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Language » Writing Books
The best books on creative writing, recommended by andrew cowan.
The professor of creative writing at UEA says Joseph Conrad got it right when he said that the sitting down is all. He chooses five books to help aspiring writers.
Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande
On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner
Worstward Ho by Samuel Beckett
1 Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande
2 on becoming a novelist by john gardner, 3 on writing: a memoir of the craft by stephen king, 4 the forest for the trees by betsy lerner, 5 worstward ho by samuel beckett.
How would you describe creative writing?
Creative writing is an academic discipline. I draw a distinction between writing , which is what writers do, and creative writing. I think most people in the UK who teach creative writing have come to it via writing – they are bona fide writers who publish poems and novels and play scripts and the like, and they have found some way of supporting that vocation through having a career in academia. So in teaching aspirant writers how to write they are drawing upon their own experience of working in that medium. They are drawing upon their knowledge of what the problems are and how those problems might be tackled. It’s a practice-based form of learning and teaching.
But because it is in academia there is all this paraphernalia that has to go with it. So you get credits for attending classes. You have to do supporting modules; you have to be assessed. If you are doing an undergraduate degree you have to follow a particular curriculum and only about a quarter of that will be creative writing and the rest will be in the canon of English literature . If you are doing a PhD you have to support whatever the creative element is with a critical element. So there are these ways in which academia disciplines writing and I think of that as Creative Writing with a capital C and a capital W. All of us who teach creative writing are doing it, in a sense, to support our writing, but it is also often at the expense of our writing. We give up quite a lot of time and mental energy and also, I think, imaginative and creative energy to teach.
It is hugely rewarding, engaging with the students, but it is hugely frustrating as well, because the larger part of it is engaging with an institution. I’m sure I’m not alone in being very ambivalent about what I do!
Your first choice is Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer , which for someone writing in 1934 sounds pretty forward thinking.
Because creative writing has now taken off and has become this very widespread academic discipline it is beginning to acquire its own canon of key works and key texts. This is one of the oldest of them. It’s a book that almost anyone who teaches creative writing will have read. They will probably have read it because some fundamentals are explained and I think the most important one is Brande’s sense of the creative writer being comprised of two people. One of them is the artist and the other is the critic.
Actually, Malcolm Bradbury who taught me at UEA, wrote the foreword to my edition of Becoming a Writer , and he talks about how Dorothea Brande was writing this book ‘in Freudian times’ – the 1930s in the States. And she does have this very Freudian idea of the writer as comprised of a child artist on the one hand, who is associated with spontaneity, unconscious processes, while on the other side there is the adult critic making very careful discriminations.
And did she think the adult critic hindered the child artist?
No. Her point is that the two have to work in harmony and in some way the writer has to achieve an effective balance between the two, which is often taken to mean that you allow the artist child free rein in the morning. So you just pour stuff on to the page in the morning when you are closest to the condition of sleep. The dream state for the writer is the one that is closest to the unconscious. And then in the afternoon you come back to your morning’s work with your critical head on and you consciously and objectively edit it. Lots of how-to-write books encourage writers to do it that way. It is also possible that you can just pour stuff on to the page for days on end as long as you come back to it eventually with a critical eye.
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There are two ways in which you can start to get that wrong and produce bad work. One is where you don’t allow the critic in at all. And so it is just a constant outpouring of unmediated automatic writing, which can become a kind of verbal diarrhoea. And the other side of that is where you allow the critic too much authority and the critic becomes like a bad dad who finds fault with everything and doesn’t allow the child to produce anything. And that results in a sort of self-sabotaging perfectionism, which I have suffered from. I got very blocked, and I read this book and it unblocked me.
Good! Your next book, John Gardner’s On Becoming a Novelist , is described as comfort food for the aspiring novelist.
This is another one of the classics. He was quite a successful novelist in the States, but possibly an even more successful teacher of creative writing. The short story writer and poet Raymond Carver, for instance, was one of his students. And he died young in a motorcycle accident when he was 49. There are two classic works by him. One is this book, On Becoming a Novelist , and the other is The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers . They were both put together from his teaching notes after he died.
On Becoming a Novelist is the more succinct and, I think, is the better of the two. He talks about automatic writing and the idea, just like Dorothea Brande, of the artist being comprised of two people. But his key idea is the notion of the vivid and continuous dream. He suggests that when we read a novel we submit to the logic of that novel in the same way as we might submit to the logic of a dream – we sink into it, and clearly the events that occur could not exist outside the imagination.
What makes student writing in particular go wrong is when it draws attention to itself, either through bad writing or over-elaborate writing. He suggests that these faults in the aspirant writer alert the reader to the fact that they are reading a fiction and it is a bit like giving someone who is dreaming a nudge. It jolts them out of the dream. So he proposes that the student writer should try to create a dream state in the reader that is vivid and appeals to all the senses and is continuous. What you mustn’t do is alert the reader to the fact that they are reading a fiction.
It is a very good piece of advice for writers starting out but it is ultimately very limiting. It rules out all the great works of modernism and post-modernism, anything which is linguistically experimental. It rules out anything which draws attention to the words as words on a page. It’s a piece of advice which really applies to the writing of realist fiction, but is a very good place from which to begin.
And then people can move on.
I never would have expected the master of terror Stephen King to write a book about writing. But your next choice, On Writing , is more of an autobiography .
Yes. It is a surprise to a lot of people that this book is so widely read on university campuses and so widely recommended by teachers of writing. Students love it. It’s bracing: there’s no nonsense. He says somewhere in the foreword or preface that it is a short book because most books are filled with bullshit and he is determined not to offer bullshit but to tell it like it is.
It is autobiographical. It describes his struggle to emerge from his addictions – to alcohol and drugs – and he talks about how he managed to pull himself and his family out of poverty and the dead end into which he had taken them. He comes from a very disadvantaged background and through sheer hard work and determination he becomes this worldwide bestselling author. This is partly because of his idea of the creative muse. Most people think of this as some sprite or fairy that is usually feminine and flutters about your head offering inspiration. His idea of the muse is ‘a basement guy’, as he calls him, who is grumpy and turns up smoking a cigar. You have to be down in the basement every day clocking in to do your shift if you want to meet the basement guy.
Stephen King has this attitude that if you are going to be a writer you need to keep going and accept that quite a lot of what you produce is going to be rubbish and then you are going to revise it and keep working at it.
Do you agree with him?
Yes, I do. I think he talks an awful lot of sense. There is this question which continues to be asked of people who teach creative writing, even though it has been taught in the States for over 100 years and in the UK for over 40 years. We keep being asked, ‘Can writing be taught?’ And King says it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, but what is possible, with lots of hard work and dedication and timely help, is to make a good writer out of a merely competent one. And his book is partly intended to address that, to help competent writers to become good ones. It is inspirational because he had no sense of entitlement. He is not a bookish person and yet he becomes this figurehead.
He sounds inspirational. Your next book, Betsy Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees , looks at things from the editor’s point of view.
Yes, she was an editor at several major American publishing houses, such as Simon & Schuster. She went on to become an agent, and also did an MFA in poetry before that, so she came through the US creative writing process and understands where many writers are coming from.
The book is divided into two halves. In the second half she describes the process that goes from the completion of the author’s manuscript to submitting it to agents and editors. She explains what goes on at the agent’s offices and the publisher’s offices. She talks about the drawing up of contracts, negotiating advances and royalties. So she takes the manuscript from the author’s hands, all the way through the publishing process to its appearance in bookshops. She describes that from an insider’s point of view, which is hugely interesting.
But the reason I like this book is for the first half of it, which is very different. Here she offers six chapters, each of which is a character sketch of a different type of author. She has met each of them and so although she doesn’t mention names you feel she is revealing something to you about authors whose books you may have read. She describes six classic personality types. She has the ambivalent writer, the natural, the wicked child, the self-promoter, the neurotic and a chapter called ‘Touching Fire’, which is about the addictive and the mentally unstable.
It is very entertaining and informative and it is also hugely affirming. I identified myself with each one of the six types. There is a bit in each of them that sounded just like me. And I thought, well if they can get published so can I. You do often worry that you are an impostor, that you are only pretending to be a writer and that real writers are a completely different breed, but actually this book shows they can be just like you.
