The best books to improve your prose writing and creation of fiction story

Who am I?

I am an author of literary fiction and nonfiction on the creative writing process. My passion is to provide resources for writers who want to create stories as artful literature that will last. A few years ago, I created a website that contains all my fiction and non-fiction, a newsletter, a workshop, and a blog. The website has received over five million visits. I've published six novels, thirty-seven short stories, thirty essays, twenty-six interviews, and dozens of literary quizzes. My fiction has received over fifty+ awards. I’ve written and presented an online video course: Creating Literary Story with Thinkific. I continue to serve writers who are eager to improve.


I wrote...

The Art of Creating Story

By William H. Coles,

Book cover of The Art of Creating Story

What is my book about?

An educative volume with essays about the process of creating fictional stories; interviews with authors, editors, publishers,(including a Pulitzer Prize winner) on the writing process; and original short stories that illustrate concepts and techniques of storytelling in prose. Major topics include characterization, narration, character-based plotting, dialogue, drama, point of view, significance, and revision.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Understanding Fiction

William H. Coles Why did I love this book?

Well-chosen stories with commentary that makes sense. A classic. Both authors were founders with others of The Fugitives, who published for a short time a literary magazine at Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tennessee. Both were giants in the expanding popularity of fiction writing. As a teacher of creative writing and creating great fiction stories, I have found the wisdom of these writers essential in nurturing writers to elevate their work and careers.

By Cleanth Brooks (editor), Robert Penn Warren (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Understanding Fiction as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ample collection of short stories, with essays, notes and questions for each.


Book cover of Creative Mythology

William H. Coles Why did I love this book?

This book, and others by Campbell, has valuable ideas about humanity and mythology that are endlessly useful to fiction writers. Not about craft. About stories. And you’ll get a sense of how stories shape our world. And it has the effects of myth on human existence, fascinating from both a historic and cultural perspective.

By Joseph Campbell,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Creative Mythology as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume explores the whole inner story of modern culture since the Dark Ages, treating modern man's unique position as the creator of his own mythology.


Book cover of The Rhetoric of Fiction

William H. Coles Why did I love this book?

Almost without argument, the most in-depth and illuminating text on narration in fiction writing. This book is essential to the library of any serious author of fiction. Written from the perception of a successful academic career, it has credible detail explained with creative insights into the writing process. A worthy addition to a library for reference throughout a writing career.

By Wayne C. Booth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Rhetoric of Fiction as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first edition of The Rhetoric of Fiction transformed the criticism of fiction and soon became a classic in the field. One of the most widely used texts in fiction courses, it is a standard reference point in advanced discussions of how fictional form works, how authors make novels accessible, and how readers recreate texts, and its concepts and terms-such as "the implied author," "the postulated reader," and "the unreliable narrator"-have become part of the standard critical lexicon.

For this new edition, Wayne C. Booth has written an extensive Afterword in which he clarifies misunderstandings, corrects what he now views…


Book cover of The Complete Notebooks of Henry James

William H. Coles Why did I love this book?

It’s fair to say Henry James not only wrote from a stilted, often arcane, time, and that he was verbose to the extreme, and arrogant beyond most contemporary readers’ tolerances. Yet, he created stories that have lasted and served as resources for some of the greatest films of our time: The Golden Bowl, The Wings of the Dove, and Washington Square, for example. The notebooks, in general, are tough reading, and are meant only for reference. But there is insight galore in the thinking of James about writing and the novel that can aid any writer’s career.

By Henry James, Leon Edel, Lyall H. Powers

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Complete Notebooks of Henry James as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

James's biographer and a leading James scholar provide the definitive edition of the writer's notebooks, which were discovered among his papers by Edel in 1937. Of the material here assembled, much was previously unpublished, including pocket diaries and dictated notes.


Book cover of Writers at Work, Second Series: the Paris Review Interviews, Second Series (Writers at Work)

William H. Coles Why did I love this book?

This is the second of four books of the collected interviews of famous authors from the Paris Review. Hemingway, Moore, Porter, Ellison, and Huxley are among the fourteen included in this book. Other books in the series include Forster, Faulkner, Warren, Bellow, Welty, Dinesen, Steinbeck, and many others. You may be amazed at how different successful writers are in their thinking about writing and success in their careers. In my studies in over a hundred workshops and many lectures and seminars, I was fortunate to meet and know teachers and students who knew, or studied, with many of these authors. Experiences that make me think you’d value most of Plimpton’s work in this series.

By George Plimpton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Writers at Work, Second Series as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

TWO BOOK OFFER. "Writers at Work -- The Paris Review Interviews: First Series and Second Series". Viking Press Paperbacks, copyrights 1957 and 1963; Compass Books Editions issued in1961 and 1965. First Series (Compass No. C52) 3rd printing Nov 1961, 309 pp. Second Series (Compass No. C175) 3rd printing July 1966, 368 pp. Both books size 7 3/4" by 5" by about 3/4". Bindings intact; no loose or missing pages; spines not creased. First Series volume is in only GOOD condition: covers and pages are clean and unmarked EXCEPT the covers show moderate shelf wear, the front cover opens wide, and…


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A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

By Janet Hulstrand,

Book cover of A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

Janet Hulstrand Author Of A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Reader Editor Francophile Minnesotan Once and forever Brooklynite

Janet's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

This memoir chronicles the lives of three generations of women with a passion for reading, writing, and travel. The story begins in 1992 in an unfinished attic in Brooklyn as the author reads a notebook written by her grandmother nearly 100 years earlier. This sets her on a 30-year search to find her grandmother’s journals and uncover the hidden interior lives of her mother and grandmother.

Her adventures take her to a variety of locations, from a small town in Iowa to New York, Washington, London, and Paris—and finally to a little village in France, where she is finally able to write the book that will tell her own story, intertwined with the stories of her mother and grandmother.

A Long Way from Iowa: From the Heartland to the Heart of France

By Janet Hulstrand,

What is this book about?

This story, about three generations of women with a passion for reading, writing, and travel, begins in 1992, in an unfinished attic in Brooklyn, as a young writer reads journals written by her grandmother as a schoolgirl nearly 100 years earlier. This sets her on a 30-year quest to uncover the hidden lives and unfulfilled dreams of her mother and grandmother. In this coming-of-middle-age memoir, the author comes to realize that the passion for travel and for literature that has fueled her life's journey is a gift that was passed down to her by the very role models she was…


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