide a dominant impression. More on description below.

If you’re interested, here’s a blog on setting I wrote for Writers.com: https://writers.com/what-is-the-setting-of-a-story

Writing Fiction: Theme and Idea

Most literary works have a theme or idea. It’s possible to decide on this theme before you write, as you plan out your novel. But be careful here. If the theme seems imposed on the work, the novel will lose a lot of force. It will seem—and it may well be—engineered by the author much like a nonfiction piece, and lose the felt experience of the characters.

Theme must emerge from the work naturally, or at least appear to do so. Once you have a draft, you can certainly build ideas that are apparent in the work, and you can even do this while you’re generating your first draft. But watch out for overdoing it. Let the characters (what they do, what they say) and the plot (the whole storyline with its logical connections) contribute on their own to the theme. Also you can depend on metaphors, similes, and analogies to point to the theme—as long as these are not heavy-handed. Avoid authorial intrusion, authorial impositions of any kind. If you do end up creating a simile, metaphor, or analogy through rational thinking, make sure it sounds  natural. That’s not easy, of course.

Writing Fiction: Handling Scenes

Keep a few things in mind about writing scenes. Not every event deserves a whole scene, maybe only a half-scene, a short interaction between characters. Scenes need to do two things: reveal character and advance plot. If a scene seems to stall out and lack interest, in the revision mode you might try using narrative summary instead (see below).

Good fiction is strongly dramatic, calling for scenes, many of them scenes with dialogue and action. Scenes need to involve conflict of some kind. If everyone is happy, that’s probably going to be a dull scene. Some scenes will be narrative, without dialogue. You need some interesting action to make these work.

Let’s consider scenes with dialogue.

The best dialogue is speech that sounds natural, and yet isn’t. Everything about fiction is an artifice, including speech. But try to make it sound real. The best way to do this is to “hear” the voices in your head and transcribe them. Take dictation. If you can do this, whole conversations will seem very real, believable. If you force what each character has to say, and plan it out too much, it will certainly sound planned out, and not real at all. Not that in the revision mode you can’t doctor up the speech here and there, but still, make sure it comes off as natural sounding.

Some things to think about when writing dialogue: people usually speak in fragments, interrupt each other, engage in pauses, follow up a question with a comment that takes the conversation off course (non sequiturs). Note these aspects of dialogue in the fiction you read.

Also, note how writers intersperse action with dialogue, setting details, and character thoughts. As far as the latter goes, though, if you’ll recall, I spoke of the dramatic point of view, which doesn’t get into a character’s mind but depends instead on what characters do and say, as in a play. You may try this point of view out in some scenes to make them really move.

One technique is to use indirect dialogue, or summary of what a character said, not in the character’s own words. For instance: Bill made it clear that he wasn’t going to the city after all. If anybody thought that, they were wrong .

Now and then you’ll come upon dialogue that doesn’t use the standard double quotes, but perhaps a single quote (this is British), or dashes, or no punctuation at all. The latter two methods create some distance from the speech. If you want to give your work a surreal quality, this certainly adds to it. It also makes it seem more interior.

One way to kill good dialogue is to make characters too obviously expository devices—that is, functioning to provide background or explanations of certain important story facts. Certainly characters can serve as expository devices, but don’t be too heavy-handed about this. Don’t force it like the following:

“We always used to go to the beach, you recall? You recall how first we would have breakfast, then take a long walk on the beach, and then we would change into our swimsuits, and spend an hour in the water. And you recall how we usually followed that with a picnic lunch, maybe an hour later.”

This sounds like the character is saying all this to fill the reader in on backstory. You’d need a motive for the utterance of all of these details—maybe sharing a memory?

But the above sounds stilted, doesn’t it?

One final word about dialogue. Watch out for dialogue tags that tell but don’t show . Here’s an example:

“Do you think that’s the case,” said Ted, hoping to hear some good news. “Not necessarily,” responded Laura, in a barky voice. “I just wish life wasn’t so difficult,” replied Ted.

If you’re going to use a tag at all—and many times you don’t need to—use “said.” Dialogue tags like the above examples can really kill the dialogue.

Writing Fiction: Writing Solid Prose

Narrative summary :  As I’ve stated above, not everything will be a scene. You’ll need to write narrative summary now and then. Narrative summary telescopes time, covering a day, a week, a month, a year, or even longer. Often it will be followed up by a scene, whether a narrative scene   or one with dialogue. Narrative summary can also relate how things generally went over a given period. You can write strong narrative summary if you make it specific and concrete—and dramatic. Also, if we hear the voice of the writer, it can be interesting—if the voice is compelling enough.

Exposition : It’s the first stage of the 5-stage plot structure, where things are set up prior to some sort of complication, but more generally, it’s a prose form which tells or informs. You use exposition when you get inside your character, dealing with his or her thoughts and emotions, memories, plans, dreams. This can be difficult to do well because it can come off too much like authorial “telling” instead of “showing,” and readers want to feel like they’re experiencing the world of the protagonist, not being told about this world. Still, it’s important to get inside characters, and exposition is often the right tool, along with narrative summary, if the character is remembering a sequence of events from the past.

Description :  Description is a word picture, providing specific and concrete details to allow the reader to see, not just be told. Concreteness is putting the reader in the world of the five senses, what we call imagery . Some writers provide a lot of details, some only a few—just enough that the reader can imagine the rest. Consider choosing details that create a dominant impression—whether it’s a character or a place. Similes, metaphors, and analogies help readers see people and places and can make thoughts and ideas (the reflections of your character or characters) more interesting. Not that you should always make your reader see. To do so might cause an overload of images.

Check out these two articles: https://www.writermag.com/improve-your-writing/fiction/the-definitive-guide-to-show-dont-tell/ https://www.writermag.com/improve-your-writing/fiction/figurative-language-in-fiction/

Writing Fiction: Research

Some novels require research. Obviously historical novels do, but others do, too, like Sci Fi novels. Almost any novel can call for a little research. Here’s a short article I wrote for The Writer magazine on handling research materials. It’s in no way an in-depth commentary on research–but it will serve as an introduction. https://www.writermag.com/improve-your-writing/fiction/research-in-fiction/

For a blog on novel writing, check this link at Writers.com: https://writers.com/novel-writing-tips

For more articles I’ve published in  The Writer , go here: https://www.writermag.com/author/jack-smith/

How to Start Writing Fiction: Take a Writing Class!

To write a story or even write a book, fiction writers need these tools first and foremost. Although there’s no comprehensive guide on how to write fiction for beginners, working with these elements of fiction will help your story bloom.

All six elements synergize to make a work of fiction, and like most works of art, the sum of these elements is greater than the individual parts. Still, you might find that you struggle with one of these elements, like maybe you’re great at writing characters but not very good with exploring setting. If this is the case, then use your strengths: use characters to explore the setting, or use style to explore themes, etc.

Getting the first draft written is the hardest part, but it deserves to be written. Once you’ve got a working draft of a story or novel and you need an extra set of eyes, the Writers.com community is here to give feedback: take a look at our upcoming courses on fiction writing, and check out our talented writing community .

Good luck, and happy writing!

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I have had a story in my mind for over 15 years. I just haven’t had an idea how to start , putting it down on print just seems too confusing. After reading this article I’m even more confused but also more determined to give it a try. It has given me answers to some of my questions. Thank you !

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You’ve got this, Earl!

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Just reading this as I have decided to attempt a fiction work. I am terrible at writing outside of research papers and such. I have about 50 single spaced pages “written” and an entire outline. These tips are great because where I struggle it seems is drawing the reader in. My private proof reader tells me it is to much like an explanation and not enough of a story, but working on it.

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first class

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25 Of The Best Books On Writing

Looking for books to hone your skills as a writer?

Maybe you’re looking for the perfect gift for a writer you know whose library of the craft needs some new powerhouse additions.

No matter what reason you have to shop for books (and do you really need one, anyway?), this list shares the titles of favorites for five different categories.

So, if you’re looking for the best books on writing — whether you’re writing novels, short stories, poetry, or creative nonfiction — look no further.

Which new book will you add to your writer’s library today?

Anyone of the books listed below will help you reach your writing goals and become a better writer.

And any one of them would make a thoughtful and supportive gift for the writers in your life.

1. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

2. story genius: how to use brain science to go beyond outlining and write a riveting novel (before you waste three years writing 327 pages that go nowhere) by lisa cron, 3. plot & structure: techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers from start to finish by james scott bell, 4. getting into character: seven secrets a novelist can learn from actors by brandilyn collins, 5. bird by bird: some instructions on writing and life by anne lamott, 1. on writing well: an informal guide to writing nonfiction by william zinsser, 2. how to write a nonfiction ebook in 21 days – that readers love by steve scott, 3. good prose: the art of nonfiction by tracy kidder and richard todd, 4. to show and to tell: the craft of literary nonfiction by phillip lopate, 5. story craft: the complete guide to writing narrative nonfiction by jack hart, 1. the triggering town: lectures and essays on poetry and writing by richard hugo, 2. a poet’s glossary by edward hirsch, 3. a poetry handbook: a prose guide to understanding and writing poetry by mary oliver, 4. ordinary genius: a guide for the poet within by kim addonizio, 5. the poetry home repair manual: practical advice for beginning poets by ted kooser, 1. the elements of style by william strunk, jr. and e.b. white, 2. the only grammar book you’ll ever need: a one-stop source for every writing assignment by susan thurman and larry shea, 3. it was the best of sentences, it was the worst of sentences: a writer’s guide to crafting killer sentences by june casagrande, 4. perfect english grammar: the indispensable guide to excellent writing and speaking by grant barrett, 5. grammar for fiction writers (busy writer’s guides book 5) by marcy kennedy and chris saylor, 1. how to write short stories and use them to further your writing career by james scott bell, 2. let’s write a short story by joe bunting, 3. creating short fiction: the classic guide to writing short fiction by damon knight, 4. the art of the short story by dana gioia, 5. writing & selling short stories and personal essays by windy lynn harris, did you find this list of books helpful, list of the best books on writing, best books on writing fiction.

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Whatever you think of Stephen King’s bestselling horror novels, writers the world over have benefited from the down-to-earth, relatable, and practical advice in this book.

If you love a good story (with or without the element of horror ) or would love the book equivalent of a long, friendly chat with a storytelling legend — in your own living room and with the beverage of your choice – King’s book on writing is well worth the time, the money, and the shelf space.

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The author goes beyond the prevailing wisdom behind the two most common approaches to writing: starting with an outline (“plotting”) and writing without one (“pantsing”).

Cron’s book delves into the brain science behind her writing advice, helping you grab your reader’s attention at the outset, without taxing your attention span with pages of detailed, scientific explanations.

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Whatever genre you choose, the plot influences every element in the story. And even if you’re a freewheeling pantser, your readers don’t want to spend hours wading through a formless puddle of words.

The best stories have a structure to them that makes sense to the reader, even if it’s not something you plan in detail at the outset.

Bell also knows the difference between plotting for commercial fiction and plotting to appeal to the literati, and when you’ve finished this book, you will, too.

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Why should a writer care about method acting?

The author of this book, with her thirteen years’ experience teaching at writers conferences, answers this question with seven character-building secrets she learned with the help of her first college major: theater.

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In this book, Anne Lamott writes about writing itself and about the writer’s life, sharing stories from her early development as a writer and her experiences along the way to becoming a New York Times bestselling author of both fiction and nonfiction.

Best Books on Writing Nonfiction

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This warm and versatile classic will help you improve not only your grammar but everything about the way you write — brightening your prose and improving its clarity and flow.

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Most of us don’t have twelve to sixteen uninterrupted hours a day to write our next nonfiction book.

As a successful self-published author of several books who knows the difference between self-serving guru-ese and real, actionable advice, Scott gets that.

The step-by-step process he describes in this book covers all the bases and leaves you a thousand percent better prepared to write a book your readers will love — one that will be worth the extra time taken to write it.

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Nonfiction writing is as much an art as fiction and poetry, and the authors of this book have broken it down in a way that is both accessible and illuminating.

As authorities in this field, Kidder and Todd have created a gold standard for all writers of creative nonfiction — as clear and comprehensive as Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and as fluid, engaging, and impactful as good prose ought to be.

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If you’re interested in writing well-crafted personal essays , Lopate’s book is a masterclass that distills over forty years of lessons from his career as a writer and professor, as well as a universally-acclaimed essay-writer and storyteller.

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As the former managing editor of The Oregonian (newspaper), Jack Hart guided several Pulitzer Prize-winning pieces to publication and has created the definitive guide for writers of creative nonfiction — from magazine essays to book-length journalistic narratives.

Covering the broad range of styles, genres, and media for narrative nonfiction, Hart shares his wealth of knowledge and experience in clear, focused, and entertaining language.

Best Books on Writing Poetry

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As both a distinguished poet and an inspiring teacher, Richard Hugo has a style that effortlessly combines confidence with genuine respect for each poet’s process.

This collection of essays, reflections, and lectures covers everything from technique to the mysteries of poetic expression — guiding and entertaining beginners and experienced poets alike.

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Hirsch has done poets around the world a favor by creating this glossary. Not only does it clearly define and demonstrate the known universe of poetic forms and styles, but this book also provides a comprehensive education on these and their origins.

If you’re interested in poetry (or you know someone who is), this book will become a well-used resource.

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Oliver packs a wealth of information into this 130-page book, covering the technical aspects of poetry writing and illustrating each lesson with the works of poets like Robert Frost and Elizabeth Bishop.

An accomplished poet herself, the author’s passion for poetry comes through in her writing. If you’re a poet or would like to give it a try, this book deserves a place on your shelf.

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Another widely-acclaimed poet, Addonizio wrote this book to help fellow creatives discover their voice and communicate it through poetry.

Inspired by poets old and new, the author meditates on her own process while showing her readers how to develop their own.

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An author of twelve full-length volumes of poetry (and several nonfiction books), Ted Kooser was the United States Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006 and won a Pulitzer prize for one of his books of poetry ( Delights and Shadows) .

His manual is less a technical manual on poetry than a long, friendly, and enlightening conversation with an approachable master of the craft.

Best Books on Grammar for Writers

fiction writing books

If you’re familiar with this title, you probably knew it would make the list. On Amazon, it’s still the #1 book in the Grammar and Writing Skills categories, and for good reason.

As authoritative and entertaining as it is compact and easy to use, this book will likely remain a classic for years to come. Make sure your writing shelf has a copy.

fiction writing books

Not every English teacher was born to create a grammar book with a title like this one, but Susan Thurman is no ordinary English teacher.

In this comprehensive book, she and her co-author, Larry Shea, address every grammar and punctuation issue you’re likely to encounter, whatever you’re writing.

fiction writing books

The ability to craft a complete and grammatically correct sentence can seem rare enough. But the skill of composing one clear, effective sentence after another is the hallmark of a successful writer.

Casagrande knows this and uses lighthearted humor and her knowledge and experience as a language columnist to help you learn and steadily hone this skill. Wherever you are with your writing, this book will help you master the craft, one sentence at a time.

fiction writing books

If you’re looking for a grammar resource written by an expert linguist with an eye for detail, check out Barrett’s Perfect English Grammar .

This authoritative and easy-to-navigate book will answer all your questions with the tone of an encouraging friend and mentor, while it improves your grasp of English grammar every time you look through its pages.

fiction writing books

Fiction writers don’t need to know all the rules typically covered in English class. In fact, as authors Kennedy and Saylor point out, knowing and adhering to those rules might actually do more harm than good.

So, this grammar book covers only the rules that will make your fiction writing clearer, stronger, and more compelling. It gives you enough theory — with helpful examples — on what you need to know without filling your inner editor’s toolbox with rules that just get in the way.

Best Books on Writing Short Stories

fiction writing books

This is one of the most enjoyable books on writing you’ll ever read — both because of the staggering amount of useful information you’ll learn and because of the entertaining writing style of its author.

The writing examples from other famous authors add to the enjoyment. If you’re at all interested in writing short stories, this book should have an honored place on your shelf.

fiction writing books

Joe Bunting knows short stories. He knows about writing them, about winning short story contests, and about getting your short stories published.

He knows because he’s done it all, and with this book, he gives you the information you need to do what he’s done — challenging and encouraging you along the path to becoming a published author of well-crafted short stories.

fiction writing books

A celebrated short story author and writing instructor, Knight put decades of teaching and practice into this book to cover everything you need to know about writing short stories — including enlisting the help of your subconscious mind.

This widely trusted guide (used in classrooms and workshops everywhere) could be just the thing to help you get past your writer’s block.

fiction writing books

If you want to write short stories, you should acquaint yourself with the masterpieces of this writing form.

This collection features 52 short stories from the greatest short story writers of all time — as well as biographical and critical commentary to give you a fuller understanding of the works and their authors. This book is a well-curated library in itself.

fiction writing books

Harris’s book capitalizes on the popularity of both short stories and personal essays to help you not only vary your writing expertise – making you a more versatile writer who can communicate (and entertain) more with fewer words — but also earn more as a writer.

The bylines at the ends of your published short stories and personal essays make your name (and website URL) more visible to those who enjoy your work and want to see more of it.

I hope you found at least one book that you’re eager to start reading, whether it will take up space on a physical shelf or on the cloud. And if you pick up a few writer gifts while you’re at it, enjoy the satisfaction that goes with money well spent.

If you found value in this article, please share it widely to help and encourage your fellow writers. You might even consider sending it to someone who has asked you recently what on earth they should get you — or another writer friend — as a gift. You’ll be doing them (and yourself) a favor.

Aside from that, there are plenty of writers out there who might be looking for highly-recommended books on writing — maybe to buy for themselves or as a writing business expense they can claim as a tax write-off.

So, pass it on in good faith. And may your thoughtfulness and generosity influence everything else you do today.

Want to develop more your skills as a writer? Or are you looking for the perfect gift for a writer you know? Check out these 25 useful and best books on writing.

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Essential Books for Writers

The Center for Fiction

essential

Maybe calling our list "Essential Books for Writers" is a bit of a stretch. We know that there are many opinions on what makes great writing, and what works for one person may not work for the next. Can you imagine Ernest Hemingway, Flannery O'Connor, and Charles Dickens debating about the right way to write? But we wanted to give you some options and inspiration on your path to whatever a successful life as a writer looks like to you. We hope you'll find your essential guide in our list. Happy reading and writing!

on writing

By Stephen King

Published by Scribner

Leave it to the literary rock star to compose a craft book that’s as entertaining as a good novel. “This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit,” King writes. What follows is a witty, practical, and sometimes poignant guide that is refreshingly devoid of the aforementioned BS. King relates his personal story of becoming a writer, then offers a “toolkit” of clear advice about everything from dialogue and descriptive passages to revisions and the head game. And there’s more: tips for beginning writers on submitting work for publication, a mark-up of one of King’s own manuscripts, and a reading list. You might not be awake at 3 a.m. turning these pages, but we promise  On Writing  will open your eyes to essential tricks of the trade.

shapiro-dani.still-writing

Still Writing

By Dani Shapiro

Published by Grove/Atlantic

Dani Shapiro’s book,  Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life , is a perfect walk through an imperfect process. She shares the tried and true rules that some aspiring writers may want to hear, like using the five senses, sticking to a work schedule, and avoiding clichéd characters; but it is the places where Shapiro acknowledges the ambiguity of the process that stand out. Peppered with personal history and insight into how and where she created novels like  Black and White  as well as acclaimed memoirs  Devotion  and  Slow Motion , Shapiro gives us a road map to writing with one simple direction at its heart: Keep writing. The rules she lays out are meant to be broken; no life-story is more worthy of being written than any other; no process (unless it involves surfing the Web instead of actually writing) is wrong. Yes, Dani Shapiro is still writing, and because she possesses that all-important need to create, it seems she will be doing so for quite some time.

