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Writers are Readers: Best Books on Craft

(Originally published March 9, 2016)

As we all know, writers must be readers. We’ve covered this territory on the blog before–the importance of reading deeply within your genre, the importance of reading widely, the best lessons we’ve learned simply by reading. But reading books specifically on craft and creativity can be one of the very best ways to grow as a writer even during those difficult periods when you don’t have enough writing time. (Is there such a thing as enough writing time?)

In a continuation of our Writers Are Readers series, I asked our contributors: What’s your favorite book on craft or creativity? Here are their wise and wonderful responses.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

“I initially picked this up because I was interested in learning about the man behind the creative and dark works of Mr. King. Out of all his collective advice and thoughts, I think the most important thing I took away from him is to write what you are and not fear what that is.”

Helen Boswell

“It’s the first book I’ve ever read by him and liked. I may not enjoy his storytelling, but I enjoy the way he teaches how to tell stories.”

 ~ Melanie Jacobson

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt so INSPIRED to write after any other craft book. This is much more of a – BE CREATIVE BE AWESOME! Than focusing on specifics of craft.” ~ Jolene Perry

“It got me to look at my writing process in an entirely new way. It focuses on rediscovering the enjoyment of the writing process, learning to take a more relaxed, slower-paced approach to writing rather than stressing over production schedules and word counts. It’s very much about taking care of yourself as a writer, and I’ve found my productivity has actually increased and my stress level decreased now that I’m taking the advice of this book.” ~ Megan Paasch

“I have to put in another vote for Big Magic, because it helped me learn to separate pure writing from all the mental hangups I’ve accumulated over the years. Just thinking about it makes me want to go read it again!” ~ Christine Hayes

Elizabeth George’s Write Away. Not only does she talk process regarding outlines and revision, but she makes fantastic points about how to keep the story pacing at a nice clip (e.g., talking heads–read the book to find out what that means).” ~ Sydney Strand

“For focusing on craft, I love Chuck Wendig’s The Kick-AssWriter. SO much good stuff in there to help focus your manuscript and tell the story YOU want.” Jolene Perry

“I love Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Not only is she funny, but she reminds me to be gentle with myself–and that (almost) everyone’s first drafts are carp and you just have to push through and get it down.” ~ Rosalyn Eves

“I love Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine. It’s written for kids (middle grade audience) but makes a great beginning writing book for anyone. It covers all the basics with exercises to practice in each chapter. Simple, direct, and fun!” ~ Ilima Todd

“My resource isn’t actually a book, but the two things that have helped me the most are the Writing Excuses podcast, and Brandon Sanderson’s Creative Writing lectures on YouTube (2012/2013 and 2014-2015). It’s been enlightening to hear successful authors talk about their craft and the tools they use to improve. Sometimes the process seems insurmountable, but these guys break it down into manageable chunks.” ~ Darci Cole

The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass. I love how Maass focuses in on the micro moments and characteristics of both character and story arcs to thoroughly enhance the emotional impact of a book.” ~ Tasha Seegmiller

Steering the Craft by Ursula Le Guin and Take Joy byJane Yolen are two great ones.” ~ Christine Hayes

Story by Robert McKee, which addresses some of my biggest weaknesses (like plot and structure). He made me think about stories in a different light and I feel like he goes deeper into story development than a lot of other craft books.” ~ Jenilyn Collings

Thanks to all my fellow contributors for their great input! I know and love many of these and can’t wait to start reading the rest, but tell me: What did we miss? 🙂

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