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Best Books on Writing: Top 5 Picks

Black Dragon

In your journey as a writer, what 5 books have proven to be most helpful to you? Share your top 5 picks.

Here's my list:
  1. On Writing by Stephen King
  2. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
  3. Wired for Story by Lisa Cron
  4. The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall
  5. The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler
What books are on your list?


Article Team
I haven't really read all that many books on writing, so it's a short list.

  1. Save the Cat by Blake Snyder (screenwriting)
  2. The Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joseph Sugarman (copywriting)
I've read a few more, but the above two are the only ones I can point to and say that "this book taught me something."


Myth Weaver
I have read Steven King's, 'On Writing,' but other than some small areas, I would not likely go back to it. I read another from an author named Zinnser, called 'On Writing Well', and my recollection was that it was long winded and did not get to the point.

For me, I have always found the thinner books that get to the point quickly are more useful.

I liked 'The first five pages' by Noah Lukeman, and another one by him called 'A dash of Style'.

I also kept a number of books from a 'You can Write' series, by FW press. (You can write a romance, you can write a mystery...)

I kept a few books on grammar...Strunk and Whites, 'elements of style'

And I suppose a few reference books which I don't have in front of me at the moment.

For my purposes, I just want to them to get to the point, and show it quickly. My experience has been the thinner the book is, the more likely that happens.
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Ned Marcus

There's another thread on this, but here are my top books. Most of them focus on story.
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.
The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

Also worth reading are:
Into the Woods by John Yorke.
How Not to Write a Novel by Mittelmark and Newman.
The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner.

I could never enjoy Stephen King's book On Writing, but I've never enjoyed his writing either.


Great thread, I'm always on the hunt for my next craft book. I enjoyed On Writing, but I was disappointed it didn't have any writing advice, it's more like a memoir and I found his journey fascinating.

I'm going to say:

1. Save the Cat Writes a Novel
2. Story engineering by Larry Brooks
3. Dazzling Dialogue by James Scott Bell (anything by him)
4. Activate by Damon Suede (a thesaurus of verbs, plus his Verbalize)
5. Million Dollar Outlines by David Farland (he taught Brandon Sanderson, Stephanie Mayer and the author of Mazerunner.)

I also have Into the Woods by John Yorke to read next.

I also second The Emotion Thesaurus, Writing the Breakout Novel and Save the Cat.
Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer has some wonderful world building exercises and tips. Also very interestingly illustrated. But I would say it’s a book for creativity and fantasy more so than the craft of writing
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Myth Weaver
Hmm, Self Editing for Fiction Writers
The Story Grid
Story by McKee
First Five Pages
And Breakout Novel or other book by Maas, they’re good but get repetitive.

Lots of good books, but not that many which are cover to cover all that useful.


Booklife by Jeff Vandermeer got me off my butt and writing seriously
Writing the Other by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward - I think this is required reading
The Art & Craft of the Short Story by Rick DeMarinis was very helpful getting my short fiction moving.
The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray showed me it was possible to write a novel in a year with a full-time job.
Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin is a discussion about improving craft without pretentiousness.