Your final choice is Worstward Ho by Samuel Beckett .
This is a tiny book – it is only about 40 pages and it has got these massive white margins and really large type. I haven’t counted, but I would guess it is only about two to three thousand words and it is dressed up as a novella when it is really only a short story. On the first page there is this riff: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’
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When I read this I thought I had discovered a slogan for the classroom that I could share with my students. I want to encourage them to make mistakes and not to be perfectionists, not to feel that everything they do has to be of publishable standard. The whole point of doing a course, especially a creative writing MA and attending workshops, is that you can treat the course as a sandpit. You go in there, you try things out which otherwise you wouldn’t try, and then you submit it to the scrutiny of your classmates and you get feedback. Inevitably there will be things that don’t work and your classmates will help you to identify those so that you can take it away and redraft it – you can try again. And inevitably you are going to fail again because any artistic endeavour is doomed to failure because the achievement can never match the ambition. That’s why artists keep producing their art and writers keep writing, because the thing you did last just didn’t quite satisfy you, just wasn’t quite right. And you keep going and trying to improve on that.
But why, when so much of it is about failing – failing to get published, failing to be satisfied, failing to be inspired – do writers carry on?
I have a really good quote from Joseph Conrad in which he says the sitting down is all. He spends eight hours at his desk, trying to write, failing to write, foaming at the mouth, and in the end wanting to hit his head on the wall but refraining from that for fear of alarming his wife!
It’s a familiar situation; lots of writers will have been there. For me it is a kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is something I have to keep returning to. I have to keep going back to the sentences, trying to get them right. Trying to line them up correctly. I can’t let them go. It is endlessly frustrating because they are never quite right.
You have published four books. Are you happy with them?
Reasonably happy. Once they are done and gone I can relax and feel a little bit proud of them. But at the time I just experience agonies. It takes me ages. It takes me four or five years to finish a novel partly because I always find distractions – like working in academia – something that will keep me away from the writing, which is equally as unrewarding as it is rewarding!
September 27, 2012
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Andrew Cowan is Professor of Creative Writing and Director of the Creative Writing programme at UEA. His first novel, Pig , won the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, the Betty Trask Award, the Ruth Hadden Memorial Prize, the Author’s Club First Novel Award and a Scottish Council Book Award. He is also the author of the novels Common Ground , Crustaceans , What I Know and Worthless Men . His own creative writing guidebook is The Art of Writing Fiction .
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Top 10 books about creative writing
From linguistics to essays by Zadie Smith and Toni Morrison, poet Anthony Anaxagorou recommends some ‘lateral’ ways in to a demanding craft
T he poet Rita Dove was once asked what makes poetry successful. She went on to illuminate three key areas: First, the heart of the writer; the things they wish to say – their politics and overarching sensibilities. Second, their tools: how they work language to organise and position words. And the third, the love a person must have for books: “To read, read, read.”
When I started mapping out How to Write It , I wanted to focus on the aspects of writing development that took in both theoretical and interpersonal aspects. No writer lives in a vacuum, their job is an endless task of paying attention.
How do I get myself an agent? What’s the best way to approach a publisher? Should I self-publish? There is never one way to assuage the concerns of those looking to make a career out of writing. Many labour tirelessly for decades on manuscripts that never make it to print. The UK on average publishes around 185,000 new titles per year, ranking us the third largest publishing market in the world, yet the number of aspiring writers is substantially greater.
Writers writing about writing can become a supercilious endeavour; I’m more interested in the process of making work and the writer’s perspectives that substantiate the framework.
There’s no single authority, anything is possible. All that’s required are some words and an idea – which makes the art of writing enticing but also difficult and daunting. The books listed below, diverse in their central arguments and genres, guide us towards more interesting and lateral ways to think about what we want to say, and ultimately, how we choose to say it.
1. The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner An intellectual meditation on the cultural function of poetry. Less idealistic than other poetry criticism, Lerner puts forward a richly layered case for the reasons writers and readers alike turn to poetry, probing into why it’s often misconceived as elitist or tedious, and asks that we reconsider the value we place on the art form today.
2. Find Your Voice by Angie Thomas One of the hardest things about creative writing is developing a voice and not compromising your vision for the sake of public appeal. Thomas offers sharp advice to those wrestling with novels or Young Adult fiction. She writes with appealing honesty, taking in everything from writer’s block to deciding what a final draft should look like. The book also comes interspersed with prompts and writing exercises alongside other tips and suggestions to help airlift writers out of the mud.
3. Linguistics: Why It Matters by Geoffrey K Pullum If language is in a constant state of flux, and rules governing sentence construction, meaning and logic are always at a point of contention, what then can conventional modes of language and linguistics tell us about ourselves, our cultures and our relationship to the material world? Pullum addresses a number of philosophical questions through the scientific study of human languages – their grammars, clauses and limitations. An approachable, fascinating resource for those interested in the mechanics of words.
4. Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle The collected lectures of poet and professor Mary Ruefle present us with an erudite inquiry into some of the major aspects of a writer’s mind and craft. Ruefle possesses an uncanny ability to excavate broad and complex subjects with such unforced and original lucidity that you come away feeling as if you’ve acquired an entirely new perspective from only a few pages. Themes range from sentimentality in poetry, to fear, beginnings and – a topic she returns to throughout the book – wonder. “A poem is a finished work of the mind, it is not the work of a finished mind.”
5. Feel Free by Zadie Smith These astute and topical essays dating from 2010 to 2017 demonstrate Smith’s forensic ability to navigate and unpack everything from Brexit to Justin Bieber. Dissecting high philosophical works then bringing the focus back on to her own practice as a fiction writer, her essay The I Who Is Not Me sees Smith extrapolate on how autobiography shapes novel writing, and elucidates her approach to thinking around British society’s tenuous and often binary perspectives on race, class and ethnicity.
6. Threads by Sandeep Parmar, Nisha Ramayya and Bhanu Kapil Who occupies the “I” in poetry? When poets write, are they personally embodying their speakers or are they intended to be emblematic of something larger and more complex? Is the “I” assumed to be immutable or is it more porous? These are the questions posited in Threads, which illuminates the function of the lyric “I” in relation to whiteness, maleness and Britishness. Its short but acute essays interrogate whiteness’s hegemony in literature and language, revealing how writers from outside the dominant paradigm are often made to reckon with the positions and perspectives they write from.
7. Mouth Full of Blood by Toni Morrison An urgent set of essays and lectures from the late Nobel prize winner that collates her most discerning musings around citizenship, race and art, as well as offering invaluable insight into the craft of writing. She reflects on revisions made to her most famous novel, Beloved, while also reflecting on the ways vernaculars can shape new stories. One of my favourite aphorisms written by Morrison sits on my desk and declares: “As writers, what we do is remember. And to remember this world is to create it.”
8. On Poetry by Jonathan Davidson Poetry can be thought of as something arduous or an exercise in analysis, existing either within small artistic enclaves or secondary school classrooms. One of the many strengths of Davidson’s writing is how he makes poetry feel intimate and personal, neither dry or remote. His approach to thinking around ways that certain poems affect us is well measured without being exclusive. A timely and resourceful book for writers interested in how poems go on to live with us throughout our lives.
9. Essays by Lydia Davis From flash fiction to stories, Davis is recognised as one of the preeminent writers of short-form fiction. In these essays, spanning several decades, she tracks much of her writing process and her relationship to experimentalism, form and the ways language can work when pushed to its outer limits. How we read into lines is something Davis returns to, as is the idea of risk and brevity within micro-fiction.
10. Essayism by Brian Dillon Dillon summarises the essay as an “experiment in attention”. This dynamic and robust consideration of the form sheds light on how and why certain essays have changed the cultural and political landscape, from the end of the Middle Ages to the present time. A sharp and curious disquisition on one of the more popular yet challenging writing enterprises.
How to Write It by Anthony Anaxagorou is published by Merky Books. To order a copy, go to guardianbookshop.com .
