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Best books on writing fiction

In a couple of threads I've mentioned one or two books on the technicalities of writing that I've personally found very helpful.

I thought I'd start a list of potentially useful books on writing, and see if anyone else wants to add to them. :)

Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer - a good general comprehensive introduction to writing, covering issues from basic to advanced.

Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler - details the three act structure, not least in reference to the Hero's Journey. Possibly of most use to fantasy writers.

Save the Cat by Blake Snyder - although it talks about principles of screenwriting, it's focus on use of conflict and development of character story arcs is invaluable for character creation in any media format - especially the novel.

The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack M Bickham - a good general guide to major issues that might be undermining your manuscript. This covers so many basis issues that many aspiring writers fall into without realising.
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Felis amatus
The First Five Pages, by Noah Lukeman.

Also, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by I can't recall who.
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Myth Weaver
The best book on how to write fiction I have ever read was "Slave Girl of Gor". I think I got 50 pages in, threw it away and thought I can do better than that.
Some people must like it but I thought it terrible on so many levels.
Every day in every way I try to be better and better...


I found "Conflict and Suspense" by Jams Scott Bell a useful read on the basics of creating tension and drive in your narrative, and overall writing and plotting. I believe he mostly known as a thriller/suspense writer, but there are definitely useful takeaways for every genre. He also has a book about writing and plot in general, but reviews said it overlaps a lot with this one so I haven't purchased it.
Thanks for your recs, guys and gals.


I read an article by a literary agent recently recommending the Lukeman book for tips on making sure your submissions give a good first impression, thought that's a pretty good endorsement.

Jim Aikin

Here's my list (which I posted not long ago on my blog):

Scott Meredith, Writing to Sell (out of print). Meredith is a terrible Philistine. He doesn’t give a crap about art. But if you want to sell books, this is a great resource.

Jean Z. Owen, Professional Fiction Writing (out of print). A fine all-around introduction to basic techniques.

Hallie & Whit Burnett, Fiction Writer’s Handbook.

Noah Lukeman, The First Five Pages.

Orson Scott Card, Characters & Viewpoint.

Ansen Dibell, Plot.

John Gardner, The Art of Fiction.

And of course, less about technique than about whatever he feels like saying about writing, Telling Lies for Fun & Profit by Lawrence Block.


Article Team
I'll second Card's Characters and Viewpoint

and add

Elements of Fiction: Scene and Structure
Save the Cat Book on Screen Writing
My Story Can Beat Up Your Story


I actually have the Wonderbook, but haven't sat down to take a good hard look at it. Thanks for this! I'll check the others out too.

Ned Marcus

Oh, I love lists of books. I've read maybe seventy or eighty books on writing and storytelling (plus another hundred or so on marketing).

Here are some of my favourites:

Into the Woods by John Yorke.
Story by Robert McKee.
Story Engineering by Larry Brooks.
The Anatomy of Story by John Truby.
A Story is a Promise & The Spirit of Storytelling by Bill Johnson.
How Not to Write a Novel by Mittelmark and Newman.
The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner.

Okay, that will do for now.