On Moral Fiction by John Gardner

On Moral Fiction

By John Gardner

Published by HarperCollins

John Gardner’s  On Moral Fiction , by now a well-known classic, is as relevant in its exploration of the obligations of literature as when it was first published in 1979. Gardner discusses art and criticism, concluding that the artist has a responsibility to produce “moral” works for the sake of society. “Art discovers, generation after generation, what is necessary to humanness,” says Gardner. By linking literature to such elemental ideas as immortality and death, entropy and truth, Gardner dramatizes the act of writing itself, coloring literature and criticism with such vitality and excitement that it is hard not to become exhilarated. “Art gropes,” Gardner says. “It stalks like a hunter lost in the woods, listening to itself and to everything around it, unsure of itself, waiting to pounce.” You might say that some of his ideas are outrageous or unconventional, but none of them lack the ability to provoke us.

white shirt

First You Write

By Joni Rodgers

It’s fitting that Joni Rodgers’s  First You Write: The Worst Way to Become an Almost Famous Author and the Best Advice I Got While Doing It  is available only as an e-book. Rodgers’s writes with wit and candor not only about her circuitous route to becoming a  New York Times bestselling memoirist ( Bald in the Land of Big Hair , a searingly funny account of her journey through cancer) and a critically acclaimed small-press novelist ( Crazy for Trying ;  Sugar Land ), but also about her pioneering adventures in self-publishing on Kindle. Rodgers’s willingness to experiment (isn’t that what artists do?) and to turn preconceived publishing notions on their ear is wonderfully refreshing, and her whip-smart observations will keep you turning (virtual) pages.

the-forest-for-the-trees-alt

The Forest for the Trees

By Betsy Lerner

Published by Penguin

Betsy Lerner’s  The Forest for The Trees  begins as a psychological compendium of the writer’s life; written to the writer, with love. Lerner diagnoses writers: the ambivalent, the natural, the neurotic, and as we relate to aspects of each, we are delivered through an embarrassing adolescence of our own writerly growth, discovering who we were, are, and might better be. Through humorous and often moving anecdotes and a wealth of quotable quotes, we sweep through the personal and into the political landscape of the literary industry. Like all good books, Lerner’s reflects the reader (as writer) back to herself at every moment. She morphs between midwife and editor, weaving stories that teach us how best to birth our own.

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

The Writing Life

By Annie Dillard

In the years since its original publication, Annie Dillard’s  The Writing Life  has become a must-read for aspiring writers of all walks. Perhaps this is because her approach to the creative process manages a kind of golden ratio, a balance of magic and pragmatism that continues to reveal its depths to writers of the 21st century. Plainly, this is not a field guide. Dillard does not draw a tidy map. She does the opposite, acknowledging the unknown and unknowable wilderness that every writer must face. “The line of words is a miner’s pick, a wood carver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next  year.” A master in the art of illumination, she focuses on the edges of big ideas. The resulting work is as mystifying as it is enduring.

friedman-bonnie.writing-past-dark

Writing Past Dark

By Bonnie Friedman

In  Writing Past Dark , Bonnie Friedman shines a light on the hidden ways we mess ourselves up—with envy, fear, distraction, and other self-defeating habits of mind. “Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing,” she says. “They are the ones who discover what is most important and strangest and most pleasurable in themselves, and keep believing in the value of their work, despite the difficulties.” With warmth and candor, Friedman offers insights into surmounting those tricky obstacles.

strunk-white.elements-of-style

The Elements of Style

By William Strunk & E.B. White

Of the hundreds of volumes written about the art and craft of writing,  The Elements of Style  by William Strunk and E.B. White is the elegant granddad. This slim volume offers no touchy-feely solutions for writer’s block, no inspirational exercises, and no musings on the writing life. Instead, it contains clear, concise rules for writing well, delivered with panache. Whether you strive for formal excellence or stylistic innovation, whether you’re a first-time author or have a string of publications to your name, there’s something here to learn—or gladly rediscover.

mckee-robert.story

By Robert McKee

Robert McKee (the renowned screenwriting guru whose real-life teaching persona was portrayed by Brian Cox in the film  Adaptation ) is required reading, but not just for screenwriters. He illustrates good plotting and structure that can make your novels or short stories as gripping as your favorite film. In Story , McKee structures his advice by first broadly stating a principle of writing, then expounding on different ways it can be applied, with examples from all kinds of scripts. His pearls of wisdom have been legendary in the Hollywood world, and they’ll certainly stick in your head after you’re through this book. Whether you’re writing for the screen or the page, this fantastic book will help you break your work down to the core of why we write fiction in the first place: the story.

Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern

Making Shapely Fiction

By Jerome Stern

Published by W. W. Norton

It’s easy, when one is far enough along in the “writing life,” to assume that a manual won’t have much to offer beyond technical guidance and fluffy prompts. But Stern’s wise and thorough little book should be as indispensable to the master of the form as the student. Like Stern himself, who was the head of the Creative Writing Program at Florida State University for many years, it takes a brass tacks approach to fiction, one that can be read straight through if you want to bone up on the basics or in bits and pieces as inspiration is needed. The “shapes” in question are sixteen storytelling archetypes which Stern breaks down in the book’s first section, followed by a tongue-in-cheek section on whether or not to write what you know, and finally a glossary of terms “from Accuracy to Zig-Zag.” This may all sound like stuff you already know, but to read them again in Stern’s irreverent voice is like revisiting fairy tales from your childhood and discovering all the dirty parts that went over your head. You’ll want to dig back into your own discarded ideas box and sculpt something new.

Steering the Craft by Ursula LeGuin

Steering the Craft

By Ursula K. Le Guin

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Le Guin has published two books about writing. The more recent of these,  Steering the Craft  (1998), is intended for experienced writers, the ones, she says, who “blow all Rules of Writing to bits.” It offers exercises and advice on storytelling, point of view, and grammar. For the younger author, there is her 1979 volume,  The Language of the Night , filled with inspirational essays on science fiction and fantasy, that are no less rigorous than the later book. “In art,” she observes, “‘good enough’ is not good enough.”

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77 Best Books for Fiction Writers You Must Own

Writing and Publishing

best fiction writing books

W riting is an art form, and just like any art form, it requires work, dedication, and study. Every writer needs to learn the craft, improve their technique, develop their style and voice, and do all of these continuously during their writing career. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it is made somewhat easier by the resources available on the market.

Best Fiction Writing Books

There are thousands of books on fiction writing, but some of them stand out. They excel in delivery, presentation, uniqueness, and some even captivate you in a way that makes it sound almost non-fiction. As a writer myself, I have come to read these books, cherish them, and have them become my go-to every time I feel I need a push.

I strongly believe that the great information available to us in these books written by masters of the craft is essential. I think that reading those words repeatedly, from different perspectives and with different attitudes, cements those ideas in your head and helps you become a better writer.

The Collection

So, I decided to gather all the books that I own and read on the writing craft into an ongoing collection. As time goes by, I will slowly review all of these books and give you my own perspective on every one of them. The collection is ordered by type and is kept on a separate page, which gets updated from time to time.

All I ask you is this: if you know of a fiction-writing book that is not on my list and you feel it belongs there, let me know. I promise I will buy it, read it and review it if I find it worthy.

I also ask you to help spread this information by sharing either this post or the page itself. You can post links on your blog or simply bookmark them on your favorite social media networks.

Basic Elements of Fiction

45 Master Characters

45 Master Characters will make your characters and their stories more compelling, complex, and original than ever before. You’ll explore the most common male and female archetypes—the mythic, cross-cultural models from which all characters originate—and learn how to use them as foundations for your own unique characters.

Building Believable Characters

Using this reference, readers can create characters who think, hope, love, cry, cause or feel pain, save the day – and seize readers’ emotions. Mark McCutcheon eases the process of building convincing characters for stories and novels. He starts conducting an inspiring and informative roundtable where six novelists reveal their approaches to characterization.

Characters & Viewpoint

This book is a set of tools: literary crowbars, chisels, mallets, pliers, and tongs. Use them to pry, chip, yank, and sift good characters out of the place where they live in your imagination. Award-winning author Orson Scott Card explains in depth the techniques of inventing, developing, and presenting characters , plus handling viewpoints in novels and short stories.

Creating Character Emotions

Creating Character Emotions will help writers find vivid ways to express emotion in their fiction. In 36 lessons, Ann Hood sheds new light on love, hate, fear, grief, guilt, hope, jealousy, and other emotional states.

Getting into Character

Proven techniques for creating vivid, believable characters. Want to bring characters to life on the page as vividly as fine actors do on the stage or screen? Getting into Character will give you a whole new way of thinking about your writing. Drawing on the Method acting theory that theater professionals have used for decades, this in-depth guide explains seven characterization techniques and adapts them for the novelist’s use.

The Complete Guide to Heroes and Heroines

Many books attempt to show writers how to create believable characters. This one is unlike the majority: it specifically identifies 16 “master archetypes,” complete with thumbnail sketches and descriptions of specific qualities, flaws, background, styles, and possible occupations.

Description

A description is most powerful when it’s visible, aural, tactile. Make your descriptions fresh, and they’ll move your story forward, imbue your work with atmosphere, create that tang of feeling that editors cry for and readers crave. Monica Wood helps you squeeze the greatest flavor from the language. She segments the description like an orange, separating its slices to let you sample each one.

Dialogue

When should your character talk, what should (or shouldn’t) he say, and when should he say it? How do you know when dialogue–or the lack thereof–is dragging down your scene? How do you fix a character who speaks without the laconic wit of the Terminator? Write Great Fiction: Dialogue successful author and instructor Gloria Kempton has the answers to all of these questions and more!

Writing Dialogue

Characters need to speak to each other, but writers often have trouble crafting dialogue that sounds authentic and original. Whether it’s an argument or a love scene, Chiarella demonstrates how to write exchanges that sound realistic.

Blockbuster Plots: Pure & Simple

Blockbuster Plots Pure and Simple (BBP) shows the plot rather than talking about it. Using two unique step-by-step visual tools for developing and deepening scenes and plot, BBP shows how the pros layer three distinct yet overlapping plotlines – Character Emotional Development , Dramatic Action, and Thematic Plot. When the dramatic action changes the character at depth over time, the story becomes thematically significant.

Novelist

This book covers the most popular element among our fiction-writing audience: plot. Appealing to novelists of any stripe. The Novelist’s Essential Guide to Creating Plot allows readers to focus on and examine the structure of the novel in depth – either one they’re currently working on or one that they are planning.

Plot

“There are ways to create, fix, steer and discover plots – ways which, over a writing life, you’d eventually puzzle out for yourself,” writes Ansen Dibell. “They aren’t laws. They’re an array of choices, things to try, once you’ve put a name to the particular problem you’re facing now.” That’s what this book is about: identifying those choices (whose viewpoint? stop and explain now, or wait? how can this lead to that?), then learning what narrative problems they are apt to create and how to choose an effective strategy for solving them. The result? Strong, solid stories and novels that move.

The Plot Thickens

As a literary agent , Noah Lukeman hears thousands of book pitches a year. Often the stories sound great in concept but never live up to their potential on the page. Lukeman shows beginning and advanced writers how to implement the fundamentals of successful plot development, such as character building and heightened suspense and conflict. Writers will find it impossible to walk away from this invaluable guide—a veritable fiction-writing workshop—without boundless new ideas.

Plot vs Character

What’s more important to a story: a gripping plot or compelling characters? Literary-minded novelists argue in favor of character-based novels. In contrast, commercial novelists argue in favor of plot-based stories, but the truth of the matter is this: The best fiction is rich in both. Enter Plot Versus Character. This hands-on guide to creating a well-rounded novel embraces both of these crucial story components.

Setting

Even with great characters, a gripping plot, and outstanding dialogue, a story isn’t complete without the appropriate setting—the unifying element in most fiction. Jack Bickham shows how to use sensual detail, vivid language, and keen observations to craft settings that help tell credible, interesting stories and heighten dramatic and thematic effects.

Description & Setting

How essential is the setting to a story? How much description is too much? In what ways do details and setting tie into plot and character development ? How can you use setting and description to add depth to your story? You can find all the answers you need in Write Great Fiction: Description & Setting author and instructor Ron Rozelle.

Beginnings, Middles & Ends

Get Your Readers’ Attention — And Keep It — From the First World to the Final Page. Translating that initial flash of inspiration into a complete story requires careful crafting. So how do you keep your story from beginning slowly, floundering midway, and trailing off at the end? Nancy Kress shows you effective solutions for potential problems at each stage of your story—essential lessons for strong start-to-finish storytelling.

Conflict, Action & Suspense

What makes a book a page-turner? How do you grab your readers right from the start and hold them through the last sentence? How do you make your plot twist and turn and keep the action moving without losing continuity? You do it by generating drama and developing it using conflict, action, and suspense. You make your reader burn to know what’s going to happen next. You create tension…and build it…to the breaking point.

Immediate Fiction

From the legendary creator of the Writer’s Loft in Chicago comes a writing course for those who want to see results now. Immediate Fiction covers the entire writing process, including manuscript preparation, time management, finding an idea, getting words on the page, staying unblocked, and submitting to agents and publishers. With insightful tips and advice, Jerry Cleaver helps writers manage doubts, fears, blocks, and panic while helping to develop their writing in minutes a day. A practical and accessible resource, this book has everything the aspiring writer needs to write and sell novels, short stories , screenplays, and stage plays.

Make a Scene: Crafting a powerful Story

In Make a Scene, author Jordan E. Rosenfeld takes you through the fundamentals of strong scene construction and explains how other essential fiction-writing techniques, such as character, plot, and dramatic tension, must function within the framework of individual scenes to provide substance and structure to the overall story.

Plot & Structure

How does the plot influence story structure? What’s the difference between plotting for commercial and literary fiction? How do you revise a plot or structure that’s gone off course? With Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure, you’ll discover the answers to these questions and more. Award-winning author James Scott Bell offers clear, concise information that will help you create a believable and memorable plot.

Scene & Structure

An imprisoned man receives an unexpected caller, after which “everything changed…” And the reader is hooked. But whether or not readers will stay on for the entire wild ride will depend on how well the writer structures the story, scene by scene. This book is your game plan for success. Using dozens of examples from his own work – including Dropshot, Tiebreaker, and other popular novels – Jack M. Bickham will guide you in building a sturdy framework for your novel, whatever its form or length.

The Scene Book

The Scene Book is a fundamental guide to crafting more effective scenes in fiction. In clear, simple language, Sandra Scofield shows both the beginner and the seasoned writer how to build better scenes, the underpinning of any good narrative.

Finding your Writer

An illuminating guide to finding one’s most powerful writing tool, Finding Your Writer’s Voice helps writers learn to hear the voices that are uniquely their own. Mixing creative inspiration with practical advice about craft, the book includes chapters on Accessing raw voice, Working in the first and third person: discovering a narrative persona, Using voice to create characters, and more.

Make your words work

Gary Provost practices what he preaches in Make Your Words Work. He helps you learn to write well by, among other things, writing well himself—his warm, witty, entertaining instruction teams with solid examples as well as exercises. Get the good word now. This is the writing course to help you make your work more powerful, readable, and salable.

Showing and Telling

“Show–don’t tell.” How many times have you heard this standard bit of writing advice? It’s so common in writing courses and critiques that it has become a cliche?. Writers are often told to write scenes, dramatize, cut exposition, cut summary–but it’s misguided advice. The truth is good writing almost always requires both showing and telling. The trick is finding the right balance of scene and summary–the two basic components of creative prose.

Spunk & Bite

Today’s writer needs more than just a solid knowledge of usage and composition to write successfully. Bestselling author Arthur Plotnik reveals the secrets to attention-grabbing, unforgettable writing in this trade paperback edition. Updated with all-new writing exercises, Spunk & Bite will help writers take books, articles, business reports, memos, and even e-mail messages to the next level.

The Power of Point of View

Point of view isn’t just an element of storytelling–when chosen carefully and employed consistently in a work of fiction, it is the foundation of a captivating story.

Writing Craft

A Guide to Writing Novels and be published

Here’s the book writers have been waiting for! Covering every aspect of the creative journey, Living the Writing Life shows readers how to: Develop salable ideas, turn ideas into stories, set a writing schedule and stick to it, conduct accurate research, dissect best-sellers to discover what makes them work, develop compelling characters and plot, and a lot more.

A writer

A Writer’s Reference is the most widely adopted college handbook ever published. The new edition is available in a classic version that provides more help with academic writing, serves a wider range of multilingual students, and lends more support for college research — all in an easy-to-use quick-reference format. Now for all the ways you teach your course, you can choose the classic version or choose from among 4 additional versions with varied content.

Art of War for Writers

Successfully starting and finishing a publishable novel is often like fighting a series of battles. You not only have to work hard to shape memorable characters, develop gripping plots, and craft dazzling dialogue, but you also have to fight against self-doubts and fears. And then there’s the challenge of learning to navigate the ever-changing publishing industry. That’s why best-selling novelist James Scott Bell, author of the Write Great Fiction staples Plot & Structure and Revision & Self-Editing, came up with the ultimate novel-writing battle plan: The Art of War for Writers.

Dare to be a great writer

Solid, no-nonsense writing instruction, dispensed out in 329 easily digestible portions, helps fiction writers polish their skills and support their talent with a cultivated craft.

Essential Guide to Writing

The great paradox of the writing life is that to be a good writer, you must be both interested in the world around you and comfortable working in solitude for hours. Fiction Writer’s Workshop, Second Edition, is designed to help you foster a strong sense of independence—of being and thinking on your own, becoming self-evaluative without being self-critical—to accomplish what others seek in classroom groups.

First 50 Pages

Whether you’re looking to get published or just hoping to hook your reader, first impressions are vital. Compelling opening scenes are the key to catching an agent or editor’s attention and are crucial for keeping your reader engaged. As a writer, what you do in your opening pages, and how you do it is a matter that cannot be left to chance. The First 50 Pages is here to help you craft a strong beginning right from the start.

Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs

The road to rejection is paved with bad beginnings. Agents and editors agree: Improper story beginnings are the single biggest barrier to publication. Why? If a novel or short story has a bad beginning, then no one will keep reading. It’s just that simple. In Hooked, author Les Edgerton draws on his experience as a successful fiction writer and teacher to help you overcome the weak openings that lead to instant rejection showing you how to successfully use the ten core components inherent to any great beginning.

How to write a damn good novel

Written in a clear, crisp, accessible style, this book is perfect for beginners and professional writers who need a crash course in the down-to-earth basics of storytelling. Talent and inspiration can’t be taught, but Frey does provide scores of helpful suggestions and sensible rules and principles. An international bestseller, How to Write a Damn Good Novel, will enable all writers to face that intimidating first page, keep them on track when they falter, and help them recognize, analyze, and correct the problems in their own work.

Keys to Great Writing

Entertaining and interactive lessons this versatile guide will encourage writers to test their knowledge, learn new techniques, and pay attention to detail.

Little Red Writing Book

There’s no need to fear the big, bad world of writing with The Little Red Writing Book in hand. Brimming with clever advice, this book offers writers, students, and business professionals a concise guide to penning strong and effective work for all occasions.

Techniques for the Selling Writer

This book provides solid instruction for people who want to write and sell fiction, not just talking and studying it. It gives the background, insights, and specific procedures needed by all beginning writers. Here, one can learn how to group words into copy that moves, movement into scenes, and scenes into stories, develop characters, revise and polish, and finally sell the product.

The Art of Fiction

“John Gardner was famous for his generosity to young writers, and (this book) is his . . . gift to them. The Art of Fiction will fascinate anyone interested in how fiction gets put together. For the young writer, it will become a necessary handbook, a stern judge, an encouraging friend.”–The New York Times Book Review.

The Book on Writing

Teaches the elements of good writing through essential guidelines, literary techniques, and proper writing mechanics.

The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing

In The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing, 2nd Edition, you’ll learn from the invaluable advice of established writers. Discover new ways to generate ideas, implement intriguing techniques, and find the inspiration you need to finish your work. This fully-revised edition includes a revamped marketing section covering the unique challenges of today’s publishing market and the boundless opportunities for online promotion.

The Courage to Write

Katherine Anne Porter called courage “the first essential” for a writer. “I have to talk myself into bravery with every sentence,” agreed Cynthia Ozick, “sometimes every syllable.” E. B. White said he admired anyone who “has the guts to write anything at all.” An author who has taught writing for more than thirty years, Ralph Keyes assures readers that anxiety is felt by writers at every level and can be harnessed to produce honest and disciplined work., Keyes offers specifics on making the best use of writers’ workshops and conferences and handling criticism of works in progress; he also exposes the most common “false fear busters” (needing new equipment, a better setting, a new agent). Throughout, he includes the comments of many accomplished writers–Pat Conroy, Amy Tan, Rita Dove, Isabel Allende, and others–on how they transcended their own anxieties to produce great works.

