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Eighteen Inspiring Books about Writing

Updated on March 10, 2011

About 18 months ago I decided to get more serious about my writing, and since then I have read book after book on the subject. It's amazing how many books there are out there with advice on writing. I have spent a lot of time with some of these books—months in some cases—particularly with the ones full of writing exercises.

Each of these books has helped and inspired me but, as with most books I read, after some time has passed each book boils down to one primary thought, lesson, or scene. So here are 18 excellent writing books and the one main point that each has engraved on my mind. These are lessons I frequently turn to for motivation and inspiration. All of these authors generously share their love of writing, express a sincere desire to you become a writer too, and offer solid advice on how to do it. I recommend all of them.

1) Crafting the Personal Essay : A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Non-Fiction by Dinty W. Moore.

Approach your personal essay as an exploration and it will magically take form as you write it.

2) If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland.

Your direct honest impressions have value.

*This is warmest most encouraging book on writing, like a loving grandmother taking your hand and telling you that you really can do it.

3) On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.

Be courageous and tell your truth.

*This is the funniest most entertaining book on writing I have read.

4. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.

Give yourself permission to write “shitty first drafts.”

5. The Art of Fiction: A Guide for Writers and Readers by Ayn Rand.

Find concrete ways to get your message across: “Objectify!”

6. Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose.

Close reading of the masters with awareness of the author’s technique is the best way to learn to be a writer.

* This one is my favorite so far!

7. How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author by Janet Evanovich and Ina Yalof.

Writing can be a money-making business venture.

8. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg.

Writing can be a spiritual practice.

9. Turning Life into Fiction by Robin Hemley.

Observe carefully, take notes, and you can transform life experience into great fiction.

10. Tell It Slant: Writing and Shaping Creative Nonfiction by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola.

Personal essays require imagination, choosing an angle, and finding your unique voice.

11. Escaping Into the Open: The Art of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg.

Using writing prompts can yield interesting and surprising results.

12. Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies by Sol Stein.

Mastering technique and sentence structure is essential to learning to hold your reader’s attention.

13. The Mind Of Your Story: Discover What Drives Your Fiction by Lisa Lenard-Cook

Nurturing and coaxing ideas and sources of inspiration from life into a good story is a delicate and intricate process.

14. Now Write! Nonfiction: Memoir, Journalism and Creative Nonfiction Exercises from Today's Best Writers by Sherry Ellis.

There is no lack of sources for writing inspiration—writing prompts can be multimedia: paintings, music, photos, and memories.

15. A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver.

Reading poems with an understanding of style, rhythm, and technique can inspire you to write them.

Although these books are not strictly about the craft of writing, they inspired me with valuable new insights about the writing life:

16. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway.

Even great writers run into obstacles—persist with discipline!

17. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story by Donald Miller.

Experiencing your own life as a story, with you as the protagonist, can inspire better writing.

And let’s not forget that kindly great uncle of all writing at its most basic level:

18. The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White.

You will write with a lot more confidence if you know these rules inside and out.


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    • carolapple profile image

      carolapple 6 years ago from Suffolk Virginia

      Thanks Marie. I've been meaning to read "On Writing Well" for years and it somehow keeps falling through the cracks. I will be moving that one to the top of my list!

    • SweetMarie83 profile image

      Marie Landry 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Excellent list, Carol! The only book I've read from this list so far is the Janet Evanovich one, which I found quite helpful. I've had the Stephen King book on my list for awhile now, so I must move it to the top! My other favorite book on writing, that I had to read while in writing school, was "On Writing Well" by William Zinsser - it was really useful and it wasn't your typical dry book on writing, I found it very entertaining and amusing as well as informative, and I still refer to it.