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10 Best Creative Writing Books to Read in 2023
The world of creative writing possesses an extraordinary ability to unleash imagination, craft narratives, and evoke emotions that resonate with readers. Whether you're an aspiring writer or simply someone who appreciates the art of storytelling, consider Oxford Summer Courses. Embark on a transformative journey through our Creative Writing summer school, where you will have the opportunity to explore the art of crafting compelling narratives, experimenting with various writing styles, and honing your literary skills.
Please note that the following list of books is recommended reading to broaden your knowledge and deepen your appreciation of creative writing and literature. While some of these books may be included in the Oxford Summer Courses curriculum, the specific content of the summer school can vary. If you wish to study these subjects with us, you can apply to our Creative Writing summer school.
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1. On Writing, by Stephen King
- "Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work."
- Published in 2000, "On Writing" by Stephen King is a masterclass in the craft of storytelling. It combines King's personal journey as a writer with practical advice on honing your writing skills during your time at Oxford Summer Courses.
- Discussion: How can Stephen King's advice on discipline and the writing process benefit aspiring writers at Oxford Summer Courses today?
2. Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
- "Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere."
- Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird" is an encouraging guide for writers facing the daunting task of putting words on the page. Through humor and personal anecdotes, she offers valuable insights into the writing process during your Creative Writing summer school at Oxford Summer Courses.
- Discussion: How does Lamott's emphasis on "shitty first drafts" resonate with your own experiences as a writer at Oxford Summer Courses?
3. The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
- "Omit needless words."
- A timeless classic, "The Elements of Style" is a concise guide to writing well. It provides essential rules of grammar and composition that every writer should know, especially during their time at Oxford Summer Courses.
- Discussion: How do the principles outlined in "The Elements of Style" apply to various forms of creative writing, from fiction to poetry, at Oxford Summer Courses?
4. The story, by Robert McKee
- "Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact."
- Robert McKee's "Story" is a comprehensive exploration of the principles behind effective storytelling. It's a must-read for anyone looking to understand the structure and elements of compelling narratives during their time at Oxford Summer Courses.
- Discussion: How can the insights from "Story" enhance your ability to construct engaging and impactful stories during your Creative Writing summer school at Oxford Summer Courses?
5. Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert
- "Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart."
- In "Big Magic," Elizabeth Gilbert delves into the creative process and encourages writers to embrace their creativity with courage and curiosity, a valuable lesson during your time at Oxford Summer Courses.
- Discussion: How can Gilbert's philosophy on creativity inspire you to approach your writing with a sense of wonder and daring at Oxford Summer Courses?
6. The Art of Fiction, by John Gardner
- "Fiction seeks out truth. The writer has to go into the dark, quiet spaces of himself and feel around for the truth."
- John Gardner's "The Art of Fiction" offers profound insights into the art and craft of writing fiction. It explores the intricacies of character development, plot, and the writer's role in conveying truth through storytelling during your Creative Writing summer school at Oxford Summer Courses.
- Discussion: How can Gardner's exploration of truth in fiction inform your own creative writing endeavors at Oxford Summer Courses?
7. Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg
- "Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open."
- Natalie Goldberg's "Writing Down the Bones" is a meditative guide to writing practice. It encourages writers to tap into their innermost thoughts and emotions during their Creative Writing summer school at Oxford Summer Courses.
- Discussion: How can Goldberg's approach to writing as a form of meditation help you access deeper layers of creativity in your work at Oxford Summer Courses?
8. The Elements of Eloquence, by Mark Forsyth
- "Rhetoric is the art of dressing up some unimportant matter to fool the audience for the moment."
- "The Elements of Eloquence" explores the art of rhetoric and language play. Mark Forsyth's witty and informative book will inspire you to experiment with language in your writing during your time at Oxford Summer Courses.
- Discussion: How can a deeper understanding of rhetorical devices enhance your ability to craft persuasive and evocative prose at Oxford Summer Courses?
9. Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury
- "Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spent the rest of the day putting the pieces together."
- Ray Bradbury's "Zen in the Art of Writing" is a collection of essays that celebrate the joy and passion of writing. Bradbury shares his insights on creativity and the writing life during your Creative Writing summer school at Oxford Summer Courses.
- Discussion: How can Bradbury's enthusiasm for writing infuse your own creative process with energy and purpose at Oxford Summer Courses?
10. The Nighttime Novelist, by Joseph Bates
- "Writing is an exploration of the heart."
- "The Nighttime Novelist" by Joseph Bates is a practical guide for writers who balance their craft with busy lives. It offers strategies for maximizing your writing time and making progress on your projects during your time at Oxford Summer Courses.
- Discussion: How can the techniques outlined in "The Nighttime Novelist" help you maintain a consistent and productive writing practice at Oxford Summer Courses?
Oxford Summer Courses invites you to immerse yourself in the enchanting world of creative writing during your time at our summer school. In this blog post, we present a meticulously curated list of 10 classic books that will ignite your imagination and deepen your understanding of the art of storytelling. From Stephen King's practical wisdom in "On Writing" to Ray Bradbury's celebration of the writing life in "Zen in the Art of Writing," these books will serve as your companions on your creative writing journey at Oxford Summer Courses. Through our Creative Writing program, you will have the opportunity to explore these influential texts, share your insights with fellow writers, and refine your craft. Join us on this literary adventure and embark on a transformative experience that will shape your writing skills and inspire your creative spirit during your time at Oxford Summer Courses. Who knows, you might just discover a newfound passion for the art of storytelling and create narratives that resonate with readers for generations to come.
Apply now to join the Oxford Summer Courses Creative Writing summer school and embark on a journey of self-expression and creativity during your time at Oxford Summer Courses. Join a community of passionate writers from around the world and unlock your potential as a storyteller. Apply here.
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Ignite your passion for creative writing at Oxford Summer Courses. Immerse yourself in a carefully curated list of books that will spark your creativity, refine your storytelling abilities, and help you embark on a transformative journey as a writer.
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Books About Creative Writing
A while ago, I put a call out on the Writers & Artists Twitter account for recommendations on the best creative writing guides out there. I received a huge amount of suggestions and decided to turn them into an official post.
I'll keeping adding to this list and be sure to share your recommendations in the comments below!
On Writers and Writing – Margaret Atwood The Creative Writing Coursebook Forty-Four Authors Share Advice and Exercises for Fiction and Poetry - Julia Bell and Paul Magrs
Zen in the Art of Writing – Ray Bradbury
Becoming a Writer – Dorothea Brande
Save the Cat - Jessica Brody
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers - Renni Browne and Dave King
How to Write like Tolstoy - Richard Cohen
Storygrid – Shawn Coyne and Tim Grahl
Aspects of the Novel – EM Forster
Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg
Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wicked Good Prose – Constance Hale
Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction - Patricia Highsmith
On Writing – Stephen King
The Modern Library Writers’ Workshop – Stephen Koch
Bird by Bird – Ann Lamott
Steering the Craft – Ursula Le Guin The Practice of Writing - David Lodge
The Emotional Craft of Fiction – Donald Maass How NOT to Write a Novel - Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman
Write to Be Published – Nicola Morgan
Mouth Full of Blood - Toni Morrison
Get Started in Writing YA Fiction – Juliet Mushens
Tips from a Publisher: A Guide to Writing, Editing, Submitting and Publishing Your Book - Scott Pack
The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist - Orhan Pamuk
The Rights of the Reader – Daniel Pennac
Making a Scene – Jordan E Rosenfeld
Craft in the Real World - Matthew Salesses
A Swim in a Pond in the Rain - George Saunders
Your Story Matters - Nikesh Shukla
Save the Cat - Blake Snyder
Science of Storytelling – Will Storr
Find Your Voice - Angie Thomas
The Writer’s Journey – Christopher Vogler
Into the Woods – John Yorke
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Top 10 Books on Creative Writing
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Table of Contents
What is Creative Writing?
Creative writing is where we express our thoughts and ideas in a more imaginary way. Some of its types are poetry, story, songs, plays, personal essays, etc… The most popular creative writing is Story Writing. It will have character development , plot development, and dialogue in a more poetic and polished language. The story will be fiction or nonfiction. Fiction includes novels, short stories, and poetry. Non-fiction includes articles for magazines. There are Four forms of Creative Writing Course . They are Expository, Descriptive, Persuasive, and Narrative.