The First Five Pages

Whether you are a novice writer or a veteran who has already had your work published, rejection is often a frustrating reality. Literary agents and editors receive and reject hundreds of manuscripts each month. While it’s the job of these publishing professionals to be discriminating, it’s the writer’s job to produce a manuscript that immediately stands out among the vast competition. And those outstanding qualities, says New York literary agent Noah Lukeman, have to be apparent from the first five pages.

The Writer

The anxiety of rejection is an inevitable part of any writer’s development. In this book, Ralph Keyes turns his attention from the difficulty of putting pen to paper—the subject of his acclaimed The Courage to Write—to the frustration of getting the product to the public. Inspiration isn’t nearly as important to the successful writer, he argues, as tenacity, and he offers concrete ways to manage the struggle to publish. Drawing on his long experience as a writer and teacher of writing, Keyes provides new insight into publishers’ mindset, the value of an agent, and the importance of encouragement and hope to the act of authorial creation.

The Writer

This book will show writers how to develop their ideas into a finished novel working through it in 7 stages while learning how to map out their story’s progress and structure to evaluate and improve their work. It teaches writers to visualize their story’s progress with a story map that helps them see all the different components of their story, where these components are going, and, perhaps most importantly, what’s missing.

The Writer

See why this book has become an international bestseller and a true classic. The Writer’s Journey explores the powerful relationship between mythology and storytelling in a clear, concise style that’s made it required reading for movie executives, screenwriters, playwrights, scholars, and fans of pop culture over the world. The updated and revised third edition provides new insights and observations from Vogler’s ongoing work on mythology’s influence on stories, movies, and man himself.

Writing Fiction for All You

WRITING FICTION FOR ALL YOU’RE WORTH contains the best of James Scott Bell’s articles and blog posts on writing, easily searchable under these headings: The Writing World, The Writing Life, and The Writing Craft. You’ll learn about the 6 critical success factors for bestselling fiction, how to write un-put-downable action scenes, and how to capture the interest of an agent. The keys to a dynamic opening page are revealed, and just as important, what NOT to do in the opening. There’s plenty of inside information on what agents and editors say they’re looking for and detailed instructions on how to write a stress-free query. You’ll learn what to put on your LAST page, when to use italics, how to write with courage.

Writing Fiction for Dummies

So you want to write a novel? Great! That’s a worthy goal, no matter what your reason. But don’t settle for just writing a novel—Aim high. Write a novel that you intend to sell to a publisher. Writing Fiction for Dummies is a complete guide designed to coach you every step along the path from beginning writer to royalty-earning author.

Writing Skiils Success in 20 minutes a day

Excellent writing skills are essential for getting high marks on standardized tests, succeeding in a wide range of jobs, and effectively communicating with others-but writing well isn’t a skill you’re born with-it must be practiced and applied to achieve optimal success. Writing Skills Success in 20 Minutes a Day helps you realize that success with a simple 20-step guide improves writing skills through quick, comprehensive lessons that can easily fit into your busy schedule. Each step takes just 20 minutes a day.

Writing the Breakout Novel

Maybe you’re a first-time novelist looking for practical guidance. Maybe you’ve already been published, but your latest effort is stuck in mid-list limbo. Whatever the case may be, author and literary agent Donald Maass can show you how to take your prose to the next level and write a breakout novel – one that rises out of obscurity and hits the best-seller lists. Maass details the elements that all breakout novels share – regardless of genre – then shows you writing techniques to make your own books stand out and succeed in a crowded marketplace.

You can write a Novel

Do you have an idea for a great novel? Have you always dreamed of writing a bestseller? Are you at a loss for where to start? Look no further. You Can Write a Novel, 2nd Edition, gives you concrete, proven techniques to get from idea to manuscript, to bookstore. Veteran author James V. Smith, Jr., breaks down the novel-writing process into ten logical steps. You’ll start building the foundation for your book right away, taking your story’s three most important incidents from brainstorm to final draft perfection.

Beginning Writer

This indispensable resource offers basic information that beginning writers in all genres need to know to further their craft and careers. Revised and updated for the new millennium, this book answers questions about the book and magazine marketplace. It provides in-depth answers to such questions as “How do I submit my work to an agent?” and “Can I submit my work to more than one publisher at a time?” Organized specific subject areas, this book is a must-have resource for the beginning writer.

Writer

There is nothing little about the dynamic fiction-writing advice inside The Writer’s Little Helper. With big ideas, time-saving tips, and revision-made-easy charts, James V. Smith, Jr. offers effective guidance, in short, easy checklists, Q&As, and practical tools.

179 Ways to save a novel

Based on real advice gleaned from thousands of writing critiques, 179 Ways to Save a Novel is more than just a collection of ideas for troubleshooting your work-in-progress (though it has plenty of practical writing advice for fixing your novel). This inspiring guide doubles as a thoughtful examination of the writing life, not just the writing but also the reading habits and aspiring novelists’ thought processes.

Writing Tools

One of America’s most influential writing teachers offers a toolbox from which writers of all kinds can draw practical inspiration. WRITING TOOLS covers everything from the most basic (“Tool 5: Watch those adverbs”) to the more complex (“Tool 34: Turn your notebook into a camera”) and provides more than 200 examples from literature and journalism to illustrate the concepts. For students, aspiring novelists, and writers of memos, e-mails, PowerPoint presentations, and love letters, here are 50 indispensable, memorable, and usable tools.

Editing & Revision

Line Line: how to edit your own writing

The essential guide for all writers. With over 700 examples of original and edited sentences, this book provides information about editing techniques, grammar, and usage for every writer, from the student to the published author.

Revision and Self-Editing

Don’t let the revision process intimidate you any longer. Discover how to successfully transform your first draft into a polished final draft that readers won’t be able to forget. In Write Great Fiction: Revision & Self-Editing, James Scott Bell draws on his experience as a novelist and instructor to provide specific revision tips geared toward the first read-through, as well as targeted self-editing instruction focusing on the individual elements of a novel like plot, structure, characters, theme, voice, style, setting, and endings.

Self Editing for Fiction Writers

Hundreds of books have been written on the art of writing. Here, at last, is a book by two professional editors to teach writers the techniques of the editing trade that turn promising manuscripts into published novels and short stories. In this completely revised and updated second edition, Renni Browne and Dave King teach you, the writer, how to apply the editing techniques they have developed to your own work. 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.

Style & Grammar

A Pocket Style Guide

The book’s completeness combined with its portability means that our students actually bring it to class and put it to use.’ – Leslie Johnson-Farris, Communication Department, Lansing Community College, USA ‘My students like the affordability, clarity, and coverage of everything they seem to need. Many say they will keep A Pocket Style Manual long after they graduate.’ – Richard Battaglia, California State University, USA.

The Elements of Style

You know the authors’ names. You recognize the title. You’ve probably used this book yourself. This is The Elements of Style, the classic style manual, now in a fourth edition. A new foreword by Roger Angell reminds readers that the advice of Strunk & White is as valuable today as when it was first offered. This book’s unique tone, wit, and charm have conveyed English-style principles to millions of readers. Use the fourth edition of “the little book” to make a big impact on your writing.

Vocabulary & Description

The Describer

Have you ever found yourself grasping in vain for that ideal descriptive word lost somewhere within the misty recesses of your vocabulary? Or felt frustrated that an oddly shaped structure or pretty setting you wished to portray in writing didn’t quite translate clearly to paper? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, then The Describer’s Dictionary is exactly the book you need. Open it, and you have not only just the right words but—bringing them to life—stellar literary examples of descriptive writing as well.

Word Painting

Let Rebecca McClanahan guide you through an inspiring examination of description in its many forms. With her thoughtful instruction and engaging exercises, you’ll learn to develop your senses and powers of observation to uncover the rich, evocative words that accurately portray your mind’s images. McClanahan includes dozens of descriptive passages written by master poets and authors to illuminate the process. She also teaches you how to weave writing together using description as a unifying thread.

Manuscript & Publishing

Formatting and Submitting your Manuscript

Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, 3rd edition, gives you all the information you need to craft a winning submission. Fully updated, this comprehensive resource now features more than 100 sample letters and manuscript pages, expanded instruction for electronic submissions, updated formatting and submitting guidelines, and new insider tips from top agents and editors.

Guide to Query Letters

Anyone who’s researched the marketplace knows: The path to publication begins with your query letter . If your query is weak, unfocused, or uninspired, an editor or agent won’t even bother to request your article, novel manuscript, or nonfiction book proposal. But a well-crafted, compelling query sent to the right editor or agent is an essential sales tool for fiction writers and the most effective way for nonfiction writers to pre-sell your idea. In this book, professional freelance writer and magazine editor Wendy Burt-Thomas shares practical advice on crafting persuasive letters that connect with editors and agents and ultimately generate sales for you.

The Sell Your Book Toolkit

Writers often spend years perfecting their first novel—then hit a dead end when it comes to getting it published. Learning to market your novel will make it stand out from the thousands of other books clamoring for the attention of an ever-shrinking number of publishers. In this book, Elizabeth Lyon offers the wisdom of more than twenty years of experience as an author, book editor, writing instructor, and marketing consultant. Step-by-step, she details what editors want, what questions to ask them, and how to develop a marketing strategy.

How to write a great query letter

Many books have been written about query letters. But few have been written literary agents, who receive thousands of queries each year and grapple with them daily. Even fewer books have been written by literary agents who are currently active, willing to write from the trenches and offer their perspective on why they reject query letters, and why they accept them.

Other Writing Tips

Bird Bird

“Thirty years ago, my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”

On Writing

“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class, one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery.

Stein on Writing

Stein on Writing provides immediately useful advice for all fiction and nonfiction writers, whether they are newcomers or old hands, students or instructors, amateurs or professionals. As the always clear and direct Stein explains here, “This is not a book of theory. It is a book of usable solutions—how to fix flawed writing, how to improve good writing, how to create interesting writing in the first place.” With examples from bestsellers and students’ drafts, Stein offers detailed sections on characterization, dialogue, pacing, flashbacks, trimming away flabwording, the so-called “triage” method of revision, using fiction techniques to enliven nonfiction, and more.

Writing Down the Bones

With insight, humor, and practicality, Natalie Goldberg inspires writers and would-be writers to leap into writing skillfully and creatively. She offers suggestions, encouragement, and solid advice on many aspects of the writer’s craft: on writing from “first thoughts” (keep your hand moving, don’t cross out, just get it on paper), on listening (writing is ninety percent listening; the deeper you listen, the better you write), on using verbs (verbs provide the energy of the sentence), on overcoming doubts (doubt is torture; don’t listen to it)—even on choosing a restaurant in which to write.

Zen in the art of writing

The third edition of Bradbury’s much-loved classic adds three new exuberant essays on the pleasures of writing from one of the most creative, imaginative, and prolific artists of the 20th century–an author who truly enjoys his craft and tells you why and how.

SciFi & Fantasy Specific

How to write Science Fiction and Fantasy

This award-winning classic on the art and craft of writing science fiction and fantasy provides invaluable advice for every science fiction and fantasy writer interested in constructing stories about people, worlds, and events that stretch the boundaries of the possible – and the magical. They’ll learn what is and isn’t science fiction and fantasy and where their story fits in the mix. How to build, populate, and dramatize a credible, inviting world readers will want to explore. Where are the markets, how to reach them and get published? There’s no better source of information for writers working in these genres.

Writer

Are you struggling to get started on your science fiction or fantasy novel? Written a successful author of more than ten science fiction and fantasy novels, Writing Science and Fantasy takes an in-depth look at these two best-selling genres. Kilian delves into science fiction and fantasy’s origins and conventions and goes over the many subgenres, including nanotechnology, space opera, and sword and sorcery.

Writing Science Fiction that Sells

Guides writers step by step through the major elements of SF storytelling, showing how to construct strong, editor-attracting stories and novels.

Now, before you go, I have…

3 Questions For You

  • What are your top five books on fiction writing?
  • What are some of the critical learnings you got from books on writing?
  • If you ever wrote a book on writing, what subject would you approach?

Please share your answers in the comments below. Sharing knowledge helps us all improve and get better!

iulian-ionescu

Hi there! I’m Iulian, and I want to thank you for reading my article. There’s a lot more if you stick around. I write about personal development, productivity, fiction writing, and more. Also, I’ve created Self-Growth Journey , a free program that helps you get unstuck and create the beautiful life you deserve. Enjoy!

Related posts:

writing tips

writing resources, writing tips

Incidentally, I own about half of those titles. My personal favorite is Make a Scene.

 That’s an impressive collection! Thanks for sharing Iulian.

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Organizing Your Writing

  • The “Snowflake Method” Article: Free
  • My “Snowflake Method” Book: Inexpensive
  • New “Plottr” Software: Recommended
  • Old “Snowflake Pro” Software: End of Life
  • Advanced Fiction Writing Blog: Free

Creating Your Story

  • Writing the Perfect Scene: Free
  • My “Dynamite Scene” Book: Inexpensive
  • Writing Fiction for Dummies: Inexpensive

Marketing Your Work

My favorite fiction writing books.

There are zillions of books on writing , and many are listed in the catalog of the  Writers’ Digest Book Club . I have a whole shelf of them. Many of them turned out to be excellent compost. Some of them have proven useful. The following are the ones I think you’ll find most useful, with links to Amazon where you can buy them right now.

How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method

How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method

Are you writing a novel, but having trouble getting your first draft written? Take a look at the wildly popular Snowflake Method--ten battle-tested steps to jump-start your creativity and help you quickly map out your story. All around the world, novelists are using the Snowflake Method right now to ignite their imaginations and get their first drafts down.

Buy from Amazon Kindle

How to Write a Dynamite Scene Using the Snowflake Method

If you can write one powerful, amazing scene, you can write a hundred. And that's a novel. The one goal of this book is to teach you the simple principles you can use right now to design a powerful scene before you write it.

Buy from Amazon

Writing Fiction for Dummies

Everything you need to know to write, edit, and publish your novel. A best-selling classic guide for beginning and intermediate writers.

Techniques of the Selling Writer

Techniques of the Selling Writer

A classic textbook on writing by one of the master teachers of fiction writing.

Stein On Writing

Stein On Writing

A summary of the fiction writing wisdom of Sol Stein, the legendary editor, writer, and teacher.

Plot And Structure

Plot And Structure

A very useful guide for learning the craft of fiction writing. This is an excellent choice for beginning novelists.

Writing the Breakout Novel

Writing the Breakout Novel

A massively popular book on how to write a massively popular novel by upping your fiction writing game.

Story Engineering

Story Engineering

A recent book on story structure that will teach you everything you need to know about the three-act structure and a whole lot more.

The Writer’s Journey

The Writer’s Journey

A classic book that applies the Hero's Journey to fiction writing.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers may be the most commonly owned book among working novelists. It covers all aspects of editing your novel.

Getting Into Character

Getting Into Character

A best-selling novelist with acting experience explains what fiction writers can learn about characters from method actors.

Story

Story is a classic textbook on fiction writing by Hollywood legend Robert McKee.

About The Author

fiction writing books

Randy Ingermanson  is a theoretical physicist and the award-winning author of six novels. He has taught at numerous writing conferences over the years and publishes the free monthly  Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine .

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11 best books on writing

The 12 Best Books on Writing I’ve Ever Read

Regardless how many books I’ve written (over 200) and sold (over 70 million), I fear if I’m not learning, I’m stagnating.

My late mother was a convincing example of one who never believed she had arrived. Mom was not only a piano teacher well into her eighties, but she was also a piano student.

So it’s the memory of my mother that spurs me also to keep reading everything there is to read—especially about writing.

The books below (in alpha order by author) represent a fraction of those available. You could read one per day for the rest of your life and not exhaust the resources . But, in my opinion, these are the best books on writing available.

Some require wearing your big kid pants due to language, which I have noted.

  • 12 Books Every Aspiring Author Should Read

1. The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work

By Marie Arana

This book came from ten years of Ms. Arana’s  Washington Post Book World  column. More than fifty fiction and nonfiction authors share how they discovered they were writers and how they work. I was fascinated by what pleases and annoys them. Arana also profiles each writer.

Click here to get the book .

2. Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot that Grips Readers from Start to Finish

By James Scott Bell (friend and colleague)

Anything but a dry textbook, this breezy guide is from a former trial lawyer who keeps you entertained while covering basics like how plot impacts structure, the difference between popular and literary fiction, and how to serve as your own book doctor.

3. Getting into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors

By Brandilyn Collins (friend and colleague)

Calling on her theater training, Collins teaches bringing characters to life the way actors do on stage. She draws on the Method Acting approach to explain and adapt characterization techniques for novelists.

4. The Writing Life

By Annie Dillard

Dillard’s hauntingly ethereal prose soars even when she’s writing about writing. That’s rare. I resonate with her honesty about how grueling the craft can be. This is one of the best books on writing available.

5. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft [language]

By Stephen King (acquaintance)

At the risk of hyperbole , there’s so much to recommend here that I hardly know where to begin. Besides all the practical advice, you get King’s own rags-to-riches story in his inimitable voice. You  learn a ton  while being wildly entertained.

6. How to Write Bestselling Fiction   [mild language]

By Dean Koontz

I’m not overstating it that this book changed my life. It informed the way I wrote the Left Behind series, which has sold more than 60 million copies and still sells six figures every year, nearly a decade since the last title was released. I use this as a textbook when I teach writing.

7. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life   [language]

By Anne Lamott

Lamott has you howling with laughter one minute and weeping the next as she recounts, with brutal honesty, the joys and travails of the writing life, single parenting, overcoming addiction, and coming to faith.

8. Writing the Breakout Novel: Insider Advice for Taking Your Fiction to the Next Level

By Donald Maass

An agent challenges you to do more than just spin a yarn, but to also think “big concept,” tackle major themes, and write life-changing works.

9. Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies

By Sol Stein (acquaintance)

Novelist, editor, publisher (Stein & Day), and writing teacher, Stein is one of the deans of the American literary scene. His career spans decades, and he shares insider stories of famous novelists and their work, as well as everything he learned along the way. I sat under his teaching years ago and still follow his advice.

10. On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction

By William Zinsser

Zinsser’s background  should not be missed. He was a graceful classicist as a writer, and this million-seller has been lauded for its warmth and clarity. Zinsser offers sound tips on the fundamentals of writing any kind of nonfiction you can think of.

Now, don’t read  any  of those books for writers, until…

…you’ve read the bible of writing books:

11. The Elements of Style

By William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

Failing to start your reading on writing with anything other than this undisputed classic would be akin to reading the top ten Christian classics while ignoring the Bible. This short paperback is recommended by every writing teacher I know. I’ve read it at least once a year for more than 40 years. Its simple truths cover everything from style and grammar and usage. Make them second nature.

12. Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go

By Les Edgerton

Les is one of the most powerfully edgy writers in the business, and you must have your big kid pants on to read his novels. But any writer will benefit from this great resource.

Packed with helpful, practical advice, it carries his blunt tone (but nothing offensive). I refer to it regularly.

If you’ve read none of the other books on this list, start with Stephen King’s  On Writing . A short course in mistakes to avoid while writing, it will remind you why you wanted to be an author . Then, especially if you want to be a novelist, read Dean Koontz’s  How to Write Bestselling Fiction .

You could learn more in just those two books than in an entire college writing course.

BONUS:   Before investing in one of these, download my free guide:  How to Write a Book: Everything You Need to Know in 20 Steps . 

Amateur writing mistake

Are You Making This #1 Amateur Writing Mistake?

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Faith-Based Words and Phrases

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What You and I Can Learn From Patricia Raybon

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11 Books to Read to Become a Better Fiction Writer

Tom Farr

Curiosity Never Killed the Writer

by Tom Farr

Originally posted on the whisper project ..

Great writers learn from others who have done it well. I’ve read a number of books on fiction writing over the last several years that have been really helpful in developing my own storytelling approach. Here’s a list of the ones I’d recommend most.

Anatomy of Story

Byjohn truby.

