You could have been borrowing books from libraries, exchanging with your friends, or even reading them in your Kindle. But there is a selected number of books that remain in your reading treasure chest forever.
The ones discussed below belong to this category as they teach you about the nuances of writing.
Yes, we are discussing the best books on writing. From the grammar rules and learning to write better to getting hold of catchy plots and augmenting your imagination skills, they cover them all.
Also, you learn the best ways to edit and master your craft.
While the list contains the best books to become a better writer, it is not an exhaustive list. There is an ocean of books that you could read a book every day and still not finish them all!
So, here is my list of 11 Best Books on Writing.
1. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
None would have expected a book related to writing from one of the most sought-after master storytellers of crime, thriller, and fiction. But here we are with this autobiographical book, which is the concoction of a memoir and a guidebook.
Surprisingly, this classic creation by Stephen King is sure to please all, even those who aren’t big fans of his other creations.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is a no-nonsense book that has vividly sketched his life history right from where he struggled to get rid of his drug addiction problems and keeping his family from succumbing to poverty to how he established himself as one of the best-selling writers around the globe through sheer hard work, passion for writing, and his imagination skills.
One of my favorites in the book is how openly he asks writers to accept that many of our works deserve the bin and how we must edit them to produce final drafts worth every second of our efforts and creativity.
Several professionals who teach the art of writing highly recommend this book. So, it’s a must-have in any aspiring writer’s kitty.
But suppose you ask the ironic question whether writing can be taught. In that case, King crisply answers that it’s impractical to improve someone’s writing skills to a great extent. However, it is always possible to nurture a good writer out of a competent one, but with a monumental amount of hard work and dedication.
So, if you are struggling to get a grasp on where to start and how to start your writing career, I strongly recommend you to read this book.
It is the perfect blend of King’s talent, blunt straightforwardness, fatherly guidance, and his resourceful insights into the intricacies of his craft.
2. On Writing Well by William Zinsser
Our dads always sound strict and distant when they give us a sound piece of advice. William Zinsser sounds just like our dads in the book “On Writing Well.”
His advice is stern, clear, practical, and simple yet hits us like the Bull’s eye, revealing all the writing fundamentals.
You could call this book the bible for nonfiction writers as Zinsser discusses all forms of writing, including interviewing, storytelling, business writing, and even sports.
The book sold over millions of copies and was one of the top recommendations I got from my writer-friend who suggested it to me way back when I told him that I wanted to be a writer.
So what’s so great about this book anyway?
William Zinsser simplified the entire complex writing process into four simple key elements: clarity, simplicity, brevity, and humanity.
“Writing is thinking on paper. Anyone who thinks clearly can write clearly”-William Zinsser.
He emphasizes writers to declutter their work and write clearly without fanciful words that aren’t necessary.
Verbs are crucial elements of writing but use active verbs and wisely choose your adverbs and adjectives. Don’t ruin the core of your message by decorating the sentences unnecessarily.
Simplify your sentence construction and produce a worthy book that leaves the reader pondering a string of integral thoughts that they did not know before.
He also asks writers to use words only when they are needed. Surprising? Yes, replace long sentences wherever possible with shorter ones and never use words that don’t enhance your sentence’s value.
For this, he asks us to read and reread our words, which would help us omit several words that don’t fulfill any purpose. Above all, it is required that we write on subjects that interest us, and we enjoy knowing about as our enjoyment is transferred onto our writing.
Understand the fundamentals of writing by reading this one of the best books on writing and kickstart your nonfiction writing career.
3. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
A casual warning to all of you who decide to add “Bird by Bird” to your reading library—be guaranteed of a good dose of humor and laughter besides having learned some of the wisest tricks on writing.
Anne starts her book with a classic anecdote about her brother, the hurdles she faced when challenged to write a book report on birds (the reason behind the book’s name?), and goes through her other phases of life, including her experience as a single parent, overcoming addiction, and believing in faith.
