100 books like Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction

By Patricia Highsmith,

Here are 100 books that Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction fans have personally recommended if you like Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Lloyd Sederer Author Of Caught in the Crosshairs of American Healthcare

From my list on books to read if you want to write the best of non-fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a psychiatrist and public health doctor, non-fiction writer, and lay and medical editor. For over 12 years, I have taught non-fiction writing for a general audience at Columbia medical and public health schools to physicians, neuroscientists, epidemiologists, psychologists, and other professionals. I have published 14 books and over 500 written articles and videos. I love to write and help others write...well.

Lloyd's book list on books to read if you want to write the best of non-fiction

Lloyd Sederer Why did Lloyd love this book?

Yes, the same Stephen King: Carrie, The Shining, Misery, and dozens more. Fiction? Yes–his memoir is among the best books for writing nonfiction, not the best of nonfiction books.

Writers of every genre suffer the same troubles, like doubt, rejections, not enough days when the work “flows”, procrastination, alcohol, and drug abuse, having to bow and beg (until your success reverses the tables), and so on. In On Writing, Mr. King gives us his story: "the good, the bad, and the ugly", of writing. 

Start with chapter 25 of “CV”, right to the meat of King’s memoir. Be sure you read his “Tool Box” for writing. From the “fundamentals” (e.g., read and write a lot, vocabulary, sentences, paragraphs) to the “craft” (e.g., subject, story-telling; clarity {again !}; people, personalities, and characters).  

Enjoy!

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

21 authors picked On Writing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Twentieth Anniversary Edition with Contributions from Joe Hill and Owen King

ONE OF TIME MAGAZINE’S TOP 100 NONFICTION BOOKS OF ALL TIME

Immensely helpful and illuminating to any aspiring writer, this special edition of Stephen King’s critically lauded, million-copy bestseller shares the experiences, habits, and convictions that have shaped him and his work.

“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the…


Book cover of Behind the Mystery

Peter Lovesey Author Of The Last Detective

From my list on the secrets of great mystery writing.

Why am I passionate about this?

My introduction to mystery writing was a competition for a first crime novel. I was lucky enough to win with Wobble to Death, about a Victorian long-distance race. When I went to collect the prize, I was startled to be asked if I was already at work on the next one. The publishers Macmillan had started a crime list and were looking for a career writer. I knew practically nothing about the genre and had to give myself a crash course. How I needed the support of books like these! After five years, I had the confidence to give up the day job and have made my living from mystery writing for almost fifty years. 

Peter's book list on the secrets of great mystery writing

Peter Lovesey Why did Peter love this book?

Here is a rare treat: a chance to see inside the homes and workplaces of seventeen great American authors and hear them questioned about their beginnings as writers and their work habits. It’s both a picture book and a series of dialogues. I have been fortunate enough to know and visit several of them personally - Sue Grafton, Evan Hunter, Sara Paretsky, and Donald Westlake - and it’s a joy to see and hear them again explaining their ways of writing a mystery. You soon realize how many different approaches are possible.   

By Laurie Roberts,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Behind the Mystery as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The past president of the Mystery Writers of America shares the results of his nationwide interviews with eighteen of the top mystery writers in the country, including Tony Hillerman, Mickey Spillane, Sara Paretsky, Martin Cruz Smith, Sue Grafton, and others.


Book cover of How to Write a Mystery: A Handbook from Mystery Writers of America

Peter Lovesey Author Of The Last Detective

From my list on the secrets of great mystery writing.

Why am I passionate about this?

My introduction to mystery writing was a competition for a first crime novel. I was lucky enough to win with Wobble to Death, about a Victorian long-distance race. When I went to collect the prize, I was startled to be asked if I was already at work on the next one. The publishers Macmillan had started a crime list and were looking for a career writer. I knew practically nothing about the genre and had to give myself a crash course. How I needed the support of books like these! After five years, I had the confidence to give up the day job and have made my living from mystery writing for almost fifty years. 

Peter's book list on the secrets of great mystery writing

Peter Lovesey Why did Peter love this book?

