What Are Your Favourite Books on Writing?

by Suzannah Windsor Freeman

Smiling woman holding book

UPDATE: See the end of this post for a complete list of recommendations given by the wonderful readers here at Write It Sideways.

Here’s an email I got yesterday:

I was wondering if you had any suggestions on books I should buy as a reader who wants to become a writer. The library close to me doesn’t have a very good selection so I’m hoping to buy these books, which limits me to about four. Do you have any books that you think I should have right now as opposed to later?

I feel this reader’s pain. At the moment I live in a very small and isolated town which doesn’t have a great selection of books on the craft of writing. Buying the books I want usually involves ordering them over the internet or downloading them to my Kindle.

I’m not sure what kind of writing this person is looking to do—fiction, creative nonfiction, freelance writing, etc. But, for the purposes of this post, I’ll assume the reader wants to learn more about writing fiction.

If I had to suggest the books that have had the greatest impact on my writing thus far, they would be:

1. Story Structure Demystified

Everything you thought you knew about how stories are structured might be wrong. Larry Brooks’s Story Structure Demystified is the book that has made the biggest difference to my understanding of how to write a novel.

Brooks says:

Ever notice how storytelling wisdom seems to come in small, seemingly unrelated chunks of aesthetic opinion? How it almost never addresses the big picture of storytelling? Do you ever wonder what published authors know that you don’t? Especially when, after reading their work, you’re confident you actually write as well as they do? Possibly even better? Maybe it’s your storytelling.

You can read my review of Larry’s book here.

2. The Three Dimensions of Character

Another Larry Brooks title, The Three Dimensions of Character has opened my eyes to how to create amazing characters in my fiction.

Larry describes it as:

A writer’s tool chest of definitions, developmental models, qualitative criteria, checklists and examples that take the mystery out of characterization. And, a kick-ass good time read, too.

If you want to learn how to keep your characters from falling flat, definitely check this one out.

3. Nail Your Novel

Roz Morris’s Nail Your Novel takes you from page one to done, breaking down the process of writing a novel into easily digested bites. It’s also filled with great activities to help you get unblocked if you get stuck.

I found this guide really helpful when trying to power through the first draft of my novel.

Your Favourite Books on the Craft of Writing

The three books I mentioned above are all ones I’ve bought in eBook format, which makes them easily accessible.

But, there are so many books on the craft of writing to which I haven’t had access, I have a very long list of those I’d like to read some day—ones that I’ll have to order from out of town.

So, instead of just sharing my own recommendations on the best writing books, I’d also like to appeal to all the other well-read writers out there.

What are you favourite books on the craft of writing? Which would you recommend as must-reads for someone just starting out?

Here’s your updated list. The following books have been recommended more than once:

These ones have been mentioned once each:

I’ll continue to update the list periodically if others wish to make further recommendations. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to contribute!

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