A comprehensive guide to books on writing

This image contains the covers of several of the greatest books on writing of all time. Authors includes are Stephen King, William Zinsser, Ray Bradbury, Ross Hartmann, Stephen Pinker, George Saunders, Anne Lamott, Shawn Coyne, Lisa Cron, Margaret Atwood, Strunk and White, And Sol Stein

Looking to get better at writing? You're in the right place. This post is all about books that can help, no matter where you are in your writing journey. Need to figure out how to plot your story or develop your characters? Or maybe you're stuck on your first draft and need a push to get through?

Whether you're looking for guidance on the nuts and bolts of writing, seeking inspiration to get your creative juices flowing, needing to sharpen your technical skills, or interested in reflections on the writing life and process — we've got something for everyone.

Craft and technique

The Structure of Story (Ross Hartmann)

This book gives you the writing tools that will help you recognize and apply the patterns of great stories. It's a set of guidelines rather than hard rules, and it's one of the most comprehensive manuals you'll find.

Story Genius (Lisa Cron)

If you're looking for a very practical how-to guide and you're writing a character-driven story, this book is a great resource. Plus, it gives you a plotting blueprint, which you may find really helpful if you're trying to finish your first novel.

The Story Grid (Shaun Coyne)

This book acts as tool to analyse your stories and provide helpful editorial comments, figure out what's working and what's not working, and why, and possibly most important of all: how to fix it.

Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott)

Bird by Bird is a step-by-step guide to get through your shitty first draft, and then figure out how to make it better. Plus, Anne Lamott is ridiculously funny, so it’s well worth the read.

Stein on Writing (Sol Stein)

A self-proclaimed book of usable solutions, rather than theory from a master editor: this is an instruction manual for those looking for a practical guide to writing a good, commercially viable story.

Steering the Craft (Ursula K Le Guin)

Focusing entirely on the craft of writing fiction, Ursula Le Guin presents ten writing exercises to help you hone your craft. Turn to this for writing techniques rather than advice on plot or character development.

The Anatomy of Story (John Truby)

Screenwriting and story tips from one of the most respected story consultants in the film industry. Even if you're not writing for the screen, Truby's advice will help you pull together a compelling narrative.

Damn Fine Story (Chuck Wendig)

If you're writing your first ever book, and you're looking for a light introductory primer on storycraft, this might be the book for you. It’s written in Chuck Wendig's particular, filthy-mouthed, style, and is an excellent place to start.

Inspiration and creativity

Zen in the Art of Writing (Ray Bradbury)

If you're in the mood for inspiration, Ray Bradbury's exuberant celebration of the act of writing will get you there.

On Writers and Writing (Margaret Atwood)

Margaret Atwood writes about what it means to be a writer and why writers write. Her examination is serious and intellectual, but she brings humour and lightness to it as well.

Big Magic (Elizabeth Gilbert)

If your well is dry, and your cup needs filling, then Big Magic might be the balm you need! Elizabeth Gilbert wants to help you find wonder, joy, and unlock your creativity.

Wonderbook (Jeff VanderMeer)

A beautifully illustrated guide to writing imaginative fiction: Wonderbook is accessible, filled with helpful advice, and includes essays from some of our favourite authors.

Technical writing skills

The Elements of Style (Strunk & White)

If a technical reference book on grammar and writing style is what you're looking for, this book is a gem. Get the illustrated version, it's lovely. When you know the rules, you can break them on purpose.

The Sense of Style (Stephen Pinker)

Stephen Pinker applies insights from the sciences of language and mind to the challenge of crafting clear, coherent, and stylish prose. It's practical, short, and very, very helpful.

On Writing Well (William Zinsser)

If it's non-fiction you're writing, then William Zinsser's advice could be right up your alley. While this book is about clear communication rather than storytelling, it's still a great resource for those who are trying to get information across clearly.

General writing advice

A Swim in the pond in the rain (George Saunders)

In this master class on the Russian short story George Saunders unpacks how fiction works, looks at the technical elements that make up a story, and how we can use them to answer life's big questions.

On Writing (Stephen King)

Is this the best book on writing a good story ever written? Yes, possibly. You should read it. If you've already read it, you should probably read it again. Stephen King is, well, the king.

Ernest Hemingway On Writing (Ernest Hemingway)

Seminal reflections on writing and writing advice with Hemingway's characteristic wit, insight and clarity.  If you're looking for notes on the mental preparation for writing, this is the book for you.

💙 We could’ve included affiliate links for each of the books listed in this article, but instead, we’re going to encourage you to order them from your local independent bookstore. Independent bookstores are more than just shops; they're community hubs where stories are cherished and shared. By purchasing these books from your local indie bookstore, you're also supporting literary culture in your community. That’s worth the trip.