Creative Writing Self-Help Books

Maybe it's just me, but sometimes it helps to make up a story about imaginary people . . .

Recommended Self-Help Books on Creative Writing

The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers by John GardnerThe Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers

" . . . fiction does its work by creating a dream in the reader's mind." This dream, Gardner points out, must be vivid (filled with evocative detail) and continuous (so that the reader is not "awakened" from his dream by awkward writing, inaccuracies, or plot details that do not fit). "The Art of Fiction will fascinate anyone interested in how fiction gets put together. For the young writer, it will become a necessary handbook, a stern judge, an encouraging friend." The New York Times Book Review. 1991, Vintage

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by anne LamottBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

A 50 Greatest Self Help Book

If you intend to read only one book on writing, then this is it. Bird by Bird is famous for Lamott's encouraging description of the writer's job: all one has to do is to write a "shitty first draft." She deepens the encouragement by revealing that all the successful published writers she knows, including herself, also write shitty first drafts. This is a very funny and profound self-help book, useful for writers, partners of writers and anyone interested in being introspective about life. 1995, Anchor Books

The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah LukemanThe First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile

The difference between The First Five Pages and most books on writing is that the others are written by teachers and writers. This one comes from a literary agent whose clients include Pulitzer Prize nominees, best-selling authors and American Book Award winners. Lukeman reveals a surprising fact: agents and editors don't read manuscripts for fun; they are looking for reasons to reject them. He has arranged this self-help book "in the order of what I look for when trying to dismiss a manuscript," starting with presentation and concluding with pacing and progression. Each chapter addresses a pitfall of poor writing -- overabundance of adjectives and adverbs for example, identifying the problem, presenting solutions and offering writing exercises. A very useful book for writers seeking publication. 2000, Fireside

From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction by Robert Olen ButlerFrom Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction

Pulitzer-winning novelist Butler teaches a creative writing class known as "bootcamp" because of the intense creative demands he places on students. Butler exhorts his students to get out of their heads and into the world of the senses, which he posits as the seat of the emotions. Butler shares his insights into - and passion for - the creation and experience of fiction with total openness. This is a gift to all seriously aspiring writers. 2006, Grove Press

On Writing by Stephen KingOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Stephen King's On Writing really contains two books: a fondly sardonic autobiography and a tough-love lesson for aspiring novelists. The memoir is terrific stuff, a vivid description of how a writer grew out of a misbehaving kid. He gives you a whole writer's "tool kit": a reading list, writing assignments, a corrected story, and nuts-and-bolts advice on dollars and cents, plot and character, the basic building block of the paragraph, and literary models. 2010, Scribner; 10th Anniversary Edition

Reading like a Writer by Francine ProseReading Like a Writer: A Guide for People who Love Books and for Those who Want to Write Them

The trick to writing, Prose writes, is reading - carefully, deliberately and slowly. While this might seem like a no-brainer, Prose masterfully meditates on how quality reading informs great writing. Chapters treat the nuts and bolts of writing as well as issues of craft, all of which Prose discusses using story or novel excerpts. 2006, HarperCollins

13 Ways of Looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley13 Ways of Looking at the Novel

Pulitizer Prize winner and best selling novelist Jane Smiley celebrates the novel - and takes us on an exhilarating tour through 100 of them - in this seductive and immensely rewarding literary tribute. She explores the power of the novel, looking at its history and variety, its cultural impact, and just how it works its magic. She invites us behind the scenes of novel-writing, sharing her own habits and spilling the secrets of her craft. 2006, Anchor

Writers on Writing by John DarntonWriters on Writing: Collected Essays from the New York Times

Brief chapters by many well-known writers are filled with encouragement, reflection, and introspection on the experience of writing. A good place to turn for comfort and reassurance. 2001, Henry Holt

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie GoldberyWriting Down the Bones

A premier teacher of writing describes her "proprioceptive" writing approach, one that is grounded in the bodily experiences of the writer, in order to connect most powerfully with the reader's experience. Goldberg suggests that many of the rules for good writing and good sex and the same: "keep your hand moving, lose control and don't think." The book's exercises are designed to ease you into your body and your whole spirit while you create from where you are with what you have, writing from the present moment. 2005, Shambhala; Expanded edition

Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway and Susan WeinbergWriting Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft

The most widely used and respected self-help book on writing fiction, Burroway and Weinberg guide the writer from first inspiration to final revision. Supported by an abundance of exercises, this guide explores and integrates the elements of fiction while offering practical techniques and concrete examples. The book also discusses key issues including writing workshops, using autobiography as a basis for fiction, using action in stories, using dialogue, and maintaining point of view. 2010, Longman 

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray BradburyZen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity

This much-loved classic on the pleasures of writing from one of the most creative, imaginative and prolific artists of the twentieth century is filled with personal anecdotes to inspire both beginning and seasoned writers alike. Bradbury takes you on mind journeys into his past, showing his development as a writer and practical techniques he has evolved over his seventy-year writing career. 1994, Joshua Odell Editions