All of this, interspersed with words of wisdom that help you overcome your feelings of self-doubt and find the balance between intuition and reality.
Lamott’s writing is a great encouragement to each of us reading her book as she assures that writing itself is a rewarding process irrespective of whether or not your book is published. Her practical advice is genuinely inspiring and simplifies the creative writing process.
Some major suggestions by Anne Lamott include making your characters move towards something, building tension among readers by keeping with something at stake, and following the ABDCE of writing. A for Action, B for Background, D for Development, C for Climax, and E for Ending.
Use this acronym to start with an action, set a background for the people involved, develop the characters, build the climax to increase the tension, and end your story with a strong punch.
One last advice from Anne is to never get into the web of perfectionism, which could leave you searching for details without finishing the first draft.
4. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & David King
Have you heard of the NaNoWriMo contest that asks you to write a 50,000-word manuscript in one month?
If penning down around 1500+ words per day is a challenge, editing it and polishing your written work to deliver a first-class book using your draft is a gargantuan task.
So, in the sea of thousands of book that help you get hold of the art of writing, this book, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers does a commendable job teaching writers the ins and outs of editing requirements which help spin your first draft into final drafts and ultimately, publish it into a worthy book.
Some vital features that I learned from their book, which could help you too include:
Always try to use active voice in your sentence as it forces readers to keep reading. Passive voice usage can strip off the importance of the story and bring about a lag to your communication efficiency.
Make your readers a part of your scene rather than taking a narrative tone to your message. None of us likes to hear advice, do we? But, if the same is conveyed in the form of personal experience with animated voices and funny contexts, we take it to heart.
So, use scenes with dialogues, justify your characters, and make your readers a part of your writing world.
Always use beats, small action sequences included in a scene, to bring life to your dialogues and vary the pace. Make the beats as attractive as possible to grip the readers to your book.
Finally, read your story aloud, which helps you identify your mistakes significantly. Listening to your work rightly conveys how you feel about the quality of work.
As the authors give you significant hints about editing using their own real-time editing experiences, you can indeed sharpen your editing skills producing the best manuscript of your draft.
5. The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White
Professional writers don’t miss on suggesting this classic book on writing, The Elements of Style, to their students as it covers the A-Z of style, grammar, and usage.
If you believe that you could teach the art of writing, you would genuinely recommend reading this book, which is hardly 100 pages. The original book was published way back in the year 1919 at Cornell University for in-house teaching purposes.
It was once again reprinted a few decades later in 1959. The latest update by Maira Kalman titled “The Elements of Style Illustrated” is a must-have as it replaces the black-and-white version with vibrant colored works incorporating Kalman’s whimsy, making it a joyous read.
Strunk’s original is a boon to average beginner writers to understand the basics of writing and develop the skills of brevity, clarity, and honesty in expressing themselves.
This book’s trick is that rather than teaching you how to write, it will help you write stuff that’s better readable, engaging, and persuasive. Make use of this book to understand the rules and principles of the English language.
6. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
Every time I read Ray Bradbury’s book Zen in the Art of Writing, I learn something new.
This book is a collection of essays where the author has put together all of his writing experiences, shared his wisdom generously, and excites us with his passion for the craft. Rather than treating the art of writing as a business, Ray Bradbury invokes a philosophical approach to general writing as well as novel writing.
The author firmly believes that reading relentlessly, watching movies, and reading short stories can shape a fiction writer’s career to a great extent.
This book of essays that elaborates on writing and creativity should be inspiring if you’ve repeatedly failed in your writing attempts and looking for the perfect energy booster to arouse your writing skills.
7. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Reading Big Magic could be your ticket to unleash your creativity and write freely. Read this inspiring book on writing if you are repeatedly held up in a web of thoughts that keep haunting you whether you should follow your distinct path in writing.
Elizabeth Gilbert, a globally-acclaimed novel, short stories, and nonfiction writer, has managed to stay atop the writer’s world for over two decades. She is best known for her memoir Eat, Pray, Love. This book sold more than 10 million copies since its release in 2006.
