There are no craft books that will write your material for you, but there are numerous to choose from that will inspire and improve your craft. Books on writing are a valuable reminder that writing is not easy and that craft is a life-long endeavor. Writing is often a lonely pursuit, and craft books remind us that we are part of a larger community of people who care about the written word and the art of story.
Here are seven of my favorite books books that will improve your craft, foster your skill and make you a better writer.
Story Genius by Lisa Cron
This is a step-by-step guide to writing based on the science behind what our brains crave in every story. This will help make you a better writer by showing you how to find the internal cause and effect that drives characters and thereby creates a sense of urgency and a powerful connection with readers.
The Art of Slow Writing by Louise DeSalvo
This book is like having a friend over for tea. Through short, conversational chapters, DeSalvo shows how to explore your creative process through self-reflection and deep immersion in your writing. She uses anecdotes from favorite writers and her own life to show that good writing takes time.
The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass
Like Story Genius, this book focuses on the reader’s emotional journey and what actually causes those emotional responses. Maass includes deep exercises involving your work in progress to find those third-level emotions, how to make small emotional moments impactful.
Just Write by James Scott Bell
I own three of James Scott Bell’s craft books but this is the one I pick up most often. It is a guide for developing ideas into something sustainable. Bell counsels an investment in practice while living and writing in the real world.
Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody
Based off the Save the Cat! screenwriting book by Blake Snyder, this uses the same principles to help with structure using “beats”, or plot points. This book will make a plotter out of you and teach you how to dissect your plot to make a blueprint for your novel.
Anything by Donald Maass is excellent. This one will improve your use of voice, setting and tension using examples from contemporary novels and providing practical exercises after each discussion. Maass is a loving taskmaster.
Naming the World edited by Bret Anthony Johnston
This is a writing exercise book but the tasks aren’t merely one-liner prompts. These are mini lessons/workshops hosted by an amazing collection of contemporary authors. This book will provide guidance and inspiration for work in progress as well as for new ideas.
About Autumn Shah
Autumn Shah is a personal essay and fiction writer. She lives in the burbs with her husband and two daughters. She works as a middle school library aide and is an avid reader of middle grade, YA and adult fiction and nonfiction. You can find her essays in various online literary journals and see what she's currently reading on Goodreads or Instagram