This summary of the best books on writing fiction and creative nonfiction are divided into different categories: Getting Published, Writing Despite Fear and Doubt, How to Write Better, and the Writers’ Dreaming Process.
Before the tips, a quip:
“One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.”~ Hart Crane.
The more you read, and the more you read about writing in particular, the better you’ll write. That’s why established writers and writing teachers encourage new writers to read, read, read! Reading exposes the brain to valuable writing techniques such as clear transitions, strong characterization, good sentence structure, and vivid imagery. Reading infects your writing.
One of my favorite books is Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark. I think this is the best book on writing fiction and creative nonfiction I’ve ever read — it’s one of those reference books you’d never sell at a garage sale.
And, here are several other great books for writers…
The Best Books on Writing and Getting Published
The Portable Writer’s Conference: Your Guide to Getting Published is one of my favorite resources for writing because it shares practical fiction and nonfiction tips from over 45 editors, writers, publishers, and literary agents. It’s like having constant access to a comprehensive writer’s conference — and I love that its advice isn’t just from one writer.
The Writer’s Book of Hope: Getting from Frustration to Publication – Ralph Keyes’ advice is for all types of writers, and he doesn’t pull any punches. He’s honest about how hard writing is. For instance, here’s what he says about people who say they’ll write a book some day: “This seems to surprise those who think they might give [writing] a shot: get inspired, bang out a book, do some signings, get interviewed, appear on talk shows. Those activities, of course, comprise one half of one percent of a writer’s life,” says Keyes. “The rest is just hard slogging, alone, with little encouragement and dubious prospects of success.”
I think it’s important to square with the facts that writing is hard work and most writers aren’t rich and famous. Despite Keyes’ “reality check”, it’s one of the most encouraging books I’ve read about writing.
Writing Despite Fear and Doubt
The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear – Having the guts and motivation to stay the course throughout your writing career will almost guarantee success, which is why I’m including a second Ralph Keyes book about writing. Learning the craft of writing is essential, but so is staying motivated and disciplined to write — and learning how to overcome fear of writing and rejection. In The Courage to Write, Keyes describes effective ways to overcome with a writer’s most common fears.
Deciding which are the best books on writing fiction and creative nonfiction depends on your genre and personality!
How to Write Better
Solutions for Writers: Practical Craft Techniques for Fiction and Non-Fiction – Sol Stein describes numerous, often simple, ways for writers to improve their craft. Some of his writing tips are obvious, and some obscure. For instance, he recommends changing the order of words in a sentence to improve clarity and readability. This may seem obvious to some writers and obscure to others — and it’s a writing tip I love, but often forget to use! Stein offers numerous examples of good and bad writing, which is how writers learn to write better.
The Writers’ Dreaming Process
Writers Dreaming: 26 Writers Talk About Their Dreams and the Creative Process is a very cool book about writing fiction and creative nonfiction. Successful, established authors such as Amy Tan, Maya Angelou, Sue Grafton, Elmore Leonard, Spalding Gray, Anne Rice, and Stephen King talk about the subconscious influences of their inner and outer lives on their writing. Despite its ethereal nature, this book offers a ton of practical writing tips, as well as fascinating insight into the psyche of some famous authors!
Anne Lamott and Stephen King’s Books on Writing
Of course, I have to include Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life and Stephen King’s On Writing, but I don’t find them as practical as the ones above. I love Lamott’s nonfiction writing, and enjoyed Bird by Bird…but I learned more from books such as Writing Tools and The Portable Writer’s Conference.
My Second Favorite Book on Writing Nonfiction
In On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, William Zinsser offers a ton of practical writing advice for both fiction and creative nonfiction writers. Check it out: “Many of us were taught that no sentence should begin with ‘but,’ ” he writes. “If that’s what you learned, unlearn it – there’s no stronger word at the start. It announces a total contrast with what has gone before, and the reader is thereby primed for the change.” On Writing Well is one of those reference books all writers should re-read every six months or so.
What makes these books so good? Not just the content; these authors know how to keep their readers hooked.
If you’re building your freelance writing career, you’ll find The Best Freelance Writing Books helpful.
What do you think are the best books on writing fiction, nonfiction, and getting published? Comments welcome below…