Her another book Big Magicis a big motivation for all creative writers to tackle the creative writing process with fear and persistence.
Sounds good? Yes, she persuades writers to hold onto a certain degree of fear to avoid trivial mistakes and tells them to embrace failures and rejections without shame and discouragement.
She addresses the vital attitudes, approaches, and habits we must adapt in our life to become more creative.
The author is charming, humorous, and straightforward. Her advice will help you reinvent your ideologies and look at life from a better perspective by getting rid of your fears and doing what you like to do.
8. Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande
This book is one of the treasures in my library, which always leaves me surprised by its relevance to writers barring time and age. Though it was published in 1934, Becoming a Writer is still popular despite thousands of books published on writing.
Dorothea Brands starts the book on a highly positive note conveying that writing could be learned. Anyone can write and become a genius. Beyond hard work and discipline, there is magic in this process of learning that is teachable.
I genuinely cherish reading this book on writing because, unlike most books that advise on writing, Dorothea Brande’s book teaches writers to overcome the psychological block that mostly stops people from exploring their creative talent.
According to Dorothea, every author must have a dual nature–one is that of a child artist who is spontaneous while the other is the adult artist who is making careful judgments. Both these natures are essential to produce a balanced writing style that combines perfection as well as imagination.
9. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
I love this book for addressing an interesting concept—the art of storytelling. Christopher Vogler has penned an International best-seller, which exists as one of the most influential books globally.
He has cleverly used Joseph Campbell’s theory and churned a well-crafted storytelling book that now sits comfortably in the bookshelf of every aspiring screenwriter, play writer, fiction/non-fiction writer, and movie executive.
You can find clear and resourceful insights into how to develop your plot, characters, and more.
To me, learning the intricacies about structurally developing a story is the highlight of this book. The book has various exercises and examples that help finetune your writing skills.
The author has even influenced the stories of popular movies such as “The Lion King” and “The Thin Red Line”, which speaks about his work quality.
10. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
I bet that you would brim with energy and take pride in calling yourself a writer after reading this book by Natalie Goldberg.
According to her, writing is a spiritual practice that heals your mind. You would be energized to start writing if you’ve been procrastinating your writing journey or continue to finish a half-done book after reading Writing Down the Bones that’s full of magical insights, humor, and easy-to-apply tricks.
Goldberg analyzes the craft of writing, inspiring anyone who has the slightest intention to write something.
She helps with ideas on how to start brainstorming, how to listen, how verbs and adjectives change your writing style, how to overcome doubts within, and even on your choice of place to write.
Natalia makes you feel privileged to be a writer. Reading this book would undoubtedly be rejuvenating and set your mind ablaze with ideas to start to write.
11. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
You’ve always wanted to write a novel, sketch a movie script, or even tried your hands at poetry but have always been perplexed at how to begin and where to begin.
We make the silliest excuse possible to refrain from doing something that must be done.
So, if something has been holding you back from taking up what you’ve been aspiring to do, reading the book The War of Art can change your outlook and perspective toward writing.
Reading this book on writing can help you overcome the biggest problem in your life– Resistance, the solitary factor behind curbing your creative skills, and utilizing your potential as a writer.
Pressfield generously talks about how resistance is our worst enemy. How it converts into fear, and also offers tactical ways and tricks to overcome this evil force which could overpower you if you don’t fight the war and win over it.
Though quite controversial with cuss words and angry outbursts, Pressfield achieves what he strives to do at the end of the book. He kindles your instincts to get going and do something that you’ve always wanted to do.
My Final Thoughts on Best Books on Writing
Read, read, and read to write better and become an accomplished writer. Don’t restrict your reading list but also focus on reading your favorite genres.
It could be fiction, nonfiction, scientific, technical, or even historic. Also, choose a couple of books from the list mentioned above if you are genuinely interested to learn the craft of writing well and improving your skills. This way, you learn how to be inspired to write, pitch creative ideas, develop your plot and characters, and learn to write better.