John Truby’s Anatomy of Story is easily my favorite book on writing stories. It’s actually a book on screenwriting, but it’s equally valuable to fiction writers as well. I love the way Truby breaks down the story elements down to their core. He outlines a story as a journey that reflects the way real life works when you’re trying to overcome a problem. He’s adamantly against the concept of 3-act structure, even though his 22 steps fit into 3-act structure. I find his 22 steps more valuable than the idea of 3-act structure. Out of all the books I have on the craft of writing, this is the one I go back to the most.

by Stephen King

King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft almost needs no explanation. It’s definitely a tough second for me behind Anatomy of Story. King is the master of fiction writing, and in this book, he reveals all of his craft secrets. King describes story as something discovered by the writer rather than something structured from the outside. In this way, he’s similar to Truby. The book has some great advice on the tools a writer brings to writing fiction. I love how he handles description and authentic dialogue. On Writing is also a memoir of King’s writing journey.

by Robert McKee

Robert McKee’s Story , while a book primarily directed at screenwriters, is yet another great exploration of the inner workings of story. I love the way he explores the structuring of scenes and acts. He describes story as several turning points over the course of a set amount of time. A character goes on a journey with many turning points. Really helpful advice on structure and on craft. It’s a great book.

Story Engineering

By larry brooks.

I love Larry Brooks’ blog Storyfix.com , and Story Engineering covers Brooks’ approach to fiction writing. I love his core competencies, which include concept, character, theme, plot, scene construction, and writing voice. His breakdown of the difference between idea and concept is brilliant. And his breakdown of structure is very similar to John Truby’s.

Story Physics

Similar to John Truby’s Anatomy of Story, Story Physics covers the internal forces that work from within a story to make it a good one. This is a deeper exploration of story structure in continuation from Story Engineering. One of the most valuable elements of this book is Brooks’ breakdown of the story physics of The Help and The Hunger Games.

Plot and Structure

By james scott bell.

Plot and Structure is one of the best books on how to approach 3-act structure for fiction writers. This is especially helpful when it comes to the often slow middle that causes many writers to give up. Another helpful part of this book is Bell’s advice on how to approach writing scenes. The book includes many great examples from authors such as Dean Koontz, a true master of storytelling.

Wired for Story

By lisa cron.

Wired for Story explores why people are so impacted by stories, and it’s a great resource for writers on figuring out how to write truly compelling fiction. There’s some great research findings in this book for fiction writers to tap into the potential of the human brain in order to write better stories.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

By renni browne and dave king.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is one of the most invaluable books for fiction writers. It covers some of the most common mistakes that writers make and how to fix them. The examples show how to make your writing better.

Story Trumps Structure

By steven james.

Steven James has been one of my favorite writers for a long time, and he’s an expert at crafting a compelling and complex story. His book outlines his unorthodox approach to writing fiction. James doesn’t believe in story structure at all and insists that outlining beforehand kills a story before you even get started. He gives his strategies for writing a story organically, wrestling with certain questions in the journey of your character’s story. Though he argues against structure, I’d say the book is really arguing a different type of structure. Nevertheless, Story Trumps Structure is a great book for learning how to develop narrative force in your story.

The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Dialogue

By john hough, jr..

The Fiction Writer’s Guide to Dialogue is a fairly new book, but it has a ton of advice on how to write authentic-sounding dialogue. One of the common mistakes fiction writers make is to write dialogue the way people actually speak to one another in real life, but this is often repetitive and more messy than we realize. Hough, Jr. helps fiction writers be more economical with their word choice and write dialogue that carries the story forward.

Bird by Bird

By anne lamott.

I think no list of books about writing would be complete without Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird . I’m just reading it for the first time after hearing it recommended over and over, and I have to agree with all the resounding voices that this book is really that good. Lamott shares all that she knows about writing from her vast experience as both a writer and writing instructor. You’ll learn how to tackle projects little by little, accept that you’re first draft will be terrible, and how to develop authentic characters, and so much more. If you’ve never read Bird by Bird and you’re a writer, you should check it out.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider scrolling down and Recommending it here on Medium. Visit The Whisper Project for more writing tips. You can also sign up for my author newsletter here .

Tom Farr is a blogger, storyteller, and screenwriter who teaches English Language Arts to high school students. He loves creating and spending time with his wife and three children. He blogs regularly about writing and storytelling at The Whisper Project .

The 5 Books You Need to Read to Make You More Creative

If you like what you just read, please hit the green ‘Recommend’ button below.

This collection is sister to The Curious Cat Project (CCP), a website that connects writers from all over the world. Follow CCP on Facebook .

Tom Farr

Written by Tom Farr

Tom is a writer and high school English teacher. He loves creating and spending time with his wife and children. For freelancing, email [email protected] .

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Guides • Perfecting your Craft

Posted on Nov 30, 2021

How to Write Literary Fiction in 6 Steps

Literary fiction can be a slippery genre to write within, seeing how it avoids easy definitions. In many ways, that’s a good thing: multifaceted and expansive, it’s probably the category of books that contains the widest range of stories, and the one readers always approach with a readiness for surprise.

To make the most of writing in this fun genre, we’ve assembled 6 simple steps you can follow.

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1. Start with a topic you wish to explore

The first step is simple: all you need is to identify a theme or topic that interests you. At this stage, your “topic” can be universal or very specific. There’s no need to transpose this topic into a particular character and a situation yet — just think about some of the issues that you find curious or feel strongly about.  These could include aspects of the human experience or matters related to society and social structures. 

To give you a few examples of some works and their overall themes :

  • Motherhood — Mieko Kawakami’s Breasts and Eggs , where the protagonist considers accepting a sperm donation and becoming a single mother;
  • Grief — Raymond Carver’s ‘A Small, Good Thing,’ where a mother is faced with the her son’s sudden unexpected death;
  • Power — Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall , which charts Thomas Cromwell’s rise to prominence in the Tudor times.

2. Identify the core of your theme or idea

How to write literary fiction | Book covers of titles that have been edited by Reedsy editors

You don’t need to have a thesis to expound upon in your story — Les Misérables would be tragically reduced if you just condensed it into “stealing is bad,” and many works of literary fiction are similarly more complex than a single statement. Ideally, though, your work will be saying s omething . 

Take Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being , for example. It tells the parallel stories of two people: one a schoolgirl in Japan, the other a Japanese-American author living in British Columbia. The story is about identity, as it shows the two characters searching for some kind of meaning in their relationships and their place in the world.   

Avoid moralistic lessons

Whether you overtly show your personal beliefs to your readers or let them draw their own conclusions, it is still helpful for you as a writer to figure out how you feel about certain issues. (That may happen as you write, which is not an issue, as you can edit your work later on.) If you do have clear feelings on the subject at hand, however, be careful not to write a story that falls flat by offering a one-sided moralistic “lesson.” Instead, think about how your narrative can show the nuanced complexities of an issue. Allow contradictions to exist in your work, without worrying about teaching the reader the right way. No one likes to be patronized.

fiction writing books

Need some more guidance? Check out our free course 'How to Craft a Killer Short Story' — it was created by Laura Mae Isaacman , an editor who has worked with Joyce Carol Oates and other luminaries of the short fiction world.

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3. Ground your idea in a specific situation…

Your next step is to come up with a specific character in a specific situation that hinges on your central theme. Say you want to write about “the immigrant experience.” You don’t need to come up with an astonishing hot take on what it’s like to live away from home, but you can depict a specific person’s experience in a moving, relatable, or entertaining way if you just commit to some detail. 

Here are a few more ideas for developing a plot based on your theme:

Conduct a fictional experiment

Because literary fiction stories are very commonly character-driven, you can use a story as a space to conduct a hypothetical experiment. 

  • If X and Y personalities are brought together in Z circumstances, what will happen?
  • How do different characters respond to the same problem?
  • How would person A react if person B acted in a certain way? 

A book that does this well is Bryan Washington’s Memorial , which chronicles the changes in a romantic relationship, when one of the two young men must go to Japan to visit his ill father. The book tests their romance with a newly-created distance — tracing their shifting dynamic as they’re both forced to open themselves up in new ways.

Don’t be afraid to be weird

Literary fiction is home to a lot of very, very strange fiction, where writers can have fun and embrace bizarre ideas. When writing literary fiction, listen to any whimsical or wacky ideas that come to you, whether your protagonist develops a substance abuse relationship with lip balm, turns into a lamp, or starts to speak in ways no one understands.

fiction writing books

One recent example of ‘weird’ literary fiction is Suyaka Murata’s Earthlings , which tells the story of Natsuki — a woman convinced she’s an alien and trying to navigate societal pressures while retaining her personal integrity. It’s an utterly bizarre story that pushes past what’s considered acceptable behavior and makes readers see the standards for “acceptability” in a new light.

4. Or filter it through a particular character’s experience

Literary fiction is usually character-driven, and characters are best explored when an event takes place and reveals the finer textures of their personality. Though stories about stasis, where nothing happens, are acceptable in literary fiction, you’ll find that events help move your story forward, and give you the trigger needed to unpack your characters.

In literary fiction that overlaps with genre fiction, these events tend towards the dramatic, like the rise of a totalitarian government (think Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale ), significant historical events (Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power in Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall ) or fantastical elements like the widespread amnesia in Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant .

fiction writing books

In experimental, realist, or contemporary forms of literary fiction, the event can either be a small, otherwise insignificant moment, or a major life event. It all counts: an offhand comment made by a stranger, a death or birth, or an emotionally poignant moment like dropping off your child at nursery for the first time.

You don’t need a likeable protagonist

In genre fiction, the reader often roots for the main character: they want to see the unlucky-in-love writer find romance, the detective solve the crime, or the teenager “ come-of-age ”. But flawed characters are far more common in literary fiction — where stories sometimes function as character studies trying to understand how a character has come to be a certain way, or to simply observe or satirize the breadth of human behavior. 

How to write literary fiction | Gary Budden

A great example of a flawed character can be found in Eliza Clark’s Boy Parts , where Irina, an explicit photographer of random Newcastle men, falls into a self-destructive and violent spiral. She’s not a character to idolize, but one whose crazy downfall readers find compelling.

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David Foster Wallace’s short story collection Brief Interviews with Hideous Men also features flawed characters: here, fictional interviews reveal the egocentric, cruel behavior of certain men. The interview format singles out their words, which would otherwise be lost in a story merging plot with dialogue .

When writing literary fiction, set yourself free from the need to create benevolent, likeable figures: saintly figures are unrealistic and flat anyway, so your readers will thank you for more nuanced characterization .

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4. Consider how you might tell your story in unexpected ways

Literary fiction is associated with unusual and interesting approaches to storytelling — fractured chronology, unusual media, strange POV choices ( second person narration , anyone?)... 

Think about it this way: poets are used to paying attention to the way they present their ideas, weighing up the limitations and opportunities residing in each form — literary fiction borrows this flexibility from poetry, allowing you to be wildly experimental (or wildly traditional). Consider creative formal approaches that might help you illustrate your points: you can tell your story in future tense, in HTML, in texts, or start in medias res … As long as your story’s final form is an intentional choice and not a random afterthought, anything goes.

Don’t go crazy for no reason

fiction writing books

Don’t go wild for the sake of it. There should always be a reason behind a strange formal choice: the form needs to tie in with the content. Consider the novel ‘ little scratch ’ by Rebecca Watson, for example. While the story is told in experimental, stream-of-consciousness prose, the form perfectly mirrors the protagonist’s fraught emotional state after experiencing sexual assault. Without some solid reason for making such a grand stylistic choice, you run the risk of succumbing to literary fiction’s most common pitfall: pretension.

Don’t be afraid to 'steal'

There’s no such thing as plagiarism when it comes to writing techniques . Everyone’s influenced by everyone, so don’t worry so much about being unique: instead, ask yourself how you can learn from others’ approaches and how you can adapt successful techniques to improve your story. Just don’t pretend you innovated in a cultural vacuum, and acknowledge your influences when speaking about your work.

To give you an example of how you might take an idea and put your own spin on it, look at Maggie Nelson’s Bluets and Patricia Lockwood’s No One is Talking About This . While both use fragmented, first-person vignettes — telling a succession of seemingly unrelated stories — the intended effect is very different indeed.

Bluets uses confessional vignettes to intimately portray the writer’s melancholy, whereas No One is Talking About This uses vignettes to mirror the internet’s endless feed of information. The fragmented technique they share sets both texts up with a foundation of honesty, a sense of being confided to — so if you like something that another author has done, feel free to ‘steal’ it and see how it works in a different context!

5. Remember your story structure basics

fiction writing books

No matter how strange, experimental, or innovative a story is, it still needs to be coherently structured. When choosing the right structure for your project, establish what you want the reader to feel. The Fichtean Curve , for example, is ideal for narratives driven by suspense and tension, while Freytag’s Pyramid is suited to tragedies ending in total catastrophe. 

How you organize your story matters a great deal. As a minimum, you have to make sure your story opening and your ending are intriguing, complete, and compelling, and your middle isn’t uneventful. If there’s anything going on that distorts the linearity of time, you also need to spend some time clarifying the chronology of your narrative and ensuring it’s communicated clearly to your readers. 

If you aren’t sure about the structural choices you’ve made, a developmental edit by a professional editor is guaranteed to help you see things more clearly:

And here are a few more handy resources from our blog:

  • What is a Narrative Arc? A Guide to Storytelling Through Story Structure
  • What is an Inciting Incident? Definition and Examples
  • Rising Action: Where the Story Really Happens (With Examples)
  • What is a Denouement? Definition and Examples

You can get creative with structure, too

Need some inspiration for structuring your story? Here are some creative literary fiction structures:

  • Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts , is divided into four sections, metatextually titled Beginning, Middle (Something Happens), Middle (Nothing Happens), and Climax — the novel uses its structure to provide ironic commentary on the predictability of modern life.
  • Paul Auster's 4321 tells four parallel stories following four versions of the same protagonist — all genetically identical but whose lives are shaped by the whims of random chance. As the story cycles between the different incarnations of our hero, it throws a light on the universe's infinite possibilities and how every life can hinge on the question, "What if?"
  • Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude combines an overarching linear, chronological structure, with cyclical narrative elements that show how the past repeats itself, generation after generation.
  • Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent completely shatters the linearity of time, jumping backward and forward in time and between characters to mirror the explosive effect of its central event: a bombing. The reading experience parallels the experience of the characters, as they try to piece together what has happened from disparate shards of information.
  • Olivia Sudjic’s Sympathy follows a spiral-like structure, examining seemingly tangential information as it slowly makes its way to the core of the story. The effect is that it accurately imitates the experience of falling down the Internet rabbit-hole of a new obsession, which the novel uses as one of its central themes.

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6. Roll up your sleeves and mercilessly edit your first draft

Even if you feel your first draft is terrible, it can still emerge from the editing process as something you’re proud of. To master self-editing, check out our free course:

Free course: How to self-edit like a pro

Rid your manuscript of the most common writing mistakes with this 10-day online course. Get started now.

And one final tip, specific to literary fiction writing:

For prose, purple is not the only color

People tend to view literary fiction as something “difficult,” so they try to write in a complicated, ornate way that matches that impression. But while it’s true that readers of literary fiction will expect a carefully considered writing style, there is no single “literary” way to write, so don’t overthink it. 

Instead, use whatever writing style suits your story and its aims best. A lyrical, poetic style is perfectly fine if it fits your purpose: Madeline Miller’s Circe , for example, uses language reminiscent of classical poetry to fully immerse readers in the mythical environment. On the other hand, a lot of highly regarded literary fiction is minimalist in style, pared down to a clinical and precise use of simple words to quietly convey exact moments of daily life. Examples include Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake and Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love , a taste of which you can get below:

  • “So many years I had spent as a child sifting his bright features for his thoughts, trying to glimpse among them one that bore my name. But he was a harp with only one string, and the note it played was himself.” — Circe by Madeline Miller
  • “She has given birth to vagabonds. She is the keeper of all these names and numbers now, numbers she once knew by heart, numbers and addresses her children no longer remember.” — The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • “He poured more gin into his glass. He added an ice cube and a sliver of lime. We waited and sipped our drinks. Laura and I touched knees again. I put a hand on her warm thigh and left it there.” — What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

The idea here is that you write without feeling self-conscious about whether your writing is literary enough. Write in a way that helps your story progress — that’s enough.

Like all writing, literary fiction is a genre to conquer by practising. Focus on the story you want to write, and not the story you think others want to see you write. It’s a freeing distinction in helping you break past writer’s block . 

We hope these tips have inspired you to listen to your own instincts more and other people less — writing literary fiction should be a chance to experiment and play with your writing, not an opportunity to admonish yourself for not being original enough. Have fun!

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ultimate fiction writing guide

A comprehensive guide for writers – and aspiring writers – of fiction, introduction.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.” And he was correct. Even if you’re struggling with fiction writing now, that doesn’t mean you will forever. Even the most skilled fiction writers didn’t hone their craft to perfection without assistance from inspirational sources, seasoned advisors, great editors, and the pages of instructional books. Whether you’re a novice to the fictional writing genre or someone more experienced, you’re sure to find something of value tucked away in this guide filled with 43 worthwhile fiction writing resources, including fiction prompts and exercises, short story and novel writing resources, and more.

fiction writing books

General Fiction Writing Resources

Here is an assortment of general resources that address writer’s block, introduce story development tools, inform about writing scams, and more.

10 Apps to Keep Your Focus

Use these resources to banish writer’s block, set timers to strengthen your self-control, prime the imagination pump, and flex your writing muscles.

100 Best First Lines

Read the best first lines of 100 different novels , from the  Adventures of Huckleberry Finn  to the  Wide Sargasso Sea .

Discover two visual story development tools that can help you map the course of your novel or screenplay on one page.

Mind Map Any Idea or Project

Learn about mind-mapping, a visual tool that graphically organizes brainstorming sessions.

Writing Scams and Schemes

The writing and publishing world has a dark side. It harbors plenty of predators waiting to take advantage of earnest writers. Find out how to sidestep bad situations.

How to Improve Your Writing

Learn about tips, tricks, and even more resources for improving your writing, from fiction to essays. This article also includes writing prompts to help you refine your skills.

fiction writing books

Fiction Writing Exercises and Prompts

When least expected writer’s block can appear out of nowhere. Or maybe you’re just suffering from a creative dry spell. If any of this sounds familiar, check out these fiction writing exercises and prompts that can help launch your creative side.

Fiction Writing Exercises

Find 11 fiction writing exercises like “Money” and “Falling Out of the Sky” that can help you develop your own story.

6 Great Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers

This article puts a different spin on writing exercises with the goal of keeping your writing fresh.

Fiction Exercises

Jump-start your fictional writing with these 17 exercises that you can alter as you wish.

Seven Flash Fiction Exercises for Novel Writing

Do you dream of writing a novel but don’t have the time? Check out these flash fiction exercises that will have you developing the bones of your next novel in no time.

Sketch a Novel in an Hour

This free-writing exercise is helpful for anyone wanting to write a novel, short story, or screenplay.

10 Keys to Writing Dialogue in Fiction

Find 10 helpful tips to creating dialogue for your fiction piece. This resource includes two dialogue writing exercises as a bonus.

100 Short Story or Novel Writing Prompts

Discover a plethora of writing prompts that will put your creative writing powers in gear.

fiction writing books

Short Story Writing Resources

Whether you lack inspiration or you need direction condensing your brilliant short story idea into 10,000 words or less, the following resources can help.

Short Story Tips

Writing a short story is quite different from writing a novel because you have less words in which to set the scene, introduce the conflict , and reach the ending. Find out how to successfully write a short story without having to stall or start over.

Writing Your Own Short Story

This seven-page document has plenty of details regarding prewriting, drafting, and revising a short story.

Writing the Short Story: Points to Ponder

A look at the key elements of short stories.

100 Short Story Basic Ideas

Stumped for an idea for your short story? Follow this link to discover inspiration.

fiction writing books

Novel Writing Resources

First-time novelists or authors who already have a few completed works to their name can utilize the following novel writing resources for helpful insight.

6 Things to Consider Before Writing a Novel

Developmental editor Rebecca Monterusso offers advice to aspiring writers to help them avoid making mistakes the first time they write a novel.

The Snowflake Method for Designing a Novel

Randy Ingermanson, publisher of six novels and winner of dozens of writing awards, shares a method that works for him when writing a novel.

Footsteps to a Novel

This five-step process to writing a novel borrows from  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs  as a familiar example.