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o start creative writing you must be a book lover. Always try to read more books so that you will be able to learn and understand the craft of it. The more you read, the better you can develop your knowledge. Reading helps you practice imagination by letting the words describe a certain image while the reader manipulates the picture in the mind.
By reading great writers’ Creative Writing books you can learn how creatively they have written and can get more ideas from them in such a way you can develop your creativity. You can decide the genre you are comfortable with. It might be science fiction, horror, or comic. Then go with the renowned author in that particular genre. Also, it is very simple and quiet if you start plotting about the person whom you already know. They may be your family members, neighbors, or friends. Just think of a person and start designing the character.
Now many books on creative writing are available, you can challenge yourself by completing the exercises given in the books.
Top 10 Creative Writing books and their ranks are listed below which will help you in developing your writing skills
1. Creating the Creative Writers- By Henry Harvin Education
Today, Creative Writing Courses are also offered by many Educational Institutions in India. Because of the recent pandemic, many prefer Online certificate courses. W hen choosing a creative writing course, firstly you must see the Syllabus and Modules of the course. Secondly, you must see how that institute gives certificates and internships.
The best Creative Writing course in India is given by HENRY HARVIN and its certification Ranks #1 in India .
Creating the Creative Writers, this book delves into the nitty gritty of creative writing like fiction, non-fiction, drama, and poetry to name a few aspects. The book is backed by solid work of 36,514 individuals spread over a time of 6 years. The book has excellent anecdotes that enthuse the reader and help to correlate with various topics.
By spending daily 1 hour, you can begin the journey of creative writing within a period of 1 month. Creating the Creative Writers also is a guide for templates, strategies, and various techniques.
This book from Henry Harvin Education has a 5-star rating on Amazon
Henry Harvin’s Creative Writing Course allows you to put your thoughts into writing with more polished words. This course helps to develop your vocabulary, get new ideas and will enhance your creative thoughts. This course has been designed to get you about four genres of creative writing as Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry, and drama.
To know further details about the Creative Writing Course, click the below link
Henry Harvin Creative Writing Course
Other best courses offered by Henry Harvin are
- Content Writing Course
- Technical Writing Course
- Medical Writing Course
- Art of Negotiation Course
2. On Poetry
“On Poetry” book ranks tenth book among Top 10 creative Writing books. The author was a British civil engineer in the profession and wrote many novels and poems. This book is a good piece for writers who are interested in poetry. In this book, Davidson makes you feel intimate and personal through his poems
3. Feel Free
“Feel Free” ranks nineth book among the top 10 creative writing books. It offers a survey of important recent events in culture and politics, as well as Smith’s own life. Since she burst spectacularly into view with her debut novel almost two decades ago, Zadie Smith has established herself not just as one of the world’s preeminent fiction writers, but also a brilliant and singular essayist. She contributes regularly to The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books on a range of subjects, and each piece of hers is a literary event in its own right.
4. Bird by Bird
An American novelist who has written “Bird by Bird” ranks eighth book among the top 10 creative writing books. In this book, Anne tells about her brother’s school project which is about birds. His teacher gave him three months to write this project. He was just stuck with the ideas by not opening the books and nearly shed tears. Her father who is also a writer sat along with him and said “Bird by Bird” buddy. From there she started her book writing.
5. Linguistics: Why it matters
The seventh book among the top 10 creative writing books is “Linguistics: Why It Matters”. Language is the medium in which you can compose your thoughts, explain your thinking, construct your arguments, and create works of literature. Pullum has explained the basic principles of linguistics in it. It tells about what languages are, how you comprehend language, how AI is being used for languages, and other topics. An approachable, fascinating resource for those interested in the mechanics of words. It has an Index at the back of the book.
6 A Technique for Producing Ideas
Among the top 10 creative writing books, rank six goes to “A Technique for Producing Ideas”.A thought happens when you foster another mix of old components. The ability to bring old components into new blends relies generally upon your capacity to see connections. All thoughts follow a five-venture cycle of gathering material, seriously working over the material in your mind, pulling back from the issue, permitting the plan to return to you normally, and testing your thoughts in reality and changing is dependent on the input.
7. Worstward Ho
Here comes the fifth book in the top 10 creative writing books is “Worstward Ho”. This is a prose piece implying that humanity exists turned Worstward. This is one of the more poetic of the prose works in terms of images, using his familiar re-emerging of images slightly modified to emphasize his points.
8. On Becoming a Novelist
This book ranks the fourth book among the top 10 creative writing books. This book was published in the year 2000. Gardner explains the life of a novelist more elegantly and humorously. This book identifies the beginning novelist’s worries, that is, to give reassurance, helpful guidance, and encouragement.
9. The War of Art
“The War of Art “stands the third rank among the top 10 creative writing books. The author is well known for historical fiction, non-fiction, and screenplays. In this book, Pressfield believes that “resistance” is the greatest enemy, and he offers many unique and helpful ways to overcome it. This book is not only for the writers but grasped by actors, dancers, filmmakers, painters, and many more.
10. Find Your Voice
The second book among the top 10 creative writing books is “Find Your Voice” It is very hard to share your real voice in Creative Writing. In this book, the author Angie Thomas shares his experience to develop true-to-you writing. Best books on creative writing include step-by-step craft tips, writing prompts, and exercises alongside other tips and suggestions to help the writers.
11. Becoming a Writer
“Becoming a Writer” ranks First book among the top 10 creative writing books. This book isn’t just for new writers, likewise experienced writers can also go through it. In this book, Brande tries to explain the writer’s dimensions of their personality. She believes based on the writer’s conscious and subconscious minds, their creativity and imagination will come out. Brande used to say “if you can discover what you truly believe about most of the major matters of life, you will be able to write a story which is honest and original and unique.”
One of the me thods in creative writing is Snowflake method.It is creating a summary like a sentence and from that, you have to start creating the characters of your story. From that, you have to expand your storyline. Few writers will just write whatever comes to their minds without any outlines or notes. This type of writing is called Freewriting. By keeping on writing like this, at one point your creativity in writing will be tremendous.
This pandemic has changed a lot in our lives. For nearly more than a year all of us are inside the home. School went online, the office goes to WFH and everything totally shut down outside. But many of us utilized this challenged life by spending time with our family members and reading lots of e-books. You can pick any books available digitally and enhance your creativity by sharing your own experience in words. Hope this blog will guide you to find the best creative writing books online.
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Ans. Creative Writing is one type of writing which doesn’t have rules but imagination plays a major part. Whereas Content Writing will have certain rules and it is for a particular purpose and goal.
Ans. Just start with the scratch and write whatever comes to your mind. You can also pick one of the creative writing books and try doing the exercises given in the book
Ans. It is all about imagination and the vocabulary you use in writing. If you want to improve your vocabulary, just take a Creative Writing Course in a reputed institute like Henry Harvin.
Ans. Yes. Nowadays Online certification courses are provided by many educational institutions like Henry Harvin. You can just join any course in the institution and become aware of the writing styles, tones, and how to handle the tools for writing and then start your career as a Freelance Writer.
Ans. Most technical people will go with the technical writing course given by Henry Harvin from which you will be able to know DITA (Darwin Information Typing Architecture) writing.
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I am beginner looking for the best creative writing books, consider “On Writing” by Stephen King, “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott, and “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. These three books cover everything from the basics of grammar to the nuances of storytelling.Great knowlegable.
I appreciate you giving us access to this list. It’s a fantastic resource, and I’m glad to know that there are resources of this nature available for students in every grade level. I’m ecstatic to know that we can really profit from them. All credit goes to HENRY HARVIN.
I appreciate you compiling this list of the top 10 books on creative writing. Thanks for sharing such a useful blog; it was very helpful.
I appreciate you compiling this list of the best creative writing books. It was extremely helpful, and I’ll be checking it out soon.
It means a lot to me that you read it and then spread the word to your friends. A list like this is crucial because it demonstrates to students that they have excellent resources at their disposal and that we can all greatly benefit from them. We appreciate HENRY HARVIN.
