The 10 most inspiring, enjoyable books about how to write 

Most people know what a story is until they sit down to write one,” the great short story writer Flannery O’Connor once wrote. When it comes to good writing, we can tend towards a romantic vision of it being an unexplainable, inimitable act of divine intervention. It can be inspiring – and often unpalatable – to be reminded that the best writing is more often the result of hard and constant work.

Even if the last thing you are planning on doing in lockdown is writing a novel, here are some of the best guides on writing: how to do it, how it works and how to be inspired to start.

Source: From Stephen King to Anne Lamott: the 10 most inspiring, enjoyable books about how to write | Books | The Guardian

At my age, I seldom read how-to-write books any more because I tend to improve my output by just doing it.

Those who are younger than me–and that’s mostly everyone–might find both practical help and inspiration from the books on this list. Consider starting your quest with On Writing by Stephen King. It has a lot of fans–and for good reason.

One book I’d add to this list is Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. As an agent, Maass knows what sells as well as what writers are doing to submit manuscripts he and other agents will spend time reading.

Enjoy the books.



7 thoughts on “The 10 most inspiring, enjoyable books about how to write 

  1. I, like you, feel I’ve got plenty ‘how to’ books on writing now. However, ‘On Writing’ is one of my favourites. Somebody gave me my first copy: I wish I could remember who and thank them again! It doesn’t seem to set out to teach you anything, yet by the end you feel you not only have a handle on the writing you are trying to do, but also on Stephen King.

    I was surprised not to see ‘Writing down the bones’ by Natalie Goldberg on the list. That is a rich resource to which I still return. Perhaps it’s too old to have any currency now. I know writing goes through phases, but well put together, engaging, writing will, surely, always be in vogue?

    1. I used to rely on an old book by Eastman having to do with style and outlook. It’s out of fashion now and probably long out of print. I suppose most of us will have our favorites that no longer appear on these kinds of lists. King’s book was a surprise to me because somehow I didn’t see a horror novelist writing that kind of book; he fooled me!

  2. Story Genius (#8) is the one SNHU requires in the thesis block. Her premise is that the “real” story is the internal struggle/growth/change of the protagonist, because that’s what keeps the reader invested. Lots of good food for thought (of course, with my professional history, I would like it …).

  3. Story Genius is by Lisa Cron, Melinda? I like that take on the hero’s journey: that it can be perfectly valid as an internal one, rather than dragon-slaying etc.

    1. Yep, Lisa Cron. I’m typically pretty cynical when it comes to “how to write” books, but I appreciate a lot of what she has to say. It’s definitely been helpful when I’ve had to encourage my students to dig a little deeper with their character development.

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