15 of the best writing books to hone your craft

15 of the best writing books to hone your craft

In Expert Tips, Reading Lists by G.G. Andrew

15 of the best writing books to hone your craft

Whether you’re a budding novelist or want to communicate better in your career, you’re in luck. There are so many resources and books about writing, from guides by self-published superstars to classics like The Elements of Style. No matter what you’re writing, take a look at our list of the best writing books — and get ready to take your prose to the next level.

A well-known name in the world of independent authors, The Creative Penn podcast host Joanna Penn shares her wisdom on writing nonfiction — a career that now earns her six figures — in this helpful book. Organized around steps in everything from author mindset to marketing, it’s perfect for beginners. But established nonfiction authors looking to strengthen their writing or brand will find gems here. Either way, Penn’s warm, practical tone makes the process enjoyable.

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2k to 10k by Rachel Aaron

Are you a fiction writer looking to write more words more quickly? This guide teaches strategies to kick up your productivity — ones that helped the author herself go from 2,000 to 10,000 words a day. Does this sound like too much of a grind? Aaron shows you how to actually enjoy the process, with chapters like “Editing for People Who Hate Editing” and “If Writing Feels Like Pulling Teeth, You’re Doing It Wrong.”

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Writing Without Bullshit by Josh Bernoff

This no-nonsense business writing book helps you write better in everything from marketing materials to emails to your boss. It centers on an overarching strategy: Treat the reader’s time as more valuable than your own, whoever that reader happens to be. With that in mind, you’ll learn how to write engaging subject lines, ditch unnecessary words, edit, and keep your writing solid across formats.

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Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland

Known for making story elements easy to understand on her award–winning blog, Weiland tackles plot structure in this handy book for novelists. While storytelling can be intuitive, we don’t always know why our story is working, or isn’t. Here Weiland breaks down the major plot points of any story — from a sharp hook used to catch readers to a satisfying resolution — to make sure our book is on solid ground.

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On Writing Well by William Zinsser

A classic among writing books, this Zinsser writing guide still holds up decades after its initial release. In it, Zinsser offers principles that apply no matter what you’re writing — like avoiding clutter, considering your audience, and word usage — along with tips for writing in the fields of business, science, memoir, and more. Within its first pages, you’ll understand why the New York Times wrote, “On Writing Well belongs on any shelf of serious reference works for writers.”

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Take Off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker

No, not those pants. Author Libbie Hawker is here to teach those of us who like to metaphorically write by the seat of our pants the value of plotting a story. Hawker’s story structure touches on not only plot, but also the important related elements of characters, theme, and pacing, making it ideal for both newcomers and experienced writers looking to strengthen their stories.

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Story by Robert McKee

Are you a budding screenwriter? If so, you’ve come to the right book. Seasoned screenwriting instructor Robert McKee lays down the foundations of creating a great script in this thorough guide — content he’s taught to a litany of successful and award–winning Hollywood writers during the past several decades. Keep your highlighter handy as you learn the crucial elements here, from genre to setting, inciting incident, antagonists, and more.

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Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway

Newcomers to fiction will find much wisdom packed into the pages of this introductory text. Written by fiction author Janet Burroway, it covers the basics of storytelling, including characterization, point of view, setting, and structure — not to mention the dreaded showing versus telling. As a bonus, it’s peppered with excerpts and quotes from well-known authors about what they’ve learned on their own writing journeys.

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Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

This collection of letters from Rilke written in the early 20th century to a young poet is moving and offers more inspiration than instruction. In beautifully written, flowing correspondence, the acclaimed German poet discusses an artist’s relationship to the outward world and her own well of creativity, among other concerns. The effect has you either running out into nature or grabbing your laptop. Maybe both.

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The Writer's Process by Anne Janzer

Even the most seasoned writers on the block often encounter speed bumps during their process: Writer’s block before beginning, sinking in that muddy middle of a project, failing to finish. Whatever your hangups, Janzer uses the knowledge of cognitive science to teach you tricks to get your brain — and pen — in gear, from finding time to write to completing a draft.

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The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

Along with being a New York Times bestselling author for her work, Karr is a longtime teacher in memoir writing, and she packs much of her wisdom into these pages. Fellow author Cheryl Strayed, one of Karr’s students, called this guide “astonishingly perceptive, wildly entertaining, and profoundly honest,” as well as “the definitive book on reading and writing memoir for years to come.”

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The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr.

This slim writing guide is over a century old, yet it’s still in circulation. Why? In less than a hundred pages, it contains many of the essentials of good writing, including punctuation rules, the basics of a paragraph, and common errors in word usage. With simple, clear-cut explanations, it’s one of those books you’ll want to keep nearby as a reference. Your writing will thank you.

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There’s something extra special about reading a writing book by a beloved author. This guide, which Kirkus Reviews calls “a Bradbury feast,” certainly fits that bill. Between eleven essays and a collection of poems, Bradbury reflects on his life, shares the joy he’s found in writing, and dispenses wisdom on how to discover your own writing ideas and unique voice.

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Savvy professionals know that good writing is a boon to most careers — and it’s a skill that can be learned. This Harvard Business Review guide focuses on the writing skills most crucial to business settings, from grammar basics to adopting the right tone if you’re emailing a colleague or a client. Bonus: The guide includes checklists for the most important punctuation rules, business writing etiquette, and more.

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A Year of Writing Dangerously by Barbara Abercrombie

Want a writing guide that will help you every day? Packed with 365 pieces of advice, tips, tricks, author quotes, writing prompts, and more, A Year of Writing Dangerously is guaranteed to keep inspiring you as the weeks go by and the seasons change. If you’re a regular writer, read a section each day before you start typing to remind yourself why you do this marvelous thing called writing.

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About the Author: G.G. Andrew

G.G. is a freelance writer as well as an author of romance and women's fiction. A Texas transplant, she lives outside Houston with her husband and two sons, both of whom are on the autism spectrum. In her spare time, she enjoys browsing bookstores, yoga, paper crafts, themed food, swimming, and anything related to Halloween. She's probably drinking tea right now.
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