Inside a Writer's Mind

Inside a Writer's Mind
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” -- Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Excellent Books on Fiction Writing

There are a lot of books out there that offer advice on how to write fiction. I started collecting them years ago, possibly as a way of actually avoiding writing: I figured if I was buying books on the subject, even if I wasn't practising it, at least I was keeping a foot in the stream. I'm not sure the logic was sound, but I can tell you I have found some of the books extremely helpful, others less so, while many were a waste of time.

Granted, it does depend on what stage of the journey you are at, and on what you are looking for: Are you are looking for ways to begin or motivation? Are you looking for ideas about developing or improving your craft or technique? Are you looking for agents or publishers or are you keen to know what they are looking for?

Below is a list of books that I've found very useful and/or have seen recommended in a number of places.

For the beginner:

This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley; On Writing by Stephen King  (Both offer practical advice and motivation.)

For the already committed:

The Poetics of Aristotle by Stephen Halliwell; Story by Robert McKee; Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass; On Becoming A Novelist by J.C. Gardner; Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain; Rhetoric of Fiction by Wayne C. Booth; The Art of the Novel by Henry James; Fiction Writer's Handbook by Hallie Burnett; The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler; Stein on Writing by Sol Stein; Plot and Structure by James Bell; The Writer's Essential Tackle Box by Lynn Price; The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman; Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King; Revision and Self –Editing by James Bell

And, for the ready to be published:

Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents by Jeff Herman (Refers to U.S. market); Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2011 (Refers to U.K. market)

You can get all of these books from somewhere like for around four hundred dollars, which is about the same price many book doctors charge for a manuscript appraisal. (I’ve paid double that for a manuscript appraisal and gotten far more useful information from the books.)

I personally think studying books like these, written by people who have spent decades writing, selling, and/or teaching how to write fiction, and making notes on what you can apply to your manuscript to improve it, is the best way (along with regular fiction reading and writing) to develop your fiction.

Hope some of this is useful.   


  1. Definitely, I've studied a number of these books already and that's one of the greatest things I've ever done to advance my writing abilities and knowledge. Writing the Breakout Novel and Story have been especially useful.

    I'm sure to have a look at all the ones you listed that are new to me! :)

  2. I'm glad you found some of these books helpful Nick. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a positive comment. All the best with your writing future.