Favorite Writing Books

Over the last few years, Becca and I have read many writing books together, sharing our impressions and insights on each via email. It’s been a wonderful way to learn more about writing and often if one of us became unclear on a particular concept, the other would be able to offer the missing key that clarified it into an Ah-ha! moment.

Looking at my bookshelf, I mulled over which books on writing I just couldn’t live without. Here are my favs:

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (Renni Browne & Dave King) This one is literally my bible when I revise. My copy is pretty banged up from use, and I can’t say enough good about it.

Description (Monica Wood). Again, this book has helped me immensely. Vivid and relevant description and how to get it across to the reader through setting, central metaphors and language choices makes it a fantastic book. This book really delves into Showing and telling and how (and when) to do each effectively. I reread this book often.

On Writing (Stephen King) I am a great admirer of Stephen King. I see him as a master at his craft and so much more than ‘that horror writer.’ I like the autobiographical nature of this book and seeing how he’s drawn from his own life experiences to create incredible circumstances from ordinary life events and characters. I find his tell-it-as-it-is style refreshing and his story inspirational.

Writing the Breakout Novel (Donald Maass) This book is a must-have for anyone struggling with adding tension and high stakes to your story. He’s a firm believer on having conflict on every page, and he shows you how to do it. Incidentally, if you ever get a chance to hear Donald Maass speak at a conference, GO. He’s amazing in person as well.

So what are your I-can’t-live-without-this-writing-aid books? Tell us your favorites and why!


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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12 years ago

This is great–you guys have just showed me my summer reading list! Woot!

Rick Baker
12 years ago

Two of my favorites are:

Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
On Writing by Stephen King

Bish Denham
12 years ago

Zen and the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury.
Take Joy by Jane Yolen
And the book that, after many years of blank pages got me back into writing:
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Mary Witzl
12 years ago

I’ve also gotten a lot out of Stephen King’s book, and I think he is a fine writer.

There was a series a while back called Writers on Writing in the New York Times. I liked that a lot and got a lot out of it. And I’ve got ‘The Writers’ Guide to Getting Published’ by Chriss McCallum, and a few others, including my beloved thesaurus.

Then there is your Emoticon!

12 years ago

Great list. I think the only one I’m missing is Description. At least, it’s not ringing any bells. But I have a large collection of craft books. It’s one of my favorite ways to procrastinate.

Catherine J Gardner
12 years ago

I must admit I’ve only read ‘Stephen King’s’ book.

12 years ago

I’ll have to check out ‘Reading like a Writer’ and ‘Bird by Bird.’ I’ve heard good things about Bird by Bird especially, and could use some inspiration just now. Thanks for all the great adds to the list, guys. Now when we need a great writing book, we can just peruse the comments!

12 years ago

The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman

12 years ago

I have to second Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

And I’ve heard great things about Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. I’ve got it on my bedside table, but haven’t gotten to it yet.

12 years ago

My favorite book on writing is Robert’s Rules of Writing by Robert Masello.

Also, I don’t know if this counts, but Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves is a great book.

C.R. Evers
12 years ago

I listened to “On Writing” By Stephen King on CD in the car. I felt like I was getting one on one personal dialogue. It was very inspirational. And to be honest. I’ve never read his work. I just figured he must know a thing or two about writing, considering his popularity, so I thought I’d see what he had to say about writing in general. Listening to this CD makes me want to read some of his works.

Right now I’m reading “Reading like a Writer” by Francine Prose. There are some very insightful sections in this book, though I must admit I’m not done yet.


12 years ago

I don’t really have one but SO MANY PEOPLE have recced SK’s On Writing to me so this just might be the blog post that pushes me over the edge. 🙂

12 years ago

Stephen King’s and Donald Maass’ books, plus Jessica Morrell’s “Between the Lines” and Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird”.

I’ve heard much good stuff about “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers”, so I think that’ll have to be my next purchase! 🙂

12 years ago

Creating Characters Kids Will Love – by Elaine Marie Alphin

Children’s Writer’s Word Book (1st & 2nd edition) by Alijandra Mogilner & Tayopa Mogilner

The Complete Idot’s Guide t Publishing Children’s Books by Harold D. Underdown & Lynne Rominger

You Can Write Children’s Books by Tracey E Dils


I will have to check out these other books that have been listed…

Thanks! Brenda (Lilfix – Blue Board)

12 years ago

I’ve read most of those but will have to look for ‘Stein on writing’ and ‘Plot and Structure.’

Thesauruses totally count–I should have added ‘Grammar for Dummies’ because that book really helped me out, explaining grammar in idiot-like terms that the grammatically challenged such as myself could comprehend.

I don’t use a book thesaurus, but I do have a FAB online resource…have you ever used this:




They are excellent! I would probably crawl into a hole and die if they ever left the WWW.

12 years ago

Okay, your first one is my first one, too. We’re studying that book right now. I also need a thesaurus. I don’t guess that’s a writing book (technically), but it sure does help with my poetry and finding fabulous adjectives to replace boring ones.

I’m going to ask for Writing the Breakout Novel (Maas) and Plot and Structure (Bell) for my anniversary, I think. It will take the pressure off my hubby to find the “perfect” gift and help me at the same time. 🙂

12 years ago

Stein on Writing by Sol Stein
The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman
The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman
The Children’s Writer’s Word Book

There might be a couple others I’m forgetting, but if I think of them then I’ll be back. 🙂