30 Best Books On Writing And Getting Published
I was recently asked to recommend some books on how to write a book and on any related topics. I started to trot out the obvious suggestions – the well-known best books on writing fiction, on creative writing, on how to improve writing – then realised there was a real trove of material out there. So, with some short comments, here are my top suggestions, by writers, on writing:
Let’s get the two most obvious ones out of the way to start!
1. Getting Published by Harry Bingham. A reliable guide to traditional publishing and finding an agent.
2. How To Write by Harry Bingham. How To Write gets excellent reader-feedback. It doesn’t pick out one single aspect of technique or pretend that you can learn how to write in a couple of months. It’s a big, meaty, book on every part of a writer’s toolkit.
3. On writing: A memoir of the craft by Stephen King. You needn’t be a fan of Stephen King’s to enjoy this honest, compelling tome – and I know it has legions of fans. For me, the most striking part was King’s list of the books he read in any given year. That list is intelligent and eclectic and goes to show that good writers simply can’t read too much or too well.
4. Story by Robert McKee. A book for screenwriters, but still one of the best analyses around. This book belongs in the pantheon, no question.
5. Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran. A key text for the new generation of self-published authors. David’s book should be read in conjunction with his Let’s Get Visible.
6. Write. Publish. Repeat. by Johnny B Truant and Sean Platt. The strategies in the Write. Publish. Repeat book won’t work for most writers. Those authors’ basic mantra is to write heaps and heaps of material and build a career as much from the volume of output as from its quality. I can’t, as something of a purist myself, really get excited about that approach, but you still need to read the book. It’s got a lot to say, and it’s usually right.
7. Aspects of the Novel by EM Forster. The following 5 titles aren’t quite how-to guides, but deserve a place on this list nonetheless.
8. 10 Rules of writing by Elmore Leonard. A brief (and somewhat tongue in cheek) list of suggestions. You could probably break all of Leonard’s rules and do just fine – and indeed, I do quite often break them.
9. The Simple Art of Murder by Raymond Chandler. This essay is a vastly important milestone in the development of crime fiction: a manifesto for a new age, and a manifesto that has echoed well beyond the walls of that genre.
10. The Art of the Novel by Milan Kundera. It’s important to read what writers have to say about writing – and a variety of writers at that.
11. Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov. You won’t always agree, and you don’t have to. The important thing is that you run the arguments in your head.
12. How Fiction Works by James Wood. Wood is arguably today’s most influential critic – and he writes beautifully. My comment above that you need to run the arguments in your head applies here too. Wood’s book offers a personal and partial view. (He loves sentences and doesn’t, astonishingly, even mention story.) But he’s so good that his partial is worth most people’s everything.
13. Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss. Not really the how-to book that most people think it is. But it’s still fun and still worth a look.
14. Imagine by Jonah Lehrer. Part of a new wave of popular neuroscience. This is not specifically about writing but is, for my money, very illuminating indeed about the creative process.
15. Wired for Story by Lisa Cron. Also popular neuroscience. If you like something with more how-to-ish ambition, you’ll certainly get more from Cron’s book.
16. The Elements of Style William Strunk Jr. A must-read on a list like this.
17. Reading like a Writer by Francine Prose. Well-written, thoughtful, gently inspiring. One of the best books on how to write a novel.
18. Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan. Elmore Leonard would presumably want to kill Rebecca McClanahan, but I’d be on Rebecca’s side.
19. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. An approach to creativity more than, directly, a how-to-write-a-bestseller type book. But it’s great, heartfelt.
20. Stein on Writing by Sol Stein. Sol Stein was a very respected editor (as well as being a novelist himself). Stein on Writing is his attempt to set down the rules by which he’s lived. It was the first how-to book of this sort that I read, and I still have a soft spot for it, although the tone can be a little self-important at times.
And finally, some other books that have, at the very least, been thought-provoking and helpful ones for me:
21. Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
22. Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
23. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
24. Outlining your Novel by KM Weiland
25. Where Do You Get Your Ideas? by Fred White
26. From Where You Dream by Robert Olen Butler
27. A Dash of Style by Noah Lukeman
28. The 4 a.m. Breakthrough by Brian Kitely
29. Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris
30. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
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