Advice on Novel Writing by Crawford Killian

Discover a wealth of valuable information about writing a novel.

One-Pass Revision

This revision method for novelists only takes one pass because it’s extremely thorough and time consuming, but it can yield positive results.

Revising a Novel

Best-selling suspense author James Scott Bell offers his practical advice on revising your novel.

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Basic Elements of a Novel

Plot, character, and setting are three of the most important basic elements when writing a novel. Take some time to browse the following resources to find ways to more effectively develop all three.

Plot Generator

This is an entertaining and useful way to come up with a plot for your next fiction story.

Plot Video Playlist

Find everything from quick tips to detailed information on how to plot any part of a story within these videos.

The Top 10 Plotting Problems

Head off plotting problems before they occur by learning about the most common ones now.

50 Plot Twists

Invigorate a flagging plot with one of these 50 plot twist ideas that are yours for the taking.

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Character Resources

Dynamic, interesting, and motivated characters are what make a story worth reading. Check out the following links to learn how to effectively develop them.

Seven Common Character Types

Discover descriptions and examples of seven common character types that can help fiction writers develop their characters more effectively.

Character Chart

Author Charlotte Dillion’s free character chart offers you the opportunity to flesh out your fictional characters in great detail.

Six Distinctions in Motivating Characters

Characters need motivation to create action and move the plot along. Yet that motivation needs to be believable. Find out how to create it.

Naming Your Characters

This article examines three things to keep in mind when naming characters — personality, ethnicity, and the century of birth.

The Character Therapist

Therapist Jeannie Campbell combines her love of psychology and writing to evaluate and diagnose your fictional character in a typed report that you can use to create a more  realistic  character.

An Introduction to Writing Characters in Fiction

Purdue University’s OWL Writing Lab presents helpful resources for character creation and development that explain character archetypes and much more.

How to Create Characters That Are Believable and Memorable

Discover the four main criteria you need to meet to create characters readers will enjoy.

Writing Character Sketches

This link will help you learn how to write character sketches so you can become better at creating characters.

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Setting Resources

Crafting the perfect setting to pull in readers isn’t all about describing the location. Find out what it takes to create a setting that will catapult your story to another level.

Discover the Basic Elements of Setting in a Story

Learn about the fundamental elements of setting and how they work within a story.

Author’s Craft: Setting

Learn how to answer the questions of what, why, how, when, and where when creating a setting.

Fictional Versus Real Settings: Which Is Best?

This examination of fictional settings and real settings helps you determine which is best suited for your project.

How to Introduce Setting

This link is for anyone who needs to know how to successfully craft a setting. It offers an insightful writing exercise.

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Fiction Writing Teaching Resources

Discover fiction writing lesson plans, units, topics, and more for students in elementary to high school.

Review this searchable collection of high-quality creative writing lesson plans for elementary, middle, and high school students.

Reading and Writing Flash Fiction

From the  New York Times  Learning Network comes this extensive lesson plan for teachers who want to introduce students to flash fiction.

Resources for Creative Writing Teachers

Check out this ready-to-use, 12-lesson creative writing unit with plenty of activities and exercises.

Creative Writing Ideas

Find some great writing ideas here, such as designing a room for a chocolate factory or writing traditional stories from a different point of view.

How to Teach Creative Writing

This link takes you to a seven-step guide for teaching creative writing to elementary, middle, and high school students.

fiction writing books

Further Reading: Famous Authors On Writing

  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
  • The Art of Fiction by John Gardner
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lammott
  • Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster
  • The Writing Life by Annie Dilliard
  • One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty

fiction writing books

The Write Practice

How to Write Good Fiction: 4 Foundational Skills and How to Build Them

by J. D. Edwin | 0 comments

Do you want to write a novel but are unsure how to write good fiction? Let's look at the skills you need to do it well. 

fiction writing books

Writing good fiction takes time and practice. There's no way around it.

However, if you're looking for some specific and valuable writing skills that you should concentrate on improving, this post is for you.

Here, learn the four foundational writing skills that will make you a better fiction writer, with practical tips to better your writing craft.

This article is an excerpt from J. Danforth's new book The Write Fast System . The book teaches writers how to write a fast first draft—in six weeks. 

The Write Fast System: The Steps to Writing Your Best Book Faster

Once Upon a Time, I Didn't Know What Was Wrong With My Book

I have personal experience with moving too fast.

A number of years ago (almost ten years now; my how time flies), I finished writing my first novel. I had a vague premise, did no planning, and just dove in and wrote it. I pantsed a 150K word novel, a few pages at a time, over a period of three years. When it was done, I went through the laborious steps of professional editing and self-publishing, and then put it out into the world.

It sold eleven copies to friends and family.

I didn’t do much to promote it and it sank like a stone into the obscurity of the internet. A big part of this was that I didn’t know how to properly market a book back then, but there was another, deeper reason that I didn’t promote this book.

It wasn’t good.

For a first attempt, I suppose it wasn’t terrible. But even back then, reveling in having published a book, I had the nagging doubt in the back of my mind. And at the end of the day, I couldn’t bring myself to ask for support for a book that I didn’t believe was good. How could I ask other people to believe in a book that I didn’t believe in myself?

Back then, I didn’t understand why my book wasn’t good.

To recognize a book lacking in quality was one thing, but to fix it was another. When I tried to pinpoint how to improve it, or even identify what exactly was wrong, I turned up blank. And so, the book never went anywhere.

However, now a decade older and wiser, I know what was wrong.

4 Problems With Books That Aren't Good

My book was plagued by four major problems.

1. Terrible Structure

The book had a terrible structure due to lack of planning. It dragged in some places and covered too much too fast at others. I didn't advance plot in a way that made sense.

I was so occupied with filling a blank page that I never thought about structure. This was a huge problem.

2. Too Many Characters, Not Enough Development

The book had too many characters and not enough development.

While I was truly proud of a few of the characters I created, there were also some who didn’t serve adequate purpose in furthering the story.

Rather than fixing the plot, I dealt with difficult areas by simply sticking another character in it.

3. Too Much Description

Compared to other aspects of writing, I’m good at description. However, I overused it in this book.

I described details down to the minute. Unnecessary details, and I spent far too much time setting up scenes that only got used for a few short moments.

So while my descriptions were written well, they were used poorly and took away from the story rather than enriching it.

4. Needless Dialogue

My characters talked a lot. Correction—my characters talked a lot without saying very much. There were conversations that accomplished nothing or led nowhere.

Do you know what that’s called? It’s called “boring.”

A book with characters who talk in a boring manner is a boring book. Seriously, no one cares what they had for breakfast that day or what was on the radio on their way to work.

Move on with the story already.

How to Write Good Fiction: 4 Foundational Skills

I’m far from the first person to have these aforementioned problems.

In fact, these are some of the most common problems with novels and short stories that “just don’t work.”

When you’re a new writer starting out, figuring out exactly why your book isn’t working can be a confusing and difficult task.

However, when you understand the four foundational skills of writing, you can not only figure out why your story isn’t living up to its potential, but also understand how to change what's holding it back.

The four foundational skills needed to write good fiction are:

1. Strong Structure

I'm sure you’ve heard this word a lot, and this isn’t the post to go into detail about structure. But to put it simply, structure is how the story progresses and how its events are organized. Great fiction has great story structure. Look at any award-winning bestseller or just an all-around good story, and you will see strong structure.

Structure is where you decide what starts the story, what plot points lead the protagonist to make the decisions they do, what occurs that drives the characters, and what ultimately leads up to the climax where everything comes to a head.

To get used to working with structure, it's important to get into the habit of thinking of a book idea in terms of structure, even before starting a first draft.

When a story idea occurs to you, instead of letting it sit as a vague concept (e.g. MC goes on an adventure), try to divide it into the key components that would make up a story—why does MC go on this adventure? What prevents this adventure from going well? What is the goal of the adventure? How does MC change for the better or worse after this adventure? That will help you sketch out the character arc.

Key components in a story's structure also contain the story's main scenes, which should turn on the driving Value for the story's plot type. In most stories, there are fourteen to twenty main scenes in a plot, and at The Write Practice, there are six main plot types that turn on different Values to consider:

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs for Writers

Make this part of your writing process and think about what happens in your story step-by-step. Learning to think of an idea in terms of structure will help you get a better look of your whole book right off the bat.

If your story isn’t working from a structural standpoint, ask yourself:

  • Is there an important piece of the structure missing?
  • Have I looked at the story and felt satisfied that it makes sense as a whole?
  • Do the events of the story proceed logically and give adequate reason for the characters doing what they do?

For further reference on structure, visit the following articles:

  • Six Elements of Plot
  • Three Act Structure

2. Develop Characters and Emotions

Your story, at the end of the day, is about someone.

There aren’t a lot of stories out there that aren’t about a character or a cast of characters. But characters are tricky. You need a cast just big enough that every necessary role in the story is filled, but not so many that you fling characters around like a box of spilled beans, so many that readers can't keep character names straight.

In addition to that, your characters need to be distinguishable from each other, having unique reactions and emotions. If your readers can’t tell your characters apart, then it’s not going to make for a very fun read.

A character often comes to mind as an image and a name. But the fact is, a character, main character or otherwise, is so much more than that.

When you imagine a character, try to think beyond the who and focus more on the why of this person—this delves into character motivation.

Why do they do what they do? What in their life has brought them to this point? They're more than just a “happy person” or a “miserable miser.” What makes this character happy or miserable?

When someone wants to know how your day was, you might say “good” or “bad,” and proceed to follow up what's good or bad about it.

A conversation with your character to get to know them is the same. Ask them real question and listen to their answers to write richer characters.

You might be surprised at just how deep and unique they are.

If your story isn’t working from a character standpoint, ask yourself:

  • Is every character in the story absolutely necessary? Can some of them be combined?
  • Does every action taken by your character move the story forward? If not, they should probably be doing something else, or that part should simply be skipped.
  • Does the way each character reacts to major events reflect who they are as a person? Why do they react this way and are the readers aware of the reason?

For further references on writing characters, visit the following posts:

  • Character Development
  • Sympathetic Character
  • How to Write a Villain

3. Description and Setting

Description provides the visual for your story. Anyone can tell you what something looks like, but using description correctly is actually quite difficult.

It’s important to be aware of what needs to be described and what doesn’t. An object important to the plot may deserve a page of description, but a passerby on the street who isn’t important to the story does not. 

The other part of this is that when you go about describing a setting, every component you mention should have some significance to the story. It's not merely about how much description you need to give something important, but also how much you focus on individual parts of it as well.

This principle, quoted frequently in writing courses, is known as Chekhov's Gun, which states that every element in a story must be necessary.

As Chekhov says:

“Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there.”

If your story isn’t working from a description standpoint, ask yourself:

  • Have I adequately described all the important objects and settings in the story? Can my readers visualize these things easily?
  • Have I overdescribed things that don’t need to be described?
  • Are my descriptions interesting? Have I used too many old cliches?

For further reference on description, visit the following articles:

  • Immerse Your Reader in the Setting
  • World Building Tip
  • The Key to Writing Descriptions

4. Dialogue

There is nothing more active in a story than talking. Dialogue and interaction between characters brings the reader into the situation and gets them involved. But boring, unnecessary dialogue pulls them out just as quickly.

No one wants to read two characters talking about nothing. Dialogue showcases your characters’ personality as well, and bad dialogue means bad characters, no matter how pretty their “golden hair” and “emerald eyes” are.

A useful habit to get into when writing scenes with dialogue is to set a goal for the scene. Where do your characters start talking and where do you want them to end up? How can you pair action with dialogue?

Is the goal of the conversation to discuss a problem and reach a solution? Maybe the goal is to show how much two characters love each other? Is it for the readers to understand a particular aspect of their personality and situation?

Once you understand where you want your characters to end up after the conversation is over, you'll have a much better idea of what needs (and doesn't need) to be said.

If your story isn’t working from a dialogue standpoint, ask yourself:

  • Do my characters talk too much? Does every word they say either move the plot forward or show something about the character?
  • Do my characters use too many words to get to their point? Sometimes the few words they say, the more impactful their language.
  • Do the things my characters say reflect their personality? Is it accurate to their back story and motivation? Consistency is key.

For further reference on description, visit the following posts:

  • Writing Brilliant Dialogue
  • Dialogue Tags
  • A Critical Don't for Writing Dialogue

4 Ways to Strengthen Your Foundational Fiction Writing Skills

Now that we’ve identified the skills necessary to make a story work, how does one actually go about getting better at these skills? It may seem overwhelming at first, but in reality, it doesn’t take more than a consistent investment of time.

When I set out to improve my writing skills a few years ago, it felt like a terribly daunting task. Get better at writing? How on Earth do I accomplish that?

In the end, it didn’t end up taking very much time at all. In fact, within three years of starting to work on my writing skills, I had written another book. A better book. A book with a tight structure, well-rounded characters, far improved dialogue, and just the right amount of descriptions.

A book I can be proud of and stand behind, and actually have enough confidence in to promote. It's called Headspace (and it's available now !).

Not only does building foundational skills improve your writing, it helps with revising and self-editing as well. So how do you strengthen your skills?

1. Read books on writing

There are a lot of books about writing. But I am specifically referring, in this case, to books that focus on these four skill areas.

Look for books written by established fiction authors. These are the people who speak from experience and give practical, usable advice.

Some people don't believe writing can be taught. To those people, I ask:

Would you fix a car without first consulting a manual or taking a class?

Or put together a shelf without instructions?

Would you practice law without learning about the laws first?

Books on writing skills offer you the building blocks you need to create your story, and like building a house, you can’t put up the frame without a solid foundation.

For more on how to read productively as a writer, check out this post on what you should read .

2. Read fiction analytically

We all love to read. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be writers. However, reading to learn and reading for pleasure are two entirely different focuses.

Most of the time, we read fiction to get lost in the story, to become completely immersed and forget that what we’re doing is looking at words on paper. Many of us like to relax with Harry Potter or chew our nails while reading Stephen King .

But to read analytically, we must fight that impulse. It's hard work, but well worth it.

Rather than getting lost, we need to be aware throughout the story and look at it from an objective point of view.

As you read to analyze and learn, try a few different strategies.

6 Ways to Read Analytically (and Learn to Write Better)

  • Make note of things you like about the book and try to determine why you like them and how you can replicate the same effect in your own book.
  • Make note of things you didn’t like, determine why you didn’t like them, and decide how you can avoid these things in your book.
  • Observe the order of events and how they lead up to the whole.
  • Take note of descriptions that are vivid and effective. It may even be useful to copy these into a list somewhere for future reference.
  • Dissect the book and see how it fulfills each part of the storytelling structure.

3. Write short stories

Short stories are incredibly important. A lot of writers who are used to writing long pieces have a hard time with short stories. Trust me, I used to be one of these people.

But short stories have enormous benefits. Here are three reasons they're fantastic practice for writers:

  • They contain all the elements of structure and allow you to see them all at once in the space of only a few pages.
  • They are a smaller commitment and less daunting to finish..
  • Every word counts in short stories, which is incredibly helpful when you want to practice keeping your writing tight.

Try to make writing short stories a part of your writing life. If nothing else, sharing your short stories is a great (free!) offer to get readers interested in subscribing to your email list.

When you’re not sure what to write, write a short story, or even flash fiction, which is a very short story, as short as just a few words.

Short stories keep the gears turning and your skills fresh. The more short stories you write, the better your skills will be for writing books.

4. Write books

Books. Plural.

The reason I say this is because many writers have this dream of writing a book. There is a tendency to view this book in your head as the end all, be all.

But the reality, unfortunately, is that your first book is not likely to be good, and that’s not your fault.

How many people do you know who do a task perfectly their first time?

The thing is, when you write a subpar book, it’s easy to get discouraged. It can feel like you took a major shot at your dream and it just didn’t pan out. This isn’t true.

The first book is only that—the first book.

Don’t think of it as your one shot, but only your first step. Your first book didn’t turn out well? Shelve it and write another one. Maybe the same one from a different angle, maybe a new one just for fun.

The more books you write, the better you’ll get at writing them. Not only that, you will find that the second book is easier to write, because I promise you, you will have learned a lot from that first book on your shelf.

How to Write Good Fiction: Return to the Basics

Writers who spend time strengthening their foundational skills, especially the four foundational skills mentioned in this post, have unlimited potential.

Often, writers underestimate the need to practice the basics. And because of this, they find themselves stuck in the same weaker areas of their books, wondering how to write good fiction.

Fiction writing doesn't need to be complicated, even if writing itself is a life-long craft.

When you focus on your fiction basics including structure, characters and emotions, description and setting, and dialogue, your stories will only get better.

Never underestimate the value of practicing these foundational fiction writing skills. Over time, you'll see a great difference in your work, and likely, the readers reviewing your stories.

What writing skills do you think teach how to write good fiction? Let us know in the comments .

As you continue to work on the book idea that you're drafting alongside this series, look at the most recent scene you wrote.

Now, go back and review the four foundational fiction writing skills in this post. Which of these skillsets needs the most work?

For fifteen minutes , pull out a specific area in your story's scene and use the practical writing tips in this post to revise it.

When you're done, read it out loud. How does it sound? Better than the original? I hope so!

Don't forget to share your work in the Pro Practice Workshop  for feedback, and be sure to leave feedback for three other writers, too!

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J. D. Edwin

J. D. Edwin is a daydreamer and writer of fiction both long and short, usually in soft sci-fi or urban fantasy. Sign up for her newsletter for free articles on the writer life and updates on her novel, find her on Facebook and Twitter ( @JDEdwinAuthor ), or read one of her many short stories on Short Fiction Break literary magazine .

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8 New Books We Recommend This Week

Suggested reading from critics and editors at The New York Times.

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Our recommended books this week include three very different memoirs. In “Grief Is for People,” Sloane Crosley pays tribute to a lost friend and mentor; in “Replay,” the video-game designer Jordan Mechner presents a graphic family memoir of three generations; and in “What Have We Here?” the actor Billy Dee Williams looks back at his life in Hollywood and beyond.

Also up this week: a history of the shipping companies that helped Jewish refugees flee Europe before World War I and a humane portrait of people who ended up more or less alone at death, their bodies unclaimed in a Los Angeles morgue. In fiction we recommend a posthumous story collection by a writer who died on the cusp of success, along with a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller and a big supernatural novel from a writer previously celebrated for her short fiction. Happy reading. — Gregory Cowles

WHAT HAPPENED TO NINA? Dervla McTiernan

Despite its title, this disturbing, enthralling thriller is less concerned with what happened to 20-year-old Nina, who vanished while spending the weekend with her controlling boyfriend, than it is with how the couple’s parents — all broken, terrified and desperate in their own ways — respond to the exigencies of the moment.

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“Almost painfully gripping. … The last scene will make your blood run cold.”

From Sarah Lyall’s thrillers column

Morrow | $27

THE UNCLAIMED: Abandonment and Hope in the City of Angels Pamela Prickett and Stefan Timmermans

The sociologists Pamela Prickett and Stefan Timmermans spent some 10 years studying the phenomenon of the unclaimed dead in America — and, specifically, Los Angeles. What sounds like a grim undertaking has resulted in this moving project, in which they focus on not just the deaths but the lives of four people. The end result is sobering, certainly, but important, readable and deeply humane.

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“A work of grace. … Both cleareyed and disturbing, yet pulsing with empathy.”

From Dan Barry’s review

Crown | $30

THE BOOK OF LOVE Kelly Link

Three teenagers are brought back from the dead in Link’s first novel, which is set in a coastal New England town full of secrets and supernatural entities. The magic-wielding band teacher who revived them gives the kids a series of tasks to stay alive, but powerful forces conspire to thwart them.

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“It’s profoundly beautiful, provokes intense emotion, offers up what feel like rooted, incontrovertible truths.”

From Amal El-Mohtar’s review

Random House | $31

GRIEF IS FOR PEOPLE Sloane Crosley

Crosley is known for her humor, but her new memoir tackles grief. The book follows the author as she works to process the loss of her friend, mentor and former boss, Russell Perreault, who died by suicide.

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“The book is less than 200 pages, but the weight of suicide as a subject, paired with Crosley’s exceptional ability to write juicy conversation, prevents it from being the kind of slim volume one flies through and forgets.”