Although I’m a Brit, I joined the Mystery Writers of America early in my career and benefited enormously from the friendships I made. This newly published volume is a virtual encyclopedia of the advice their experts are willing to share. With more than seventy contributors, it covers the field and more, including mysteries for children, graphic novels, and true crime. None of it is treated as gospel. I laughed out loud when I found the chapter "Always Outline" by Jeffery Deaver, followed by "Never Outline" by Lee Child. Even the follow-up process of reaching out to readers is explained in "Building Your Community" by Louise Penny. This is a must-visit workshop for anyone serious about the craft.

By Mystery Writers of America,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked How to Write a Mystery as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the most successful mystery writers in the business, an invaluable guide to crafting mysteries-from character development and plot to procedurals and thrillers-a must-have for every aspiring mystery writer.

Mystery Writers of America (MWA) is known for providing unparalleled resources on the craft, art, and business of storytelling, helping writers of all levels improve their skills for nearly a century. Now, this new handbook helps authors navigate the ever-shifting publishing landscape-from pacing, plotting, the business side of publishing, to the current demand for diversity and inclusivity across all genres, and more.

Featuring essays by a new generation of bestselling experts…


Book cover of Howdunit: A Masterclass in Crime Writing by Members of the Detection Club

Peter Lovesey Author Of The Last Detective

From my list on the secrets of great mystery writing.

Why am I passionate about this?

My introduction to mystery writing was a competition for a first crime novel. I was lucky enough to win with Wobble to Death, about a Victorian long-distance race. When I went to collect the prize, I was startled to be asked if I was already at work on the next one. The publishers Macmillan had started a crime list and were looking for a career writer. I knew practically nothing about the genre and had to give myself a crash course. How I needed the support of books like these! After five years, I had the confidence to give up the day job and have made my living from mystery writing for almost fifty years. 

Peter's book list on the secrets of great mystery writing

Peter Lovesey Why did Peter love this book?

Founded in 1930, the Detection Club celebrated its ninetieth birthday with gems of advice from ninety of its members from the Golden Age onwards. Where else could you hear from Agatha Christie on the secrets of plotting, Dorothy L. Sayers on partners in crime and Margery Allingham on dialogue? Or the great spy writers, Ambler, Deighton and le Carre? The list of contributors reads like a history of the genre, right into the twenty-first century with the likes of Lindsey Davis, Val McDermid, Ann Cleeves, and Peter James. The mostly British line-up nicely complements the MWA book. As a long-standing member (from the days when Christie was our president) I have been privileged to hear from many of the greats about their struggles and successes. How pleasing that so many are included here. 

By Martin Edwards (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the H.R.F. Keating Award for best biographical/critical book related to crime fiction, and nominated for the Edgar Allen Poe and Macavity Awards for Best Critical/Biographical book.

Ninety crime writers from the world's oldest and most famous crime writing network give tips and insights into successful crime and thriller fiction.

Howdunit offers a fresh perspective on the craft of crime writing from leading exponents of the genre, past and present. The book offers invaluable advice to people interested in writing crime fiction, but it also provides a fascinating picture of the way that the best crime writers have honed…


Book cover of You Can't Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction

Dinty W. Moore Author Of Crafting The Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Non-Fiction

From my list on for essayists and memoirists.

Why am I passionate about this?

Dinty W. Moore is the author of the writing guides The Story Cure, Crafting the Personal Essay, and The Mindful Writer, among many other books. He has published essays and stories in Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, The Southern Review, Creative Nonfiction, and elsewhere, and has taught master classes and workshops on memoir and essay writing across the United States as well as in Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland, Canada, and Mexico.

Dinty's book list on for essayists and memoirists

Dinty W. Moore Why did Dinty love this book?

Gutkind founded the journal Creative Nonfiction and has been a tireless advocate of the CNF genre for decades, as a writer, teacher, public speaker, and publisher. His nuts and bolts guidebook, You Can't Make This Stuff Up, offers a wide-ranging examination of the craft of writing true stories – dialogue, description, beginnings, endings, intimate detail, reflection, point-of-view, framing – as well as clear and helpful chapters about forming a writing habit and learning to live one’s life as a writer. Gutkind has generously packed decades of wisdom and knowledge into perhaps the most comprehensive nonfiction guide available.