Thank you for compiling this list of the top books on creative writing. I’m excited to read them all and get back in the creative writing game.
Thank you for compiling this list of the top books on creative writing.
I really appreciate that you took the time to read through it and then share it with your friends. Having a list like this is really important, because it shows students that there are great resources available to them and that we can really benefit from them. Thanks to HENRY HARVIN.
It’s so helpful to have a place to go for recommendations on how to get started, what to read next, and where to find the most accurate information about writing in general.
This is a fantastic list of writing-related books that will be very beneficial to us. We appreciate your effort in compiling a list of all the necessary books for students like us.
Knowing that there are great resources available and that we can really benefit from them makes me very happy. It means a lot to me that you read it and shared it with us, says author, HENRY HARVIN. The list includes all the top books for students at every grade level.
I’d love to hear your recommendations for books on creative writing
Thank you for compiling this list of the top books on creative writing. I found it very useful and will be checking it out in the near future.
Thank you for sharing this list with us. I think it’s a great resource, and it makes me happy to know that there are these kinds of resources out there for students at every grade level. Knowing that we can really benefit from them makes me very happy. All credit to HENRY HARVIN
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Thank you for compiling this list of the top books on creative writing. It was extremely helpful, and I am so glad that I found it.
Creative writing books are widely available. But which one should you choose? I was able to find the book I was looking for because of your blog post on the top 10 creative writing books. I’m grateful.
The list created by HENRY HARVIN includes all the top books for students at every grade level. Knowing that there are great resources available and that we can really benefit from them makes me very happy. It means a lot to me that you read it and shared it with us.
Thank you for collecting this list of the top books on creative writing.
The market is flooded with books on creative writing. Which should you pick, though? Thanks to your blog post on the top 10 creative writing books, I was able to locate the book I was looking for. Thank you!
All the best books for students at every grade level are included in this list compiled by HENRY HARVIN. It makes me so happy to know that there are excellent resources out there and that we can really take advantage of them. I appreciate you reading it and sharing it with us.
Thank you for assembling this list of the top books on creative writing. That will greatly benefit us. When selecting a creative writing course, these books should also be taken into account.
Thank you, Rajni. HENRY HARVIN’s team members are grateful for your kindness and send their best wishes for a successful career and personal life.
Thank you for the very useful list of the best creative writing books.
We appreciate your list of the best creative writing books; it is very helpful. These books should be taken into account when selecting a creative writing course, among other things.
A good collection of creative writing books.
We appreciate your kindness in providing this helpful list of creative writing resources. These books should be taken into account when choosing a creative writing course, among other things.
Dear Shaurya, thank you so much for your valuable feedback. HENRY HARVIN wishes you all the best in all your endeavors!
This blog helped me organize the books I will read to develop my creative writing skills.
Thank you so much for your sweet response
Thank you for the very useful list of the best creative writing books that will help us a lot. These books are also one of the factors to consider when choosing a Creative Writing course.
Thank you so much! I think that it is a great list of books. This will help me a lot in my journey to becoming an author.
Thank you so much for creating such a list of the best creative writing books. I’ve been struggling to find good resources on creative writing and this list really has some helpful suggestions that I can add to my Learning.
I am really thankful and appreciative to you, who could take the time to put together such a comprehensive list of relevant books on creative writing that we can refer to.
This blog assisted me in planning the books I will study to learn creative writing.
I completed the Creative Writing and got so much out of it. It was very insightful and offered incredible tips, tricks, and templates that I really wish I had known before. I’m recommending this book to everyone who has dreams of being a writer
I have never thought I would be able to complete a course in Creative Writing within 30 days. It was so satisfying and I was more than excited when I was on the verge of completion. The lessons are not difficult but are packed with useful insights that help you develop your writing skills.
Having the Creative Writing book was the best investment for me in writing. It taught me about tips, tricks, and templates that every creative writer should know. The book is very helpful and I love it.
I have to say, I’m impressed. You’ve done a great job with this book. I completed the Creative Writing book within 30 days and learned so many concepts like tips, tricks, and templates that every creative writer should know. Even the cost of the book is very reasonable.
I have been a writer for 4 years, and I have to say that Henry Harvin’s book is one of the best. It is fun and easy to read, and it has some very helpful tips for anyone who wants to be a better writer. I highly recommend this book.
Thanks again for your information. I found it very helpful and the tips were easy to follow.
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I really enjoyed this blog, and I think it’s a great addition to any writer’s library. It gives great advice on how to approach writing but also includes plenty of practical advice for actually putting the ideas into practice.
Henry Harvin Books provided by lots of course books – the best way to read about this topic.
Welcome to the world of creative writing, where you can write fantasy, science fiction, and even short stories that make people smile. Thanks for providing Creative Writing books available on Amazon and Flipkart.
Thanks for your help, Henry harvin. I’ve read the creative writing handbook, and it’s got some fantastic examples that have really opened my eyes to the world of creative writing.
I’m sure this will be a great resource for me in the future!
This is a great list of books on Creative Writing that will help us a lot. Thank you for taking so much efforts to list down all the relevant books for students like us.
Dear Unnati, Many thanks for the excellent feedback regards Henry Harvin
Thank you Henry Harvin for providing a creative writing book. I am learning a lot, from this. Thank you so much.
Thanks for your positive response
I have just finished the On poetry book and I am starting another book, this blog of Creative Writing books has listed down all the best books of all time. Thank you for helping us
Thanks for your valuable feedback.
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Ten of the Best Books for Writers
Writers love to read – and write –about writing. Here are my favourites.
1. Stephen King: On Writing
Now I happen to think that Stephen King is one of the best storytellers alive. No matter how absurd his initial premise – A car is alive! A clown in the drains! Phones turn you into zombies! – he does it with such conviction and imagination that you suspend all disbelief.
But no matter what you think of his work, this memoir/instruction manual is simply the best book on writing, full of inspiration, practical advice from one of the world’s most successful and prolific masters of the art.
If you ask any writer for their top ten, this will usually be in there somewhere. My much-loved and much-used copy is full of highlights, notes, underlining, bookmarks and folded-down corners. Start here!
2. Elizabeth Gilbert: Big Magic
Beautifully written, this is a magical mix of practical advice and mystical belief about the power of art, and how stories find us when we open ourselves to them. The chapter headings give you some idea: Courage; Enchantment; Permission; Persistence; Trust; Divinity.
This is one all creatives can learn from, not just writers. Especially if you’ve lost touch with your muse, you can’t get into flow, and you’ve lost faith that inspiration will come. We all have those dark moments. This book is a light, guiding the way back to your path.
If you find it too wu-wu and weird, stick with it. You’re probably the one who needs it most, right now.
3. Julia Cameron: The Artist’s Way
I re-read this every couple of years, and I’ve given it as a gift more than any other book. Clients of mine have written novels, screenplays, got through those difficult second albums and created new artworks by using its central tools: a weekly artist’s date , and daily morning pages . I’ve done both for years now.
They’re like a compass, gradually showing me the direction I need to take, and in the rare times I now abandon them, I quickly see the difference in terms of focus and inspiration.
Experienced writers sometimes struggle with the idea of freewriting, because they hold themselves to higher standards. My tip? Do it without any grammar at all – I use dashes and little else – and don’t go back to edit, correct spellings or anything else. It works like a spring-clean for your mind, stopping thoughts playing on endlessly repeating loops by getting them down, however incoherently, onto the page.
There are plenty of other exercises and writing prompts too, with each chapter addressing a different obstacle in the creative’s path. This is another book that works for all kinds of creatives. But it’s especially brilliant for blocked, burned out or stalled writers.
4. Steven Pressfield: The War Of Art
Subtitled Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, this is one of the best books I know about what he calls Resistance: the forces stopping you just getting on and doing your creative work.
Like The Artist’s Way, it’s effective and inspirational whatever your creative field. But writing is Pressfield’s craft, and many of the examples he uses involve fellow writers.
Some of Pressfield’s attitudes are a little dated, but his methods are sound. See him as a wise old uncle, pushing you to just begin doing the work you dream of doing, no matter what you think is in your way.