From Ashley C. Ford’s review

MCDxFSG | $27

NEIGHBORS AND OTHER STORIES Diane Oliver

This deceptively powerful posthumous collection by a writer who died at 22 follows the everyday routines of Black families as they negotiate separate but equal Jim Crow strictures, only to discover uglier truths.

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“Like finding hunks of gold bullion buried in your backyard. … Belatedly bids a full-throated hello.”

From Alexandra Jacobs’s review

Grove | $27

WHAT HAVE WE HERE? Portraits of a Life Billy Dee Williams

In this effortlessly charming memoir, the 86-year-old actor traces his path from a Harlem childhood to the “Star Wars” universe, while lamenting the roles that never came his way.

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“He writes with clarity and intimacy, revealing the person behind the persona. And he doesn’t scrimp on the dirty details.”

From Maya S. Cade’s review

Knopf | $32

THE LAST SHIPS FROM HAMBURG: Business, Rivalry, and the Race to Save Russia’s Jews on the Eve of World War I Steven Ujifusa

Ujifusa’s history describes the early-20th-century shipping interests that made a profit helping millions of impoverished Jews flee violence in Eastern Europe for safe harbor in America before the U.S. Congress passed laws restricting immigration.

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“Thoroughly researched and beautifully written. … Truth as old as the Republic itself.”

From David Nasaw’s review

Dutton | $35

REPLAY: Memoir of an Uprooted Family Jordan Mechner

The famed video-game designer (“Prince of Persia”) pivots to personal history in this ambitious but intimate graphic novel. In it, he elegantly interweaves themes of memory and exile with family lore from three generations: a grandfather who fought in World War I; a father who fled Nazi persecution; and his own path as a globe-trotting, game-creating polymath.

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“The binding theme is statelessness — imposed by chance, antisemitism and personal ambition — but memoirs are about memory, and so it is also a book about the subtleties and biases of recollection.”

From Sam Thielman’s graphics column

First Second | $29.99

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Want to know about the best books to read and the latest news start here..

James McBride’s novel sold a million copies, and he isn’t sure how he feels about that, as he considers the critical and commercial success  of “The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store.”

How did gender become a scary word? Judith Butler, the theorist who got us talking about the subject , has answers.

You never know what’s going to go wrong in these graphic novels, where Circus tigers, giant spiders, shifting borders and motherhood all threaten to end life as we know it .

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Each week, top authors and critics join the Book Review’s podcast to talk about the latest news in the literary world. Listen here .

Percival Everett's New Novel Is Destined to Become a Modern Classic

The acclaimed author takes us inside his process for writing 'James,' a subversive new take on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn .

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percival everett

Everett’s subject is Jim, the enslaved runaway from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Blasted clean of Twain’s characterization, Jim emerges here as a man of great dignity, altruism, and intelligence. The new novel opens in Hannibal, Missouri, where Jim teaches enslaved children to run their speech through a “slave filter” of “correct incorrect grammar,” designed to pacify white people. Then the story settles into Twain’s familiar grooves—on the run together, Jim and Huck raft down the Mississippi River, facing danger, separation, and charlatans aplenty. Along the way, Everett fills in the blank spaces of plot and characterization left by Twain, as Jim imagines verbal sparring matches with dead philosophers, falls in love with reading, and begins to author his own story. “With my pencil, I wrote myself into being,” he writes. And so he does: On the road to freeing himself and his family from slavery, Jim becomes more self-determined than ever. Clever, soulful, and full of righteous rage, his long-silenced voice resounds through this remarkable novel.

Subversive and thrilling, James is destined to become a modern classic. But for Everett, the self-effacing author of dozens of daring novels (including Erasure , which was recently adapted into the Academy Award -winning film American Fiction ), the work is simply the work. “I flatter myself to imagine that I’m in conversation with Twain and writing the novel that he couldn’t write,” he tells Esquire. Still, he does harbor a fantasy of sitting side by side with Twain, watching the storied Mississippi River go by.

Everett Zoomed with Esquire from his office at the University of Southern California, where he teaches as a distinguished professor of English. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

ESQUIRE: Do you remember your first encounter with The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ?

PERCIVAL EVERETT: Only vaguely. As a kid, I read an abridged version. I don’t know how it was abridged; it was just shorter. I’m not even sure if that unfortunate word was included in the text. And I have to say, I wasn’t terribly taken with it. I never liked The Adventures of Tom Sawyer . After Tom Sawyer came Huck Finn , which I liked a little better. Then as a teenager, I read it again. I’m not certain if I read it in school or not. But being a Black kid in America reading that text, that word was problematic. It was clearly a text in which an adolescent in America was trying to come to terms with the defining feature of America’s character: race. And so I was taken with the novel, even though it’s an uneven novel. It becomes an adventure that it doesn’t need to become, but it still deals with those issues. It became an important text to me, but more importantly, it’s such a persistent and iconic feature in our literary landscape.

Why do you think it looms so large in the American imagination, all these years later?

I think because of the use of the vernacular. And also, it’s problematic. It’s not an easy read. Huck is an adolescent American, but it’s ultimately representative of America trying to come of age. It’s really the first time you have a work that’s not about slavery, but about an enslaved person. That’s a significant difference and a departure from the earlier texts.

Have you taught the book in your classroom?

No, I’ve never taught it.

Maybe now you’ll have to.

If I can remember it. I read Huck Finn fifteen times in a row to write James . Now it’s a blur and I can hardly remember it.

You say you didn’t like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer . Why not?

It’s just an adventure novel, and I wasn’t terribly excited about that. But I was influenced by Twain greatly—by Life on the Mississippi and Roughing It , which were both wonderfully funny. The Diaries of Adam and Eve were hilarious, too.

I’ve seen James described as a “retelling” and a “reimagining.” Do those terms accurately describe your vision?

I don’t know. I certainly understand them. I’m relying on an extant text as a source for this world—part of my meaning is made by the fact that Huck Finn exists. I don’t know if the novel would be possible without Huck Finn . I have to say, this doesn’t come from a place of dissatisfaction with or disdain for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn . I flatter myself to imagine that I’m in conversation with Twain and writing the novel that he couldn’t write.

One of the things I admire about James is how you give a full, rich life and sense of personhood to a character who was underserved, but you don’t destroy the original tale. What was the right balance of speaking to Huck Finn while also departing from it?

I’ve read Huck Finn so many times that I’ve internalized and forgotten it. But there were things I knew James wouldn’t contain. For example, I was trying to excise Tom Sawyer as much as possible, and also trying to make up for the certain narrative dissonance of Twain having stopped and started the text along the way. You can see those demarcations, where he stopped and then came back to it. That’s where the novel encounters some problems—it doesn’t detract from the importance of it, but the novel itself suffers.

One of my favorite qualities about your Jim is his growing love of reading. You write, “It was a completely private affair, and completely free, and therefore completely subversive. Do you think reading is still a subversive act?

Certainly. This is why they always burn and ban books . It’s why education is so frightening to, dare I say, the right wing—why intellectuals are considered an elite group instead of a group to be exploited and used.

You’ve often said that philosophical problems animate your novels. But in the case of this novel, philosophers themselves animate the story, as Jim has imagined arguments with Rousseau, Voltaire, and John Locke. Which of those philosophers would you most like to speak with?

Maybe Voltaire. It’d be less earnest than John Locke and there might be more fun. He wasn’t the same kind of philosopher as Locke—he was probably more open to play and ideas.

Was it fun to play with these real people in a fictional sandbox? It’s certainly fun to read.

I suppose it was. It’s hard for me to think about fun when I’m going to work. But I guess those were probably the parts I personally enjoyed writing the most. The hard work was distilling it, because those guys like to go on and on. They could have taken over the book.

I often feel like your work has a very playful and elastic approach to language, and James is no different. As the story progresses, language comes to mean many things to Jim —sometimes it’s a disguise, or liberation, or resistance against dehumanization. Jim writes, “My interest is in how these marks that I am scratching on this page can mean anything at all. If they can have meaning, then life can have meaning, then I can have meaning.” How were you thinking about language as you wrote James ?

Language is all we have, really. It’s how we think and how we move through the world—not only with other people, but with ourselves. It’s how we explain the world for ourselves. The question of “Is any kind of private language even possible?” is always present in my thinking. But more than that is the idea of language is so amazing—that I can put marks on a page, and you can look at them and have some idea of what I’m trying to say. It’s just remarkable. It’s crazy that we can utter these sounds and they come together and make some kind of sense.

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As you were reconsidering who Jim is, you were of course reconsidering his relationships, too. I really enjoyed his complicated affection for Huck. What felt like the right pitch for their dynamic?

I think that perhaps oppressed people might be a little more adept at empathy than oppressors. Even in Huck Finn , Jim is really the only father figure that Huck has. And regardless of their station, he’s the only decent man present in Huck’s life, so that was already present in the text. I’ve made their relationship a little more entwined than Twain did.

In a previous interview, you talked about the role of setting; you said, “You always add an element to a story once you locate it someplace.” How did you conjure Hannibal, Missouri?

Well, I visited Hannibal, Missouri, and it yielded absolutely nothing, so I read a few books by locals, Hannibilians, or however you would refer to them. Really, it was my knowledge of the South and my knowledge of Twain’s text that informed the characters. Reading those books offered a way of being in the land. I didn’t use any particular histories of the place; that all comes from Twain’s text. If anything, this approach freed me to make it up. I think you really do conjure the time and the place.

I wouldn’t call this an adventure novel, but the action scenes —while harrowing and life-threatening— are deeply thrilling. You’re quite the outdoorsman. What did your experience of that lifestyle lend to writing James ?

Well, I know what it’s like to sleep outside or sleep in a cave, so I guess that’s part of it. I don’t know if being outdoors a lot makes me an outdoorsman. I don’t know how well I would do on Survivor , but I know how to pitch a tent. I liked the fact that the novel was set on the river and out in nature—I’m comfortable there.

I don’t know how well I would do on Survivor , but I know how to pitch a tent.

Do you fish?

I do fly-fish.

There’s that thrilling moment where Jim puts his arm down the mouth of a fifty-pound catfish. What was your most memorable catch?

It was fishing for a cutthroat trout that I could actually see—and I was sure could see me—on a rather placid part of the Red River in New Mexico. So I really had to be sneaky. Even if I hadn’t caught him, just the fact that I could fish for him probably would have been enough.

I read that you were watching episodes of Mission: Impossible while you wrote this book. Do you often watch television while you write?

I do, for white noise. I wrote a couple of novels while watching nothing but Korean movies on a corner of my screen while I was typing. I write in longhand and then transfer it to a computer. While I was doing that, I’d watch Korean movies. I’ll watch anything with a narrative that I can learn. I come back to it as a place of comfort, but I’m not paying attention to it.

In the acknowledgments of the book, you make a reference to having lunch with Mark Twain. If you could have lunch with him, what would you like to discuss?

I think I’d mostly be listening. I don’t know if we’d say much. We’d probably just watch the river go by.

I have just one last question for you. When you went to the Oscars to celebrate American Fiction , what was your night like?

Well, I don’t need to do that again. It’s not my world. It was amusing, and it was shocking to everyone that I got cleaned up. My wife and I enjoyed the evening. We lasted about fifteen minutes at the Governor’s Ball, then we were looking for an exit.

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Kiley Reid on Why Fiction Isn’t Activism

In conversation with mitzi rapkin on the first draft podcast.

First Draft: A Dialogue of Writing is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with fiction, nonfiction, essay writers, and poets, highlighting the voices of writers as they discuss their work, their craft, and the literary arts. Hosted by Mitzi Rapkin, First Draft celebrates creative writing and the individuals who are dedicated to bringing their carefully chosen words to print as well as the impact writers have on the world we live in.

In this episode, Mitzi talks to Kiley Reid about her new novel, Come and Get It .

Subscribe and download the episode , wherever you get your podcasts!

From the episode:

Mitzi Rapkin: I’m wondering about redemption through writing. And that was something your character Kennedy found, or maybe for her, it wasn’t redemption but a type of therapy, perhaps, or a type of solace.  She had a writing teacher where she disclosed a terrible thing that happened to her and instead of shaming her, the writing teacher said just write about it. I think she felt a moment of grace, she felt acceptance. And then when she started writing, I think she found some peace. And I’m curious, if you think that writing has that quality, or if it has that had that quality for you?

Kiley Reid: I’m of two minds about this. I think writing is an amazing practice for anyone, whether they are an aspiring novelist, or wanting to journal or work through a time in their lives – amazing – write about it. The reason that writing is great is because it makes you be quiet. And it should, at its best, make you curious about how you feel, how others feel, how the world is working, it should make you a person who is concerned with the world around you, and about the human behavior that you do on other people and receive as well. I teach undergrads and a lot of my undergrads are STEM students who just need an art credit. And I really love that approach to writing as well, I kind of like reading, I don’t really have time to read in school anymore, but you know, maybe this will be fine. And I really like teaching students from that place because I feel like they’re learning how to look at art differently. And they’re reading things that they wouldn’t normally come across, and their brains just change in real time. It’s the best when someone says, I think this story is trying to work with time in a new way. It’s like yes, yes, exactly. You’re seeing this differently, and you’re never going to not see it the same way again, and that’s really beautiful. All of that said, I do not see writing as a rebellious act. And I do not see writing as a civil rights act as well, especially in terms of writing fiction. I know that many authors would disagree with me in that space. Writing is my favorite thing to do. It is my absolute passion to discover new characters and situations and emotions that I’ve always kind of held in the back of my head but couldn’t find the words for, that is my favorite thing. I believe novels are meant to entertain, whether you’re entertained from beautiful prose or recognition or nostalgia or plot, I believe that it’s meant to entertain. I don’t believe that you can sell social justice in a hardcover book for $26 because that would mean that books are meant for certain people and redemption is meant for certain people but not for others. So, I do reject the bravery and activism of writing fiction, because unfortunately, not everyone can get their hands on it.

Kiley Reid is the author of Come and Get It and Such A Fun Age , which was a New York Times Best Seller and longlisted for the 2020 Booker Price. Her writing has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Playboy, The Guardian , and others. Reid is currently an assistant professor at the University of Michigan.

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Whether you’re a beginner writer or an accomplished author who dreams of becoming the next bestselling novelist… the ‘Write Fiction Books’ online training course is for you!

Through this comprehensive 14-module certified fiction writing course, you’ll discover how to transform simple ideas into concrete plots, write gripping scenes, add suspense to your writing, breathe life into your characters, and you’ll uncover professional marketing techniques that sell books and much more.

Laid out in clear, easy-to-follow steps, this interactive, engaging and comprehensive online course unlocks your creativity and gives you the tools, guidance, and practical skills you need to craft powerful, page-turning fiction.

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Bri Lee: ‘Writing about getting molested is why I now enjoy artistic freedom. That’s cooked’

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Don Winslow says farewell to fiction writing in high style

With ‘city in ruins,’ winslow wraps up a spectacular crime fiction trilogy, a sweeping story that morphs and expands over time.

And so, we come to the end. The end of an exemplary crime fiction trilogy and the self-chosen end of a popular author’s writing career. But I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

With “ City on Fire ” (2022), “ City of Dreams ” (2023) and now “ City in Ruins ,” Don Winslow has written a near-perfect saga: He’s created great characters who grow and develop while remaining true to their essence, and a sweeping story that morphs and expands over time, with the stakes escalating until they reach nosebleed heights at the end. Winslow says he has given up writing novels to devote his time to political activism: “I wanted in the fight. I didn’t want to be writing a fiction obituary of America losing democracy,” he told the Los Angeles Times . With “City in Ruins,” he is saying farewell in high style.

Winslow modeled this trilogy on Virgil’s Roman tragedy “The Aeneid,” an intention made obvious by the epigrams in all three novels. However, you needn’t be a Roman or Greek scholar to enjoy these books (and though it is best to read them in order, it’s not vital). These novels wear their inspiration lightly. The epic poems do not bleed into Winslow’s story but linger like ghosts in the background.

At the center of the three “City” books is Danny Ryan, a Rhode Island version of “a Springsteen kind of guy,” a onetime Providence waterfront worker from a scrappy Irish American family. Over the course of the series, he has gotten mixed up with the mob, fought epic (yet doomed) battles and resurrected himself in Hollywood. After marrying into the family of the king of the Irish mob in Providence, he ends up their reluctant leader in a fatalistic war with the Italians, runs to the West Coast with his family and crew to lie low when it all blows up, manages to claw back his life, gets involved with a movie that’s being made about the Rhode Island mob, and falls in love with a celebrity superstar.

In the final moments of “City of Dreams,” Ryan is in a bad place: in the desert, facing off against a Mexican gang lord who wants to end him. The woman he loves is dead, and he blames himself. Ryan’s life has turned around in the opening of “City in Ruins.” He now owns a casino on the Las Vegas Strip; he’s being a good dad to his son, Ian, with whom he escaped from Rhode Island six years earlier; and he has a psychotherapist girlfriend who’s very different from his previous love interests — in other words, good for him.

But then Ryan decides to indulge his ambition by building a billion-dollar resort casino complex — Il Sogno, which sounds like Las Vegas’s latest wonder, the Sphere , expanded into a full-blown resort. Winslow shows us step by step what it takes to do something this grandiose in Vegas, where everything is supersize, especially the egos.

The project puts Ryan on a crash course with one of his hitherto friendly rivals. Vegas being Vegas, everyone has some connection to the mob, even if it’s distant, and before long Ryan — who thought he had successfully left his gangster past behind — finds himself up to his eyebrows in trouble as old vendettas are resurrected.

Peter Moretti Jr., son of one of Ryan’s former rivals, returns to the States after serving a tour in Iraq only to find out that his mother and her lover are responsible for his father’s death. In a scene involving the clan godfather, Winslow shows how an innocent like Peter Jr. is manipulated into carrying the water for his late father’s crime gang. The rest of this thread is devoted to the courtroom battle between the good district attorney who wants to see Peter Jr. pay for his crimes and the sharpshooting defense attorney who uses every trick at his disposal to get the young man freed.

There’s also Chris Palumbo, the late Peter Sr.’s second-in-command, who took to the wind after a partnership with a crooked FBI agent went south. We see him holed up in Nebraska with a hippie-ish woman (a la Odysseus and Circe in “The Odyssey”) until he comes to realize that he must return to his wife and children back East. He knows he must face the music for his misdeeds and confront the Providence crime gang that wants him dead.

Winslow immerses readers in the hidden world of organized crime, highlighting its inner workings. Whether it’s jousting between lawyers, etiquette among wiseguys or the history of the mob in Las Vegas, Winslow knows how to make the reader feel like one of the cognoscenti. For instance, he shows how he toed the line through the first two books so that Ryan can be in the casino business in Book 3: “Danny’s lawyers argued his cause. ‘There isn’t a single fact linking Mr. Ryan to organized crime,’ the lead attorney said. ‘Not an arrest, not an indictment, never mind a conviction. All you have are rumors and a few articles in the tabloids.’ … The appeal was an effort to keep Danny out of the [Nevada Gaming Control Board’s] dreaded Black Book, which would have prevented him from even entering a casino.”

You can read “City in Ruins” as a meditation on honor, revenge and justice, but the book also challenges readers to examine beliefs about morality. In “City in Ruins,” whether you’re in the world of gangsters or law enforcement or the casino industry, Winslow shows us that morality rides a sliding scale. Ryan is the closest thing the novel has to a hero, trying to inflict the least amount of pain and suffering while saving his family and friends, and willing to sacrifice his dreams as payment for his past sins. In absolutist terms, however, he’s no hero — yet the reader continues to root for him. Even the villains in “City in Ruins” question whether the gods are protecting Danny Ryan or if he will ever get his comeuppance. For the answer, you’re going to have to read the book.

Alma Katsu is the author of eight books, including the Taker trilogy, “The Hunger,” “The Deep” and “The Fervor.” Her latest is “Red London.”

City in Ruins

By Don Winslow

William Morrow. 400 pp. $32

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Still need more reading inspiration? Super readers share their tips on how to finish more books . Or let poet and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib explain why he stays in Ohio . You can also check out reviews of the latest in fiction and nonfiction .

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10 books to add to your reading list in April

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Critic Bethanne Patrick recommends 10 promising titles, fiction and nonfiction, to consider for your April reading list.