By Lee Gutkind,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked You Can't Make This Stuff Up as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From rags-to-riches-to-rags tell-alls to personal health sagas to literary journalism everyone seems to want to try their hand at creative nonfiction. Now, Lee Gutkind, the go-to expert for all things creative nonfiction, taps into one of the fastest-growing genres with this new writing guide. Frank and to-the-point, with depth and clarity, Gutkind describes and illustrates each and every aspect of the genre, from defining a concept and establishing a writing process to the final product. Offering new ways of understanding genre and invaluable tools for writers to learn and experiment with, You Can't Make This Stuff Up allows writers of…


Book cover of Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them

James R. Benn Author Of Road of Bones

From my list on essential books for writers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always wanted to write. It took years to get started, and after working in the library and information technology fields for over thirty-five years, I quit the day job routine in 2011 to write full time. I've learned two valuable lessons since I started writing which have been of immense help. The first is a quote from writer and activist Mary Heaton Vorse, who said, "The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair." The second is from novelist Rachel Basch, who told me that "the story has to move down, as well as forward." Both sound simple. Neither is.

James' book list on essential books for writers

James R. Benn Why did James love this book?

This title is unique among books on writing in that Prose devotes a full chapter to eight critical elements of writing: words, sentences, paragraphs, narration, character, dialog, details, and gesture. For example, she explores concepts such as first sentences and their impact on the narrative. Prose suggests that “close reading” is the key to understanding and learning about literature, for the reader and writer. She takes her readers on a guided tour of the tools and the tricks of the masters―Dostoyevsky, Flaubert, Kafka, Austen, Dickens, Woolf, Chekhov―and discusses why these writers have endured. Throughout, she cautions readers to slow down and pay attention to words, the raw material out of which literature is crafted. One of the most important books on writing I have ever read.

By Francine Prose,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Reading Like a Writer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In her entertaining and edifying New York Times bestseller, acclaimed author Francine Prose invites you to sit by her side and take a guided tour of the tools and tricks of the masters to discover why their work has endured. Written with passion, humour and wisdom, Reading Like a Writer will inspire readers to return to literature with a fresh eye and an eager heart - to take pleasure in the long and magnificent sentences of Philip Roth and the breathtaking paragraphs of Isaac Babel; to look to John le Carre for a lesson in how to advance plot through…


Book cover of Sing Me the Creation: Creative Writing Sourcebook

Leon Conrad Author Of Story and Structure: A complete guide

From my list on writing without killing creativity.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a writer, I love words and am continuously fascinated by the way they work. In terms of writing manuals, I particularly value the work of writers who combine knowledge and understanding of writing techniques while also providing inspiration and keys to freeing the imagination. I’ve found these books brilliantly complement my professional interest in story structure and how story works, and match my own approach to combining theory with practice; craft with art in my work on story. I hope you find they inspire creativity in you, too.

Leon's book list on writing without killing creativity

Leon Conrad Why did Leon love this book?

I picked up this book as the title sounded interesting, but it sat on my bookshelves for over five years before I delved into it. Since then, it’s become one of my favourite guides to writing. It’s described as ‘probably the most unusual guidebook for creative writing in the world.’ It’s full of insights such as ‘grammar is a mapping of the human soul,’ or ‘the social word… is serious play.’ The play takes place in a field with the four ‘great human virtues’ at its corners: beauty, good will, truth, and openness. It’s a ‘sourcebook of spells’ that have the power to ‘carry you into that place of the heart from which true language comes.’

By Paul Matthews,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sing Me the Creation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is an inspirational workbook of creative writing exercises for poets and teachers, and for all who wish to develop the life of the imagination. Paul Mathews gives us permission to indulge our fantasy, and then, when that life is flowing, provides the tools to craft it into poetry and song. There are over 300 exercises for improving writing skills, for self study. They are also ideally suited for group work with adults. Teachers will find these exercises popular with students.