5. Virginia Woolf: A Writer’s Diary
She’s like Marmite: you either love Woolf’s novels, or you hate them. I’m in the love camp ( To The Lighthouse is a book I’ve read many times over), but you don’t have to agree to enjoy these extracts from her diary.
We often feel that the great writers, those whose work has endured and inspired, somehow sat down and effortlessly wrote finished drafts of their novels, stories or essays, and we measure our own clumsy first drafts and half-formed ideas against them. This is the antidote: Woolf’s diary exposes the sheer hard graft, the revisions, the self-doubt and the soul-searching that goes into producing a solid body of work.
If you are afraid of the Woolf, search out your own favourite writers’ thoughts on the craft. Ian Rankin’s introductions to the newer editions of his Rebus novels give lots of insight into his creative process, for instance, and Philip Pullman’s essays on reading and writing are as brilliant as his fiction.
6. Neil Gaiman: Make Good Art
This is actually a 2012 commencement address Gaiman gave in Philadelphia, and you can see him delivering it below. But graphic artist Chip Kidd had the lovely idea of making it into a beautifully illustrated book. I often open a page at random, and find just what I needed to read that day.
At its heart, all of Gaiman’s fiction is about the creation of story and of the myths that subconsciously inform us, even if we think we’ve forgotten them. I love the introductions he writes to his short story collections, and most of his collected journalism and speeches are also about the power of reading, writing and story.
7. Anne Lamott: Bird By Bird
Amongst many gems in this book, Lamott introduces the idea of Shitty First Drafts. These three words have pulled me out of the swamp more times than I care to remember, and the gist of them is this: on days when you can’t write well, just write badly. Get it down, then improve it later.
“All good writers write them,” she reassures. “This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.”
There are gems in here about character, plot, dialogue, setting – and knowing when you’re done. And great exercises to try, along with brilliant paragraphs of her own writing. Leafing through it to write this, I’ve realised it’s been too long since I’ve reread this book, and it’s just moved from the shelf to my bedside table.
8. Natalie Goldberg: Writing Down The Bones
Three days after his 71st birthday, my dad complained of feeling sick, lay down on the bed for a moment, and died. He was rarely ill and hadn’t visited a doctor in 20 years, so this was beyond sudden and unexpected.
This was the book I was reading when that happened, 15 years ago. While I did all of the things I needed to do as the eldest child supporting a mum who – like most women of her generation – had never lived alone, this was also the book that kept me whole. I filled journal after journal in the following weeks and months, dipping back into these short essays whenever I needed kind, compassionate but firm guidance.
Sub-titled Freeing The Writer Within , it’s a good place to start if you have always wanted to write, or have been away from the page for a while. If you’re not sure where or how to begin, the writing prompts here are brilliant.
9. Natasha Khullar Relph: Shut Up And Write
As the title suggests, this is no-nonsense advice on getting the work done from a talented writer who managed to launch a successful international freelance career from India, then branch out into courses, content marketing, fiction – plus a really helpful and detailed series of books on making money from journalism and content marketing.
These final two writers both produce practical guides to getting paid for your work. I’ve included them here because I think it’s important to understand that artists and writers no longer need to starve. It’s perfectly possible to make real money from your writing – if that’s you want to do.
10. Joanna Penn: Successful Self-Publishing
This book is free on Kindle, inexpensive in paperback, and hugely practical if you want to publish your own writing and start earning money from it. Penn has a whole series of clear, informative books on writing and a long-running podcast about self-publishing, as well as her own successful and ever-growing series of independetly-published fantasy thrillers.
Like many older writers, I always looked down on self-publishing. I was wrong . It’s a great way of by-passing gatekeepers such as publishers and agents, getting topical work out quickly – and getting paid for your work within weeks, rather than years.
11. Antony Johnston: The Organised Writer
I’ve added this to the list as a bonus book, because I’ve just read it and it’s too useful not to share. This isn’t about how to write. It’s more about how to function, as a writer. How to be efficient in juggling multiple projects and organise everything from the folders on your computer to your notes.
My only criticism is that he advocates a somewhat dated system of storing old projects in A4 envelopes and file boxes. Why clutter up your workspace when you can just scan it all into an app such as Evernote and find it again far more quickly? But that’s a minor niggle about a book packed with sage advice.
I’ve been a professional writer for four decades now, and I still learned a lot from it!
There are many, many more brilliant books about writing.
Scarlett Thomas’s Monkeys With Typewriters is a great practical guide to writing and especially plotting fiction; James Wood’s How Fiction Works and Walter Mosley’s The Year You Write Your Novel are pretty self-explanatory and brilliant. Ray Bradbury’s writing advice is always pure gold, and I’ve never read any of Zadie Smith or Margaret Atwood’s thoughts on the craft without feeling smarter for it.
Really, I could go on, and on, and on. But I’m sure you have favourites of your own. Leave your recommendations below. And perhaps I’ll revisit this later, and do ten more.
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13th January 2022 at 4:59 pm
Google? You can research pretty much anything you like online. But.. are you putting off writing by researching? I’d say just jump in and begin, then fact-check and adjust later..
13th January 2022 at 7:26 am
Where are the best places for research resources for writers? For instance I’m trying to write a fantasy story that opens with child soldiers and their beginning powers but it’s been difficult to put my hands on the right things. Is there a one stop shop?
22nd March 2021 at 9:33 pm
Find these recommendations very interesting I have the magnificent Stephen King on writing and will attempt to read your list. Currently I’m reading Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver. Worth an entry on any list
5th February 2021 at 5:50 pm
A good collection of titles.
17th January 2021 at 5:35 pm
Thanks Darlene! I’ve added that to my reading list..
14th January 2021 at 9:42 pm
I think another great collection of essays on writing, is Flannery O’Connor’s Mystery and Manners.
5th January 2021 at 4:39 pm
The long answer to what I’m doing is here . The short one: two new books, a couple of collaborations, and lots of coaching creatives! Both The Artists Way and A Beautiful Anarchy are brilliant. Enjoy your journey, and if I can help, you know where I am now!
5th January 2021 at 1:50 am
Hi Sheryl. Thank you for your response. I’m unsure if I should reply here in the comments section, but here goes. Well, I’ve been ruminating and procrastinating for too long and my NY was a disaster that has become a great motivator and something has switched in my thinking. So, at the moment I’m writing lists, trying to work out what ‘it’ is.
I have a creative background.I have been feeling very empty and at the moment feel unfulfilled.I do not want to start another year feeling like a cork bobbing in the ocean. So I have started to map out time each day for writing, and painting. I started The Artists Way on Sunday and I’m listening to A Beautiful Anarchy on my morning walks.
I found your fabulous site whilst searching time planning for creatives. Thank you so much. What about you? What are you planning for 2021?
3rd January 2021 at 6:04 am
Glad it was useful, Katy. What are you working on/planning to make in 2021?
3rd January 2021 at 4:42 am
Hello Sheryl. I came across your site and blog today. It’s exactly what I need right now. Notebook in hand I am devouring your posts. Neil Gaiman’s speech has particularly stirred me up. Thank you for this list and all the other great advice and articles. I feel an on line book order in the ether this evening! Oh and I see you are a fellow ‘old’ raver! All the best, Katy.
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10 Books to Make You a Better Writer
In The Way of the Fearless Writer , Beth Kempton outlines a creative practice inspired by Buddhist philosophy. In a departure from advice that centers on “painful effort,” Kempton contends that becoming a “fearless writer” requires embracing three principles: “desirelessness” teaches writers to “serve the writing, not the ego”; formlessness encourages them to freely “spill” their words onto the page before fashioning them into a shape; and “emptiness” urges writers to see “through [their] fixed ideas about separate selves” so as to write without fear of critique. Kempton weaves abstract musings with practical suggestions and mixes Buddhist principles with writing advice in seamless, down-to-earth prose.
For some reason, most writers I know seem to think the best way to get better at writing is to ask someone else for their opinion of what they have written, which usually leads to a sometimes excruciating and occasionally devastating critique session. Six books in—and having been on the receiving end of such destructive criticism—I can tell you there is a much healthier way to get better at writing, which is to hone your own evaluation skills and learn to trust your own opinion of your work. The best way to do that is to read and write a lot. I sometimes wonder if the money spent on creative writing degrees might be better spent on a big stack of books, a pile of good pens, and a few days in an Airbnb now and then to give you the headspace to write.