April’s book releases cover some difficult topics, including Salman Rushdie discussing his 2022 maiming, Leigh Bardugo’s fiction about the dark arts and Ada Limón’s poetry anthology about our fragile world. However, like April, there is also sunshine: Leif Enger’s wild Great Lakes love story, Helen Tworkov’s beautiful memoir of Buddhism and a collection of the inimitable Maggie Nelson’s essays. Happy reading, happy spring!

I Cheerfully Refuse: A Novel By Leif Enger Grove Press: 336 pages, $28 (April 2)

Cover of "I Cheerfully Refuse"

An unusual and meaningful surprise awaits readers of Enger’s latest, which takes place largely on Lake Superior, as a man named Rainy tries to reunite with his beloved wife, Lark. While the world around this couple, a dystopian near-future American where billionaires control everything, could not be bleaker, the author’s retelling of the myth of Orpheus (who went to the underworld to rescue his wife) contains the authentic hope of a born optimist.

The Familiar: A Novel By Leigh Bardugo Flatiron Books: 400 pages, $30 (April 9)

Cover of "The Familiar"

Bardugo departs from novels of dark academia in a standalone to make the hairs on your neck stand up, set in 16th century Spain. A hidden Sephardic Jew and scullery maid named Luzia Cotado matches wits with fellow servant Guillén Santángel. Luzia discovers a secret of Guillén’s, but she’s already fallen in love with him. And because he knows hers, too, they might both avoid the Spanish Inquisition. It’s a gorgeous tale of enchantments both supernatural and earthly.

The Sleepwalkers: A Novel By Scarlett Thomas Simon & Schuster: 304 pages, $28 (April 9)

Cover of "The Sleepwalkers"

A couple honeymoons at a Greek resort. What could go wrong? In Thomas’ hands, plenty – especially as the author has never written a comfortable story; her books, from “PopCo ” to “Oligarchy,” crackle with unreliable characters, as well as big philosophical ideas. In this case, the new marriage’s breakdown is chronicled through letters between the spouses, and sometimes bits of ephemera, that ultimately untangle a dark mystery relating to the title.

The Garden: A Novel By Clare Beams Doubleday: 304 pages, $28 (April 10)

Cover of "The Garden"

Few novels of literary fiction are written as well as “The Garden,” let alone given its sadly relevant retro setting, a 1940s country-estate obstetrical program. Irene Willard walks through its gates having endured five miscarriages; pregnant again, she and her war-veteran husband George desperately hope for a live birth. But as Irene discovers more about the woman who controls all here, Dr. Bishop, she fears carrying to term as much as she once feared pregnancy loss.

Reboot: A Novel By Justin Taylor Pantheon: 304 pages, $28 (April 23)

Cover of "Reboot"

David Crader, former teen TV heartthrob, just wants to reboot his career when his old show “Rev Beach” has a moment. His life has devolved through substance abuse, divorce and underemployment. But when he and colleagues launch a remake, devolution continues: The protagonist’s struggles are mirrored by climate-change issues, from flooding to wildfires. Despite that darkness, Taylor’s gift for satire might make this a must-read for 2024 beach bags.

You Are Here: Poetry in the Natural World By Ada Limón (Editor) Milkweed Editions: 176 pages, $25 (April 2)

Cover of "You Are Here"

A wondrous artist herself, Limón is currently poet laureate of the United States, and this anthology is part of her signature project, “You Are Here,” which will also feature poetry as public art in seven national parks. Released in conjunction with the Library of Congress, the collection features 50 previously unpublished poems by luminaries including Jericho Brown, Joy Harjo, Carl Phillips and Diane Seuss, each focusing on a piece of regional landscape.

Like Love: Essays and Conversations By Maggie Nelson Graywolf Press: 336 pages, $32 (April 2)

Cover of "Like Love"

While all of the pieces in Nelson’s new book have previously been published elsewhere, they’re made fresh here both through being collected and through their chronological placement. Readers can practically watch Nelson’s incisive mind growing and changing as she speaks with colleagues such as Hilton Als and Judith Butler, or as she writes about queerness, motherhood, violence, the lyrics of Prince and the devastating loss of a friend.

Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder By Salman Rushdie Random House: 204 pages, $28 (April 16)

Cover of "Knife"

On Aug. 12, 2022, the author Salman Rushdie was speaking at upstate New York’s Chautauqua festival when a man rushed the stage and attempted to murder him. Rushdie, a target of Iranian religious leaders since 1989, was permanently injured. In this book, he shares his experience for the first time, having said that this was essential for him to write. In this way, he answers violence with art, once again reminding us all that freedom of expression must be protected.

Lotus Girl: My Life at the Crossroads of Buddhism and America By Helen Tworkov St. Martin’s Essentials: 336 pages, $29 (April 16)

Cover of "Lotus Girl"

Dworkov, founder of the magazine Tricycle, chronicles her move from a 1960s young-adult interest in Buddhism to travels through Asia and deep study in the United States of the different strands that follow the Buddha’s teachings. Tworkov mentions luminaries such as the artist Richard Serra, the composer Charles Mingus and the Dalai Lama, but she’s not name dropping. Instead, she’s strewing fragrant petals from her singular path to mindfulness that may help us find ours.

The Demon of Unrest: A Saga of Hubris, Heartbreak, and Heroism at the Dawn of the Civil War By Erik Larson Crown: 592 pages, $35 (April 30)

Cover of "The Demon of Unrest"

Even diehard Civil War aficionados will learn from Larson’s look at the six months between Lincoln’s 1860 election and the surrender of Union troops under Maj. Robert Anderson at Charleston’s Ft. Sumter. Larson details Anderson’s secret Christmas redeployment and explores this individual’s contradictions as a former slave owner who loyally follows Lincoln’s orders. The author also shares first-person perspective from the famous diaries of the upper-class Southerner Mary Chesnut. All together, the book provides a riveting reexamination of a nation in tumult.

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25 Non-Fiction Books We’re Excited to Read in 2024

Posted: February 22, 2024 | Last updated: February 22, 2024

<p><strong>WAS ONE OF</strong> your 2024 goals to read more? Or maybe learn something new? Non-fiction is the perfect book genre to open your mind and ease yourself back into reading. And with such a broad category of books, there's something for everyone. Historical deep-dives (perfect for someone who gets lost down Wikipedia rabbit holes), self-help books (expert-driven reads when you need advice), and everything in between all fall under this wide umbrella. </p><p>Reading books doesn't just give you a new hobby, it's also a way to become <a href="https://www.menshealth.com/health/a39983391/mentally-fittest-man-emotional-intelligence-vulnerability-resilience/">more mentally fit</a>. <em><a href="https://www.realsimple.com/health/preventative-health/benefits-of-reading-real-books">Real Simple</a></em> reports reading can help you relax, make you more empathetic, and may even decrease your risk of Alzheimer's disease. In a world where we're all tied to screens, there's no doubt it's great to take a break every once in a while and enjoy the tactile feel of turning the pages of a great read. And once you get into non-fiction, who knows? You may even take the next step and jump into a fun genre read like <a href="https://www.menshealth.com/entertainment/g46327790/best-sci-fi-fantasy-books-2024/">fantasy or sci-fi</a> (we've got great 2024 picks for those too, if you're interested).</p><p>2024 is another great year for non-fiction books. We've got science-based explorations of memory, various books on how to inject more positivity into your life, and even meditations on deer (yes, <em>deer</em>) to help you feel more in touch with the outdoors<em>. </em>And if you're a big pop culture nerd, there's also exciting books on music, movies, and sports that'll teach you the ins and outs of those exciting industries that fans (us included!) can't get enough of. </p>

WAS ONE OF your 2024 goals to read more? Or maybe learn something new? Non-fiction is the perfect book genre to open your mind and ease yourself back into reading. And with such a broad category of books, there's something for everyone. Historical deep-dives (perfect for someone who gets lost down Wikipedia rabbit holes), self-help books (expert-driven reads when you need advice), and everything in between all fall under this wide umbrella.

Reading books doesn't just give you a new hobby, it's also a way to become more mentally fit . Real Simple reports reading can help you relax, make you more empathetic, and may even decrease your risk of Alzheimer's disease. In a world where we're all tied to screens, there's no doubt it's great to take a break every once in a while and enjoy the tactile feel of turning the pages of a great read. And once you get into non-fiction, who knows? You may even take the next step and jump into a fun genre read like fantasy or sci-fi (we've got great 2024 picks for those too, if you're interested).

2024 is another great year for non-fiction books. We've got science-based explorations of memory, various books on how to inject more positivity into your life, and even meditations on deer (yes, deer ) to help you feel more in touch with the outdoors . And if you're a big pop culture nerd, there's also exciting books on music, movies, and sports that'll teach you the ins and outs of those exciting industries that fans (us included!) can't get enough of.

<p><strong>$25.20</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1646221346?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>Those interested in nature writing, or at least how humans connect to the world around them, will enjoy <em>The Age of Deer</em>. Erika Howsare explores the constant presence of deer, interviewing animal control officers, a museum interpreter examining the history of deers, and even a woman who raises orphaned fawns.</p><p>Release Date: January 2</p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Age-Deer-Trouble-Kinship-Neighbors/dp/1646221346/ref=sr_1_1?crid=41XEPINX8QXL&keywords=the+age+of+deer&qid=1706632140&sprefix=%2Caps%2C59&sr=8-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

1) The Age of Deer: Trouble and Kinship with our Wild Neighbors

Those interested in nature writing, or at least how humans connect to the world around them, will enjoy The Age of Deer . Erika Howsare explores the constant presence of deer, interviewing animal control officers, a museum interpreter examining the history of deers, and even a woman who raises orphaned fawns.

Release Date: January 2

<p><strong>$27.00</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/031653675X?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>If climate change has you worried about the future of the planet, check out <em>Not the End of the World</em>. This 2024 read will not only provide some uplifting news about the state of the world, but also offers guidance on how to create a more sustainable lifestyle and contribute to a better planet.</p><p>Release Date: January 9</p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Not-End-World-Generation-Sustainable/dp/031653675X/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3RBB53ZEKNDH4&keywords=not+the+end+of+the+world+hannah+ritchie&qid=1706632418&sprefix=not+the+end+o%2Caps%2C74&sr=8-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

2) Not the End of the World: How We Can Be the First Generation to Build a Sustainable Planet

If climate change has you worried about the future of the planet, check out Not the End of the World . This 2024 read will not only provide some uplifting news about the state of the world, but also offers guidance on how to create a more sustainable lifestyle and contribute to a better planet.

Release Date: January 9

<p><strong>$25.20</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/0316567027?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>Rather than looking at aging as an emotional obstacle, what if you could avoid a midlife crisis altogether? <em>Learning to Love Midlife</em> wants to help readers see getting older as an exciting new chapter in life.</p><p>Release Date: January 16</p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Learning-Love-Midlife-Reasons-Better/dp/0316567027/ref=sr_1_1?crid=IDTGAMUARBVY&keywords=learning+to+love+midlife&qid=1706632606&sprefix=learning+to+love+midlife%2Caps%2C70&sr=8-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

3) Learning to Love Midlife: 12 Reasons Why Life Gets Better with Age

Rather than looking at aging as an emotional obstacle, what if you could avoid a midlife crisis altogether? Learning to Love Midlife wants to help readers see getting older as an exciting new chapter in life.

Release Date: January 16

<p><strong>$22.33</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/059372755X?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>Chris Anderson, the head of TED (as in the viral TED Talks), wants to help the world become more optimistic. His advice? Be more generous. In providing various anecdotes, including his personal narrative of TED's increasing popularity, Anderson wants to prove that kindness and charity can lead to a better society.</p><p>Release Date: January 23 </p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Infectious-Generosity-Ultimate-Worth-Spreading/dp/059372755X/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1YVYTV295MA30&keywords=infectious+generosity&qid=1706632844&sprefix=infectious+generosity%2Caps%2C73&sr=8-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

4) Infectious Generosity: The Ultimate Idea Worth Spreading

Chris Anderson, the head of TED (as in the viral TED Talks), wants to help the world become more optimistic. His advice? Be more generous. In providing various anecdotes, including his personal narrative of TED's increasing popularity, Anderson wants to prove that kindness and charity can lead to a better society.

Release Date: January 23

<p><strong>$27.00</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/0593500822?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>We at <em>Men's Health</em> are all about helping readers improve their sex lives. So of course we're excited about <em>Come Together</em>, which seeks to dispel myths people have about sex in relationships (sexual satisfaction doesn't have to wane over time<em>) </em>and examines the common obstacles that stops couples from having great sex lives, along with how to get over them. </p><p>Release Date: January 30</p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Come-Together-Science-Creating-Connections/dp/0593500822/ref=sr_1_1?crid=OLDI7STXNFKD&keywords=come+together+emily+nagoski%2C+phd&qid=1706633084&sprefix=come+together%2Caps%2C74&sr=8-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

5) Come Together: The Science (and Art!) of Creating Lasting Sexual Connections

We at Men's Health are all about helping readers improve their sex lives. So of course we're excited about Come Together , which seeks to dispel myths people have about sex in relationships (sexual satisfaction doesn't have to wane over time ) and examines the common obstacles that stops couples from having great sex lives, along with how to get over them.

Release Date: January 30

<p><strong>$22.48</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/0593579658?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>While <em>Come Together</em> will help you fix your sex life, <em>Fight Right</em> wants to help you fix how you approach conflict. When tension arises in your relationship, Drs. John and Julie Gottman want to ensure you stay calm and work to find understanding when you and your partner are at odds.</p><p>Release Date: January 30</p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Fight-Right-Successful-Conflict-Connection/dp/0593579658/ref=sr_1_1?crid=185J7G1F7BARO&keywords=fight+right+book+gottman&qid=1706633416&sprefix=fight+right%2Caps%2C76&sr=8-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

6) Fight Right: How Successful Couples Turn Conflict into Connection

While Come Together will help you fix your sex life, Fight Right wants to help you fix how you approach conflict. When tension arises in your relationship, Drs. John and Julie Gottman want to ensure you stay calm and work to find understanding when you and your partner are at odds.

<p><strong>$27.99</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1647825091?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>If you've ever been called a "workaholic," this book is for you. Whether you're a manager or just a very stressed employee, Malissa Clark breaks down why constantly working is bad for both individuals <em>and</em> for businesses. </p><p>Release Date: February 6</p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Never-Not-Working-Always-Business/dp/1647825091/ref=sr_1_1?crid=26UONTF587OK2&keywords=never+not+working+malissa+clark&qid=1706633585&sprefix=never+not+working%2Caps%2C72&sr=8-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

7) Never Not Working: Why the Always-On Culture Is Bad for Business--and How to Fix It

If you've ever been called a "workaholic," this book is for you. Whether you're a manager or just a very stressed employee, Malissa Clark breaks down why constantly working is bad for both individuals and for businesses.

Release Date: February 6

<p><strong>$29.00</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1250280915?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>While you may think your partner is the only friend you need, this book is set out to prove you wrong. Rhaina Cohen argues that not only are friendships important, but they should be considered just as important, if not more, than romantic relationships. </p><p>Release Date: February 13</p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Other-Significant-Others-Reimagining-Friendship/dp/1250280915/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1OG95V90P69EX&keywords=the+other+significant+others&qid=1706633764&sprefix=the+other+significant+others%2Caps%2C76&sr=8-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

8) The Other Significant Others: Reimagining Life with Friendship at the Center

While you may think your partner is the only friend you need, this book is set out to prove you wrong. Rhaina Cohen argues that not only are friendships important, but they should be considered just as important, if not more, than romantic relationships.

Release Date: February 13

<p><strong>$32.00</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1635579627?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10067.g.45953859%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p><em>Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf</em> might tell one of the great stories ever captured on film (or seen on stage), but the story of how Edward Albee's play came to be a monster hit, and how Mike Nichols brought it to the big screen, is equally captivating. In this well researched and deliciously dishy new book, Philip Gefter explores the world that shaped Albee and how he used it to develop his great work, and follows the ups and downs involved in creating the film—Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were just the beginning!—to paint an incredible picture of the creative process among some of the brightest minds of their time. </p>

9) Cocktails with George and Martha: Movies, Marriage, and the Making of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Deep dive into Hollywood history with this look at Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf ?–starting with the original 1962 play, then the 1966 film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and the story's lasting impact today.

<p><strong>$30.00</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1668017415?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>Fasting is a fascinating part of our social, religious, and political history. John Oakes looks to examine how the idea of fasting (both in terms of food and in terms of more spiritual ideas of "fasting") have impacted humans over time, and how the idea of doing less overall can improve our lives. </p><p>Release Date: February 13 </p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Fast-History-Science-Philosophy-Promise/dp/1668017415/ref=sr_1_1?crid=OPE03KZLDXY&keywords=the+fast+john+oakes&qid=1706633949&sprefix=the+fast+john+oakes%2Caps%2C73&sr=8-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

10) The Fast: The History, Science, Philosophy, and Promise of Doing Without

Fasting is a fascinating part of our social, religious, and political history. John Oakes looks to examine how the idea of fasting (both in terms of food and in terms of more spiritual ideas of "fasting") have impacted humans over time, and how the idea of doing less overall can improve our lives.

<p><strong>$29.00</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/0593418948?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>It's easy to fall into pessimism and obsess over the worst. That's why <em>Practical Optimism </em>looks to give readers a way to cope during hardship, while maintaining an overall bright outlook on life. No matter what's getting you down, <em>Practical Optimism</em> wants to show you there's still things worth looking forward to.</p><p>Release Date: February 20 </p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Practical-Optimism-Practice-Exceptional-Well-Being/dp/0593418948/ref=sr_1_1?crid=13UI02DMVD9TH&keywords=practical+optimism&qid=1706634367&sprefix=practical+optimism%2Caps%2C76&sr=8-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

11) Practical Optimism: The Art, Science, and Practice of Exceptional Well-Being

It's easy to fall into pessimism and obsess over the worst. That's why Practical Optimism looks to give readers a way to cope during hardship, while maintaining an overall bright outlook on life. No matter what's getting you down, Practical Optimism wants to show you there's still things worth looking forward to.

Release Date: February 20

<p><strong>$27.00</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/038554863X?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>Take a deep dive into the latest research on memory with <em>Why We Remember</em>. In addition to teaching you how to recall things better, the book explores the power of memory in our lives, and how we can, through memory, improve our brain's relationship to trauma, healing, and more. </p><p>Release Date: February 20</p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Why-We-Remember-Unlocking-Memorys/dp/038554863X/ref=sr_1_1?crid=PY6CR4E93F74&keywords=why+we+remember&qid=1706634539&sprefix=why+we+remember%2Caps%2C74&sr=8-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

12) Why We Remember: Unlocking Memory's Power to Hold on to What Matters

Take a deep dive into the latest research on memory with Why We Remember . In addition to teaching you how to recall things better, the book explores the power of memory in our lives, and how we can, through memory, improve our brain's relationship to trauma, healing, and more.

<p><strong>$27.00</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/0593243919?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>Imagine yourself at work, stumbling through a presentation, frustrated you can't get your point across. Charles Duhigg's <em>Supercommunicators</em> wants to ensure nothing ever gets lost in translation for you again with this book on how storytelling skills can improve how you have conversations.</p><p>Release Date: February 20</p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Supercommunicators-Unlock-Secret-Language-Connection/dp/0593243919/ref=sr_1_1?crid=7ZH5WZCCXT3H&keywords=supercommunicators+charles+duhigg&qid=1707336902&s=books&sprefix=supercomm%2Cstripbooks%2C73&sr=1-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

13) Supercommunicators: How to Unlock the Secret Language of Connection

Imagine yourself at work, stumbling through a presentation, frustrated you can't get your point across. Charles Duhigg's Supercommunicators wants to ensure nothing ever gets lost in translation for you again with this book on how storytelling skills can improve how you have conversations.

<p><strong>$26.09</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/0593444620?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>When your mental health takes a dip, <em>Languishing </em>is here for you. Corey Keyes' new book aims to reconstruct how we see self-help and mental wellness, while building up readers' resilience to get through hardships.</p><p>Release Date: February 20</p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Languishing-Alive-Again-World-Wears/dp/0593444620/ref=sr_1_1?crid=M0L5IWK9FL3J&keywords=languishing+book&qid=1707336921&s=books&sprefix=languishing+book%2Cstripbooks%2C62&sr=1-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

14) Languishing: How to Feel Alive Again in a World That Wears Us Down

When your mental health takes a dip, Languishing is here for you. Corey Keyes' new book aims to reconstruct how we see self-help and mental wellness, while building up readers' resilience to get through hardships.

