1. “On Writing” by Stephen King
Part memoir, part guidebook, this Stephen King classic will appeal even to those who avoid his renowned horror-packed tales. In this book, King discusses how he came to be the writer we know today, plus he shares the basic tools of writing every writer needs.
2. “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott
“Bird by Bird” is an essential part of any writer’s toolbox. In this work, Lamott shares herself and her craft with readers, including anecdotes that tie the pieces together into all-around great writing. If you need help finding your voice and passion, Lamott’s advice is sure to spark creativity.
3. “Writer’s Market” edited by Robert Lee Brewer
“Writer’s Market” helps aspiring writers become published. Its listings contain hundreds of pages of suggested markets for nonfiction writers, as well as those who want to sell short stories, including details for how to pitch your work. Because this guide is updated regularly, you’ll always have the most up-to-date information about how to publish and get paid for your writing.
4. “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser
Although this classic book targets nonfiction writers, Zinsser discusses many forms of writing, from interviewing and telling stories about people to writing about travel. In addition to writing tips on consistency, voice, editing and more, he also includes the fundamentals of craft that can help you grow as a writer in any genre.
5. “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White
For years, writing teachers have assigned “The Elements of Style” to their students to teach them about grammar, structural writing rules and the principles of composition. Brushing up on the basics from time to time is critical for continually developing your skills, and this book contains simple truths that every writer needs to know.
6. “The Associated Press Stylebook” by the Associated Press
AP Style is known by many as the “go-to” writing style for journalists and public relations pros. The Associated Press Stylebook contains more than 3,000 entries detailing rules on grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, abbreviation and word and numeral usage to help you master news writing.
(Heads up: This stylebook is updated annually, so always be sure you purchase and study the most recent version!
7. “How to Write Bestselling Fiction” by Dean Koontz
While many books on this list are aimed at nonfiction writers, this one is for those who dream up their own stories to tell. If anyone is qualified to tell people how to write bestselling fiction, its prolific author Dean Koontz, who’s sold more than 450 million copies of his books. This book was written in 1981 and is out of print, so if you buy it online, you’re paying for a collector’s item. But the book has timeless, valuable insights for writers who manage to snag a copy. (Consider checking the local library!). After four decades, it’s still one of the best books on writing fiction.
8. “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg
Goldberg’s insightful book examines the craft of writing including how to start brainstorming, the importance of learning how to listen, the vital role verbs play in writing, and even how to find an inspiring place to write. No matter the stage you’re at with writing, this inspiring read will give you the encouragement you need to keep going.
9. “Plot & Structure” by James Scott Bell
Written for fiction writers, this book tackles everything from story structure models and methods to a variety of techniques to help you craft great stories from start to finish. You’ll even find tips on how to create plot diagrams, plus the tools to overcome various plot problems that can arise.
10. “Writing Short Stories” by Courttia Newland and Tania Hershman
Broken into three comprehensive parts, this book examines the craft of short stories and teaches writers how to do it successfully. It explores the nature and history of this form, provides useful tips from noteworthy short story writers and how to look deeper into your characters. Plus, if you’re struggling with writer’s block, Newland and Hershman’s book can help you there, too.
11. “I Should Be Writing: A Writer’s Workshop” by Mur Lafferty
For writers who should be writing — erm, all of us — this book is like your personal writing workshop condensed into a flexibound journal. Lafferty shares writing exercises to help the strength of your writing blossom, plus writer’s prompts, tips on how to refine your creative process and hone your craft. Most of all, you’ll learn how to ignore your inner writing bully.
12. “Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets A Novelist Can Learn From Actors” by Brandilyn Collins
Award-winning and best-selling novelist of 30 books Brandilyn Collins created this in-depth guide to help writers understand the psychology of your characters. That way, you’ll know how to express it in your stories and bring your characters to life. Because it draws on popular acting methods that’ve been used professionally for decades, reading this book will teach you techniques and concepts that’ll change the way you look at writing.
13. “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” by Renni Browne and Dave King
When you can’t hire a professional editor to ensure your manuscript is print-ready, pick up this book to learn how to edit yourself into print. Written by two professional editors, “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” teaches editing techniques like dialogue, exposition, point of view and more so you can turn your work-in-progress into published novels and short stories.