Here are 10 books (plus a word of caution, see below) which have made me a better writer because of the advice they offer, the masterful way they are written, or because their words drifted off the page and implanted themselves in my being, nudging my own words awake.
1. Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process by John McPhee
This book taught me how to notice the world and write about it. John McPhee has spent more than 50 years writing profiles for the likes of the New Yorker and Time magazine and offers rare insight into every stage of the process, from interviewing, drafting, and revising to working with editors. He is self-deprecating yet luminously wise, and his authority as a writing teacher is evident in the masterful prose laid down on every page..
2. Drinking from the River of Light: The Life of Expression by Mark Nepo
Mark Nepo’s words have been a friend by my side for as long as I can remember. He uses language to weave readers into the web of life, so we feel held, seen, and a part of something beautiful. Drinking from the River of Light reminds us that to be human is to be creative, and it contains a host of gentle practices to guide us back to the source of creativity within ourselves.
3. Fingerpainting on the Moon: Writing and Creativity as a Path to Freedom by Peter Levitt
I first knew Peter Levitt as a translator of the Tang Dynasty poet Hanshan. Like many talented translators, Levitt is a poet himself, and I find his approach to writing in Fingerpainting on the Moon both unexpected and delightful. His writing prompts are fresh and original, and they helped guide me beyond the obvious to the hidden places where the best work is born.
4. Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life by Natalie Goldberg
I just love this lesser-known cousin of Goldberg’s classic Writing Down the Bones . It celebrates the messiness of writing, encouraging you to move toward, not away from, the truths that rumble inside you. Goldberg is the ultimate permission giver, not just handing out permission to write, but to be every part of the wild human that you are and put that on the page.
5. Story Genius: How To Use Brain Science To Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (*Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) by Lisa Cron
I haven’t written a novel (yet), but I found this book surprisingly helpful for shaping my non-fiction self-help books. It’s not prescriptive like some other novel writing books, but it does offer strategies that really work to make your overall piece into something compelling. Cron demonstrates the process of working one-on-one with a writer in the early stages of her novel, allowing readers to see the story take shape on the page. I found this unusual approach very helpful for applying the strategies to my own work.
6. Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer by Peter Turchi
This fascinating book, which explores how writers and cartographers use some of the same devices to map out a place, space, or idea, brought a whole new dimension to my writing. “Each of us stands at one unique spot in the universe, at one moment in the expanse of time, holding a blank sheet of paper,” writes Turchi. This single line sparked an entire book for me. I wonder what Turchi’s observations and insights might spark for you
7. You Could Make This Place Beautiful by Maggie Smith
When I grow up, I want to write like Maggie Smith. The pieces of this memoir fit together like a three-dimensional jigsaw, each connected to the others but also a sculptural beauty of its own. There is so much poetry in Smith’s prose that I had to read some pages three times, out loud, to take it all in. Whether you choose Smith or another writer, it is excellent practice to identify someone whose work you admire and read everything they have written. In doing so you can observe their evolution as a writer and take note of all the ways they offer up their life on the page.
8. Rhythms and Roads by Victoria Erickson
Victoria Erickson’s poetry is raw and beautiful. She speaks through the page unfiltered, and her words burn through each layer of my skin to reach in deep. Reading this book, and her debut, Edge of Wonder , made me realize that sometimes what arrives first is best, and that editing should only serve to enhance what is there, not silence or strangle it. The wildness in these poems gives you permission to be wilder in your own writing.
9. Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words by David Whyte
If you ever get stuck for something to write about, pick a word and dive in deep. Explore its etymology, feel the word roll off your tongue, consider all the ways it fits into the human experience. And then write about that. If you want some inspiration, read Consolations , a gorgeous collection of essays exploring 52 ordinary words, in a way which elevates them to poetry.
10. Big Magic: Creative living beyond fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
This book is worth reading for the single insight that ideas visit us, and if we are not ready to bring them to life, they move on to someone else. It is an inspiring, urgent call to crack on and write, or otherwise create, and not let fear stop you for one more day.
*A word of caution: books are magic. Sometimes they give us the confidence to begin, or motivation to continue. Sometimes they sweep us away with their beauty and inspire us to be better. This is all good. By all means, read such books, but don’t read so much that you have no time left to write. Because the single best way to become a better writer is to write. A lot. Write so much that you no longer care about any particular word or sentence and can let go of anything you have written to make space for something better. And then keep writing until “better” comes, because it will, and you will know it when it has arrived.
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6 Books Every Creative Writer Should Own
I came to writing late and have always felt under-read. When I was starting out I didn't know where to start, how to nourish the deficiencies in my understanding of the craft of writing. The books below helped me write my way out of the wilderness and into a greater understanding of how to be a writer and to write the work that is most pressing to me. These are the six books on writing that I have held close over the years. I hope you'll find one or two of them as helpful as I did. 1. Best Book from a Master of the Craft
On Writing by Stephen King
King is known for his direct writing and expansive plots. This book tells you how he does it, from his early struggles to his eventual success. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. It is also a super fun read.
2. Best Book to Help You Overcome Writing Fears
The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes
This was the first book on writing I ever received. My dad gave it to me as a stocking stuffer and it changed my life, gave me permission to write and overcome the anxiety I felt about what people would think of my work. Keyes offers specifics on how to root out dread of public "performance" and of the judgment of family and friends, make the best use of writers' workshops and conferences, and handle criticism of works in progress.
3. Best Book to Help You Live the Writing Life
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
This book will help you feel less alone even as you find yourself in the dark, staring at the blank page wondering if your work even matters. In this collection of short essays, Dillard illuminates the dedication, absurdity, and daring that characterize the existence of a writer. A moving account of Dillard’s own experience, The Writing Life offers deep insight into one of the most mysterious professions.
4. Best Book to Help You Get from Point A to Point B
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
When I first started writing I thought I had to have the entire story mapped and figured out. I didn't understand that you can trust yourself not to know. Lamott taught me that I could let the story develop in front of me, writing only what I see one Polaroid picture at a time. In this way the pages, and indeed the story itself, start to gather into something meaningful one page at a time.
5. Best Collection of Writing Essays
Thrill Me by Benjamin Percy
Too often writing is grouped unfairly into camps: it is either literary or genre. In this book, Percy implores us to prize the sentence and the story. He challenges the notion that literary and genre fiction are somehow mutually exclusive. In fifteen essays on the craft of fiction, Percy looks to disparate sources such as Jaws , Blood Meridian , and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to discover how contemporary writers engage issues of plot, suspense, momentum, and the speculative, as well as character, setting, and dialogue.
6. Best Book for Beginners
Ron Carlson Writes a Story by Ron Carlson
This slim book presents three simple concepts that every writer needs to master, and Carlson provides a clear-eyed explanation of each one: Inner Story, Outer Story, and Inventory. Mastering these three concepts will change the way you write.
Here is a list of great books on the craft of writing you can check out:
- "The Art of Memoir" by Mary Karr
- "The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers" by Betsy Lerner
- "The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers" by Christopher Vogler
- "The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles" by Steven Pressfield
- "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Renni Browne and Dave King
- "Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting" by Robert McKee
- "Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within" by Natalie Goldberg
- "The Writer's Circle: Using Writing Circles to Help Students Improve Their Writing Skills" by C. M. Millen
- "Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art" by Judith Barrington
- "The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life" by Marion Roach Smith
- "Your Life as Story: Discovering the "New Autobiography" and Writing Memoir as Literature" by Tristine Rainer
- "The Memoir Workbook: How to Write Your Life Story" by Katherine Hutton
- "The Memoir Handbook: A Practical Guide to Writing Your Life Story" by Linda Joy Myers
- "The Writer's Memoir: Exploring the Transformative Power of Personal Storytelling" by Carol Bly
- "Writing Memoir: The Practical Guide to Writing and Publishing the Story of Your Life" by Sage Cohen
As a student of writing, one of the best ways to improve your writing skills is to supplement your reading diet with books about creative writing. These books can be incredibly helpful for learning new techniques, getting feedback on your work, and gaining inspiration for your own writing.