<p><strong>$27.00</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/0593544854?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C10049.g.46333613%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>There's so much focus on productivity these days, but what we're really doing is just focusing on volume and busyness. You know, hustle culture. But it wasn't always this way, and in his book, Cal Newport dives into how great minds of the past worked, producing quality over quantity, and provides a step-by-step way to shift your work mindset to a much more sustainable one.</p><p><strong>Release date: </strong>March 5, 2024</p>

15) Slow Productivity: The Lost Art of Accomplishment Without Burnout

Avoid burnout with Slow Productivity , a book that looks to teach employees everywhere that the key to doing your best isn't in working to your limit, but slowing down and changing your expectations. If work overwhelms you and you're eager for a change, you might want to check out this upcoming read.

Release Date: March 5

<p><strong>$35.00</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/0525561005?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>If you're a fan of music history, <em>3 Shades of Blue</em> dives into the creation of the jazz album <em>Kind of Blue</em>, made by three of the genre's greats–Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Bill Evans, along with many, many others involved in the project. Get an inside look into how great music is made, and explore the moment jazz reached its popularity peak.</p><p>Release Date: March 5</p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Shades-Blue-Miles-Coltrane-Empire/dp/0525561005/ref=sr_1_1?crid=22VE1436NF6WB&keywords=3+shades+of+blue+miles+davis&qid=1706717105&sprefix=3+shades+of+blue%2Caps%2C70&sr=8-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

16) 3 Shades of Blue: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, and the Lost Empire of Cool

If you're a fan of music history, 3 Shades of Blue dives into the creation of the jazz album Kind of Blue , made by three of the genre's greats–Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Bill Evans, along with many, many others involved in the project. Get an inside look into how great music is made, and explore the moment jazz reached its popularity peak.

<p><strong>$29.99</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1324050233?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>Daniela Rus, a computer scientist, answers all the questions you may have about the future of robotics and how it's intertwined with the future of humanity. This optimistic look at our technological future is great for anyone who loves deep dives into science.</p><p>Release Date: March 5</p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Heart-Chip-Bright-Future-Robots/dp/1324050233/ref=sr_1_1?crid=XLCGEJYA10KS&keywords=the+heart+and+the+chip&qid=1707336957&s=books&sprefix=the+heart+and+the+chip%2Cstripbooks%2C68&sr=1-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

17) The Heart and the Chip: Our Bright Future with Robots

Daniela Rus, a computer scientist, answers all the questions you may have about the future of robotics and how it's intertwined with the future of humanity. This optimistic look at our technological future is great for anyone who loves deep dives into science.

<p><strong>$35.00</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/0593317378?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>Baseball fans will love this biography of Pete Rose, who became one of the sport's great players and managers before becoming embroiled in a major betting scandal in the 1980s. O'Brien's book details Rose's career and his downfall from interviews with Rose, his associates, and archival records.</p><p>Release Date: March 26</p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Charlie-Hustle-Rise-Glory-Baseball/dp/0593317378/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3PV3KC6ZDDBIV&keywords=charlie+hustle&qid=1707338104&s=books&sprefix=charlie+hustle%2Cstripbooks%2C73&sr=1-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

18) Charlie Hustle: The Rise and Fall of Pete Rose, and the Last Glory Days of Baseball

Baseball fans will love this biography of Pete Rose, who became one of the sport's great players and managers before becoming embroiled in a major betting scandal in the 1980s. O'Brien's book details Rose's career and his downfall from interviews with Rose, his associates, and archival records.

Release Date: March 26

<p><strong>$32.50</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/0063317443?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>Want to improve your work-life balance and learn how to use your time wisely? Google's Executive Productivity Advisor (yes, that's a real title) provides actionable steps and advice for how to become the best version of you both at work and in your personal life</p><p>Release Date: April 2</p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Uptime-Practical-Personal-Productivity-Wellbeing/dp/0063317443/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3F3DPM3CK6DTV&keywords=up+time+laura+mae+martin&qid=1707338252&s=books&sprefix=up+time+laura+mae+martin%2Cstripbooks%2C66&sr=1-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

19) Uptime: A Practical Guide to Personal Productivity and Wellbeing

Want to improve your work-life balance and learn how to use your time wisely? Google's Executive Productivity Advisor (yes, that's a real title) provides actionable steps and advice for how to become the best version of you both at work and in your personal life

Release Date: April 2

<p><strong>$19.80</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/0593714415?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p><em>Somehow</em> is a meditative look at how love impacts our lives. With anecdotes from her own life, Lamott offers a warming dive into how we all share affection, and provides lessons for anyone who needs to appreciate the love in their life more. </p><p>Release Date: April 9</p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Somehow-Thoughts-Love-Anne-Lamott/dp/0593714415/ref=sr_1_1?crid=19UG7YJ62XN08&keywords=somehow+anne+lamott&qid=1707338436&s=books&sprefix=somehow+anne+lamott%2Cstripbooks%2C63&sr=1-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

20) Somehow: Thoughts on Love

Somehow is a meditative look at how love impacts our lives. With anecdotes from her own life, Lamott offers a warming dive into how we all share affection, and provides lessons for anyone who needs to appreciate the love in their life more.

Release Date: April 9

<p><strong>$25.19</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1668007975?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>If you've ever wondered how social media has changed how you see the rest of the world, <em>The Age of Magical Overthinking </em>is exactly the book for you. Montell explores how the Internet and constantly being online has made us chronic overthinkers and anxious, irrational beings. And, of course, she offers a reprieve from the chaos of the modern age.</p><p>Release Date: April 9</p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Age-Magical-Overthinking-Modern-Irrationality/dp/1668007975/ref=sr_1_1?crid=180H7OBGU1TJ1&keywords=the+age+of+magical+overthinking+by+amanda+montell&qid=1707338625&s=books&sprefix=the+age+of+magical+overthinking%2Cstripbooks%2C70&sr=1-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

21) The Age of Magical Overthinking: Notes on Modern Irrationality

If you've ever wondered how social media has changed how you see the rest of the world, The Age of Magical Overthinking is exactly the book for you. Montell explores how the Internet and constantly being online has made us chronic overthinkers and anxious, irrational beings. And, of course, she offers a reprieve from the chaos of the modern age.

<p><strong>$28.99</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1982190450?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>Whether you want to climb Mount Everest or are terrified of heights, you'll find an interesting read in <em>Everest, Inc., </em>which charts the history of the Himalayan guiding industry, the sole reason so many people have been able to achieve the major fear of climbing Everest each year. It's an exploration of the unsung heroes of mountain climbing. </p><p>Release Date: April 16</p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Everest-Inc-Renegades-Rogues-Industry/dp/1982190450/ref=sr_1_1?crid=QLCJ1CN0F1YP&keywords=everest+inc&qid=1707338782&s=books&sprefix=everest+inc%2Cstripbooks%2C72&sr=1-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

22) Everest, Inc.: The Renegades and Rogues Who Built an Industry at the Top of the World

Whether you want to climb Mount Everest or are terrified of heights, you'll find an interesting read in Everest, Inc., which charts the history of the Himalayan guiding industry, the sole reason so many people have been able to achieve the major fear of climbing Everest each year. It's an exploration of the unsung heroes of mountain climbing.

Release Date: April 16

<p><strong>$19.79</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/0385348746?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p><em>The Devil in the White City</em> author Erik Larson is back with another historical retelling, this one detailing one of America's most pivotal moments: starting with Abraham Lincoln's election and going all the way to the start of the Civil War. History buffs and readers looking to dip their toes into a nonfiction story for the first time alike will enjoy Larson's newest book. </p><p>Release Date: April 30</p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Demon-Unrest-Hubris-Heartbreak-Heroism/dp/0385348746/ref=sr_1_1?crid=14C03TN3JAYBX&keywords=the+demon+of+unrest+erik+larson&qid=1707338891&s=books&sprefix=the+demon+of+un%2Cstripbooks%2C84&sr=1-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

23) The Demon of Unrest: A Saga of Hubris, Heartbreak, and Heroism at the Dawn of the Civil War

The Devil in the White City author Erik Larson is back with another historical retelling, this one detailing one of America's most pivotal moments: starting with Abraham Lincoln's election and going all the way to the start of the Civil War. History buffs and readers looking to dip their toes into a nonfiction story for the first time alike will enjoy Larson's newest book.

Release Date: April 30

<p><strong>$30.00</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/0063314045?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>Casey Tanner is a therapist who's ready to hep readers reclaim their sex lives and relationships. In <em>Feel It All, </em>Tanner breaks down mythos about sex and relationships that have plagued us for far too long, and reveals how you can heal past trauma, redefine sex in your life, and find your way to deeper intimacy.</p><p>Release Date: May 14</p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Feel-All-Therapists-Reimagining-Relationship/dp/0063314045/ref=sr_1_1?crid=UVCIZ6ITAQ6W&keywords=feel+it+all&qid=1707341396&s=books&sprefix=feel+it+all%2Cstripbooks%2C74&sr=1-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

24) Feel It All: A Therapist's Guide to Reimagining Your Relationship with Sex

Casey Tanner is a therapist who's ready to hep readers reclaim their sex lives and relationships. In Feel It All, Tanner breaks down mythos about sex and relationships that have plagued us for far too long, and reveals how you can heal past trauma, redefine sex in your life, and find your way to deeper intimacy.

Release Date: May 14

<p><strong>$30.00</strong></p><p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/dp/1250279224?tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p><p>This biography explores the largely unexamined life of Elaine May, the multihyphenate Hollywood star who is known for her reclusive lifestyle and impressive (but limited) resume as a director. Courogen pulls back the curtain on May's life and mystery, seeking to give the director, actor, writer, and comedian her long-delayed due.</p><p>Release Date: June 4</p><p><a class="body-btn-link" href="https://www.amazon.com/Miss-May-Does-Not-Exist/dp/1250279224/ref=sr_1_1?crid=UGK4P9X80BOF&keywords=miss+may+does+not+exist&qid=1707338975&s=books&sprefix=miss+may+does+not+exist%2Cstripbooks%2C73&sr=1-1&tag=syndication-20&ascsubtag=%5Bartid%7C2139.g.46525368%5Bsrc%7Cmsn-us">Shop Now</a></p>

25) Miss May Does Not Exist: The Life and Work of Elaine May, Hollywood’s Hidden Genius

This biography explores the largely unexamined life of Elaine May, the multihyphenate Hollywood star who is known for her reclusive lifestyle and impressive (but limited) resume as a director. Courogen pulls back the curtain on May's life and mystery, seeking to give the director, actor, writer, and comedian her long-delayed due.

Release Date: June 4

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IMAGES

  1. 9 Best Fiction Writing Books You Should Read

    fiction writing books

  2. My Favorite Fiction Writing Books

    fiction writing books

  3. The Ten Commandments of Fiction Writing

    fiction writing books

  4. Writing Fiction, Tenth Edition: A Guide to Narrative Craft, Burroway

    fiction writing books

  5. 8 Most Helpful Books on Writing Fiction

    fiction writing books

  6. Fiction Writing Workbook

    fiction writing books

VIDEO

  1. Want to know how to write a fiction book? Start with these 4 questions! #writing #writingtips

  2. A Writer's Life

  3. How To Write A Book For Beginners in 8 days

  4. #WriteWithSeth: How to Choose a Narrative Distance

  5. Angela Pneuman at the NYS Writers Institute in 2014

  6. The Trial for Murder

COMMENTS

  1. 23 Best Books For Learning To Write Fiction

    Book #6: The Writing Experiment: strategies for innovative creative writing by Hazel Smith. This book is great for: Experimental writing. Hazel Smith is an Australian creative writing teacher and lecturer, who uses this book to: Theorise the process of writing. Champion experimental approaches.

  2. The 40 Best Books About Writing: A Reading List for Authors

    So for starters, here are our top 10 books about writing: On Writing by Stephen King. The Kick-Ass Writer by Chuck Wendig. Dreyer's Englis h by Benjamin Dreyer. The Elements of Style by Strunk, White, and Kalman. The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne. A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

  3. 25 Best Books on Writing Fiction: Learn How with These ...

    1. The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. Surely this tops everyone's list of must-have books on their shelves for perfecting their craft. First published in 1918, it is the style manual everyone consults when they want to improve their writing skills. This book was the first one to promote writing in plain English with your readers in ...

  4. 10 Best Books On Writing Fiction

    Buy on Amazon. 10. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. Not all books on this writer's book list are about plot structure and character development. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King teaches writers how to use solid editing techniques to edit their own work.

  5. How to Start Writing Fiction: The 6 Core Elements

    Let the conflict unfold naturally in the story, but start with the story's impetus, then go from there. 2. Fiction Writing Tip: Creating Characters. Think far back to 9th grade English, and you might remember the basic types of story conflicts: man vs. nature, man vs. man, and man vs. self.

  6. Best Books on Writing Fiction (144 books)

    Best Books on Writing Fiction. Non fiction books to help aspiring authors craft their first novels and to help established authors hone their skills. Great for nanowrimo! flag. All Votes Add Books To This List. 1. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. by. Stephen King (Goodreads Author)

  7. The Best Books on Writing

    These are some of the best books on writing with insight and wisdom that can support you at all stages of your writing process. 1. Add to Bookshelf ... Madeleine L'Engle has mastered the art of weaving faith into fiction. In Walking on Water, the late author explores what it means to be a Christian artist, and touches on the influence of ...

  8. 25 Best Books On Writing (For Fiction/Nonfiction Writers)

    5. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. In this book, Anne Lamott writes about writing itself and about the writer's life, sharing stories from her early development as a writer and her experiences along the way to becoming a New York Times bestselling author of both fiction and nonfiction.

  9. Essential Books for Writers

    Le Guin has published two books about writing. The more recent of these, Steering the Craft (1998), is intended for experienced writers, the ones, she says, who "blow all Rules of Writing to bits.". It offers exercises and advice on storytelling, point of view, and grammar. For the younger author, there is her 1979 volume, The Language of ...

  10. The 15 Best Books on Writing for Authors, Novelists, and Bloggers

    5. Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. Plot and Structure is the go-to book on plotting. It has long been one of the best-selling books on fiction writing, and for good reason. This book will show you how to write a solid novel from the get-go by crafting a strong plot and story structure without plot holes or major developmental issues.

  11. 77 Best Books for Fiction Writers You Must Own

    Little Red Writing BookBrandon Royal. There's no need to fear the big, bad world of writing with The Little Red Writing Book in hand. Brimming with clever advice, this book offers writers, students, and business professionals a concise guide to penning strong and effective work for all occasions. 40.

  12. Advanced Fiction Writing: The Best Books On How To Write A Novel

    How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method. $11.99 eBook: $5.99 Audiobook: $17.95. Author: Randy Ingermanson. Series: Advanced Fiction Writing, Book 1. Genre: Fiction Writing. Tag: Recommended Books. Are you writing a novel, but having trouble getting your first draft written?

  13. The 12 Best Books on Writing I've Ever Read

    5. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft [language] By Stephen King (acquaintance) At the risk of hyperbole, there's so much to recommend here that I hardly know where to begin. Besides all the practical advice, you get King's own rags-to-riches story in his inimitable voice. You learn a ton while being wildly entertained.

  14. 11 Books to Read to Become a Better Fiction Writer

    by James Scott Bell. Plot and Structure is one of the best books on how to approach 3-act structure for fiction writers. This is especially helpful when it comes to the often slow middle that causes many writers to give up. Another helpful part of this book is Bell's advice on how to approach writing scenes.

  15. How to Write Literary Fiction in 6 Steps

    To make the most of writing in this fun genre, we've assembled 6 simple steps you can follow. 1. Start with a topic you wish to explore. The first step is simple: all you need is to identify a theme or topic that interests you. At this stage, your "topic" can be universal or very specific. There's no need to transpose this topic into a ...

  16. Fiction Books About Writers (273 books)

    Fiction Books About Writers I found a recent trend in literature, at least in my tastes, where one of the main characters happens to be a writer. ... Tags: authors, fiction, writing. 1 like · Like. Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes. People Who Voted On This List (142) Lauren 712 books 221 friends Susanna ...

  17. Ultimate Fiction Writing Guide

    Writing fiction is a craft. As such, getting good at it takes plenty of hard work. But that doesn't mean you can't get some help along the way. And that's why we created this guide to fiction writing resources. Inside, you'll find all kinds of resources for short story writing, novel writing, writing prompts and exercises, and much more.

  18. 16 Writing Tips for Fiction Writers

    Here are 16 tips for writing fiction: 1. Love your story. You might have a list of story ideas waiting to be fleshed out, but there's likely one you're most passionate about. Start with that story. Many authors do their best writing when they're deeply invested in their characters and plot. 2.

  19. Fiction Writing, Writing, Books

    by Matthew Salesses. Paperback $16.95. QUICK ADD. Writing Fiction, Tenth Edition…. by Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, Ned Stuckey-French. Explore Series. Paperback $18.99 $22.50.

  20. How to Write Good Fiction: 4 Foundational Skills and How to Build Them

    1. Read books on writing. There are a lot of books about writing. But I am specifically referring, in this case, to books that focus on these four skill areas. Look for books written by established fiction authors. These are the people who speak from experience and give practical, usable advice. Some people don't believe writing can be taught.

  21. Writer's Digest Books

    Writer's Digest Books. Learn to write to the best of your ability with the industry's best writing books covering fiction writing, nonfiction writing, professional advice on writing novels, poetry writing and more. Whether you need to improve your writing skills, perfect grammar and punctuation, better your short story plots or learn how to ...

  22. The Reedsy Book Editor: A FREE Online Writing Tool

    The Reedsy Book Editor is a free online writing tool allowing any author to format and create professional ePub and print-ready files in seconds. The @ReedsyHQ Book Editor allows you to write, format, edit and export - for free! reedsy. Connect. reedsy marketplace. Assemble a team of pros.

  23. 8 New Books We Recommend This Week

    Billy Dee Williams. In this effortlessly charming memoir, the 86-year-old actor traces his path from a Harlem childhood to the "Star Wars" universe, while lamenting the roles that never came ...

  24. Percival Everett on 'James,' Attending Oscars for 'American Fiction,' More

    Sarah Kim. James centers on a seminal character from American literature —and yet, seen afresh through the gaze of acclaimed writer Percival Everett, it's as if we're meeting him for the ...

  25. Kiley Reid on Why Fiction Isn't Activism ‹ Literary Hub

    April 1, 2024. First Draft: A Dialogue of Writing is a weekly show featuring in-depth interviews with fiction, nonfiction, essay writers, and poets, highlighting the voices of writers as they discuss their work, their craft, and the literary arts. Hosted by Mitzi Rapkin, First Draft celebrates creative writing and the individuals who are ...

  26. Write Fiction Books, Online Fiction Writing Course for Beginner Writers

    In this packed 14-Module, award-winning, step-by-step course, you will discover everything you need to know to write and publish compelling fiction stories - for pleasure or profit! 'Write Fiction Books' is a comprehensive 14 Module online course that gives you the practical skills you need to craft page-turning fiction.

  27. Fiction

    Bri Lee: 'Writing about getting molested is why I now enjoy artistic freedom. That's cooked' In the lead-up to the release of her first novel, the author talks about art, cynicism and the ...

  28. City in Ruins by Don Winslow book review

    With 'City in Ruins,' Winslow wraps up a spectacular crime fiction trilogy, a sweeping story that morphs and expands over time. Review by Alma Katsu. March 27, 2024 at 7:00 a.m. EDT. And so ...

  29. 10 books to add to your reading list in April

    Critic Bethanne Patrick recommends 10 promising titles, fiction and nonfiction, to consider for your April reading list. April's book releases cover some difficult topics, including Salman ...

  30. 25 Non-Fiction Books We're Excited to Read in 2024

    2024 is another great year for non-fiction books. We've got science-based explorations of memory, various books on how to inject more positivity into your life, and even meditations on deer (yes ...