There are many different books on creative writing available, so it can be helpful to start by looking for ones that focus on the specific type of writing you are interested in, such as fiction, poetry, memoir or screenwriting. Some books offer general advice on the writing process, while others provide more specific guidance on topics such as character development, plotting, and dialogue.
In addition to reading books on creative writing, it can also be helpful to take a creative writing class or workshop . These classes can provide a structured environment for you to practice your writing and receive feedback from instructors and peers. Many colleges and universities offer creative writing classes, and there are also many online options available.
As you read and study creative writing, be sure to take notes and try out the techniques and exercises you learn about. The more you practice, the better you will become at crafting compelling stories and characters. Don't be afraid to experiment with different styles and approaches – this is an important part of the learning process.
Overall, books on creative writing can be a valuable resource for writers looking to improve their craft and become more confident, accomplished writers. So if you are interested in taking your writing to the next level, consider picking up a few books on the subject and see how they can help you grow as a writer.
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25 Best Books on Writing Fiction: Learn How with These Essential Reads!
Many people have opinions about what craft books fiction writers need to read to take their game to a new level.
We've looked at suggestions from New York Magazine, Poets & Writers, Penguin Random House, Goodreads, author Jerry Jenkins, and others to create our top 25 best craft books for fiction writers. Here, in no particular order, are the results.
1. the elements of style by william strunk, jr..
Surely this tops everyone’s list of must-have books on their shelves for perfecting their craft. First published in 1918, it is the style manual everyone consults when they want to improve their writing skills. This book was the first one to promote writing in plain English with your readers in mind.
2. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
An often-quoted treatise on writing by a best-selling author, you get part memoir, part instruction on how to write well according to the King of Horror. King reveals how he emerged as a writer and offers his best advice and tools of the trade for writers.
3. Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee
Not only for screenwriters, this book includes all the inspiration and experience McKee puts into his wildly popular screenwriting workshops. Writers, producers, development executives, agents, and more attend his lectures and read his book to learn the "magic" of story construction and the relationship between structure and character.
4. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
With a wonderful family story behind the reason for the title, Lamott uses her platform to give you a step-by-step guide on writing and managing the writer’s life. This book instructs you to keep your eyes open and inspires you through writing and life.
5. Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew by Ursula K. Le Guin
Le Guin compares writing to "steering a craft" down a river of words. She challenges your definition of a story, requiring you to see a story as "change." This can result from conflict, per Le Guin, but also "relating, finding, losing, bearing, discovering, [or] parting."
6. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
Both author and literary agent, Donald Maass offers practical guidance for the first-time novelist as well as already-published authors. He claims breakout novels contain the same elements regardless of genre and he can show you writing techniques to write the next big hit.
7. Story Genius: How to Outline Your Novel Using the Secrets of Brain Science by Lisa Cron
Using science-based insights, this book shows you how story structure is built into your brain and how to plumb the details to generate a story scene by scene. In fact, by the end, you’ll get a blueprint of how to write your best novel yet.
8. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers : How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne & Dave King
Two professional editors teach you the techniques of editing that turns manuscripts into published novels or short stories. You learn the same processes an expert editor goes through to perfect your manuscript. You’ll also find plenty of examples from hundreds of books they’ve edited.
9. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
Bringing together Zen meditation and writing uniquely, Goldberg believes that your writing practice is no different from your Zen practice. It’s backed by "two thousand years of studying the mind."
10. Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder
Told by a showbiz veteran, this book reveals the secrets you need to know to sell your script… if you can save the cat. This is just one of his immutable laws for making your idea more marketable and your script more compelling.
11. 45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt
Here you’ll find the most common male and female archetypes and instructions on how to use them to create original characters. Schmidt also includes how other authors used these archetypes to bring life to their novels, films, and television.
12. Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
This book is subtitled "A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies." For both fiction and nonfiction writers, Stein’s advice is good for newcomers or seasoned authors, amateurs and professionals.
13. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
This book of must-read essays on writing and creativity is full of inspiration from a master storyteller. Get practical tips on everything from finding original ideas to developing your own style and voice. You’ll also get a peek into Bradbury’s remarkable career.
14. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman
If one of your biggest problems is conveying your character’s emotions, read this book to learn how in a unique and compelling way. With 130 emotions highlighted, you’ll learn about possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each emotion.
15. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler
Says Vogler, "all stories consist of a few common structural elements found universally in myths, fairy tales, dreams, and movies." Based on psychological ideas from Carl Jung and myth ideas from Joseph Campbell, authors use this book to understand what sells and to uncover a blueprint to create their own stories.
16. Aspects of the Novel by E. M. Forster
This collection of Forster’s lectures given at Cambridge University in the 1920s helped writers discuss craft elements like flat and round characters, elements of plot, and others still in use today. You’ll find these essays particularly useful for thinking about plot.
17. Letters to a Young Writer by Colum McCann
National Book Award-winning author McCann shares his thoughts on craft, dialogue, characters, and even finding an agent and selecting an MFA program. This is today’s generation of writers’ fatherly guidance on living as a writer.
18. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
Have you ever heard of "Morning Pages"? This book guides you through a twelve-week process of building and strengthening your creative life by using her two tools—morning pages and the artist date. She also includes hundreds of inspiration exercises and activities to get you pumped.
19. The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman
Everything you need to know about the publishing industry, you’ll find in this book. Especially if you want a long-term career of writing, read this book for in-depth and current information to help position yourself. You’ll learn fundamental business principles as well as how to use digital tools and take advantage of online media.
20. Pep Talks for Writers by Grant Faulkner
Faulkner is the Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and he offers concrete writing tips. Unlike other books that give vague and artistic explanations, this book give you actionable advice on everything from career choices to plot decisions.
21. 2,000 to 10,000: How to Write Faster, Write Better, and Write More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron
Rachel Aaron explains exactly how she boosted her daily writing from 2,000 words to over 10,000 each day without sacrificing quality or increasing the time she had to write. Get practical writing advice to increase your daily output, among other areas like creating characters, plot structure, and more.
22. Write. Publish. Repeat: The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success by Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant
Whether you’re an experienced writer or a beginner, you can learn exactly how these two authors became wildly successful indie publishers. They show you how to turn what you love into a logical, sustainable business.
23. Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story by K. M. Weiland
Besides her best-selling book Outlining Your Novel , Weiland lays out an understanding of proper story and scene structure. This book helps you identify common structural weaknesses and flip them into amazing strengths.
24. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
You don’t need genius; just be yourself. Kleon claims creativity is everywhere and for everyone, and he gives you examples, exercises, and more to help you get in touch with your creative side. He also shares the 10 things he wishes someone had told him when he was starting out.
25. Your favorite dictionary/thesaurus
No list would be complete without your favorite dictionary/thesaurus combination. Whether you adhere to Oxford Dictionary all the way or you prefer Merriam-Webster, you can choose from tons of dictionaries/thesauruses online and in print to make sure you have the right word for every situation.
There are so many other great craft books out there that this list could conceivably double. What’s your go-to craft book that didn’t get mentioned? Let’s start a list in the comments below.
Looking for more Essential Reading lists? We've got you covered!
- The Best Mystery Novels of All Time
- The Best Dystopian Novels of All Time
- The Best Sci-Fi Novels of All Time
- The Best Historical Fiction Novels of All Time
- The Best Horror Novels of All Time
- The Best Thriller Novels of All Time
- The Best Romance Novels of All Time
- The Best Books Ever Written in Each Genre
Are you prepared to write your novel? Download this free book now:
The Novel-Writing Training Plan
So you are ready to write your novel. excellent. but are you prepared the last thing you want when you sit down to write your first draft is to lose momentum., this guide helps you work out your narrative arc, plan out your key plot points, flesh out your characters, and begin to build your world..
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Kathy Edens is a blogger, a ghost writer, and content master who loves writing about anything and everything. Check out her books The Novel-Writing Training Plan: 17 Steps to Get Your Ideas in Shape for the Marathon of Writing and Creating Legends: How to Craft Characters Readers Adore... or Despise.
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