Book cover of Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel

John Gaspard Author Of The Ambitious Card

From my list on for writers who want to write scripts.

Why am I passionate about this?

I started making movies at age 13; to make a movie, you need a script, so I became a screenwriter by default. A dozen low-budget movies (and a couple of TV scripts) later, I started writing fiction: Two mystery series, (The Eli Marks mysteries and The Como Lake Players mysteries), four stand-alone novels, plus a couple of filmmaking “How To” books followed. Over the years, I’ve always searched out the best ideas on how to write, and how to write well. If I were to teach a course on writing, the five books I’ve listed would comprise the reading list.

John's book list on for writers who want to write scripts

John Gaspard Why did John love this book?

To be honest, I sort of threw a dart at Lawrence Block’s books on writing and hit this one. You’d benefit from the others just as much (Write for YourLif Life, Telling Lies for Fun & Profit, The Liar’s Bible). 

Or read any of his fiction. I started down the Block path with his Matthew Scudder series, but it’s his “Burglar” books that had the greatest influence on my Eli Marks mystery series. But don’t overlook his darkly funny Keller series, about a hitman with a heart (and a love of stamp collecting). And, if you’re into audiobooks, grab any of his books that Block narrates himself. He’s pretty good at it!

By Lawrence Block,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"WRITING THE NOVEL FROM PLOT TO PRINT TO PIXEL is like having a pocket-sized mentor you can consult any time. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.”—Alex Kourvo, Writing Slices

Lawrence Block is almost as well known for his instructional books for writers and his 14 years as a monthly contributor to "Writers Digest," as he is as a bestselling author and MWA Grand Master. WRITING THE NOVEL, his first book for writers, has remained continuously in print since its original appearance in 1978. Recently revised and expanded, each chapter has been updated, and Block has included essential…


Book cover of Writing Fiction, Tenth Edition: A Guide to Narrative Craft

James R. Benn Author Of Road of Bones

From my list on essential books for writers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always wanted to write. It took years to get started, and after working in the library and information technology fields for over thirty-five years, I quit the day job routine in 2011 to write full time. I've learned two valuable lessons since I started writing which have been of immense help. The first is a quote from writer and activist Mary Heaton Vorse, who said, "The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair." The second is from novelist Rachel Basch, who told me that "the story has to move down, as well as forward." Both sound simple. Neither is.

James' book list on essential books for writers

James R. Benn Why did James love this book?

Now in its tenth edition, this book is for committed writers only. A highly valuable textbook on the writing process, Burroway covers story form, plot, structure, building character, place, and setting, and takes a detailed look at point of view. Each section comes with examples of how things do and do not work, as well as providing a list of suggested readings and writing prompts for further study. This book is a master class in creative writing that also calls on us to renew our love of storytelling and to celebrate the skill of writing well.

By Janet Burroway, Ned Stuckey-French,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

More than a quarter million copies sold!

A creative writer's shelf should hold at least three essential books: a dictionary, a style guide, and Writing Fiction. Janet Burroway's best-selling classic is the most widely used creative writing text in America, and for more than three decades it has helped hundreds of thousands of students learn the craft. Now in its tenth edition, Writing Fiction is more accessible than ever for writers of all levels-inside or outside the classroom.

This new edition continues to provide advice that is practical, comprehensive, and flexible. Burroway's tone is personal and nonprescriptive, welcoming learning writers…


Book cover of Structuring Your Novel

Valerie Howard Author Of Deep Blue Sea

From my list on for indie authors working to improve their craft.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a published indie author since 2011, and I enjoy reading and studying the craft to make my work the best it can be. I have a passion for indie authors and indie publishing, and I love the flexibility this type of authorship gives me while I homeschool my two young boys, run a non-profit organization, and volunteer at my church.

Valerie's book list on for indie authors working to improve their craft

Valerie Howard Why did Valerie love this book?

I can never read too many books about how to structure the overall plot of a novel because I’m a by-the-book plotter. K.M. Weiland brilliantly explains in a down-to-earth way how to make your story work so you are never confused about which plot points should go where in your story, no matter if you plot to the nth degree or like to see where the story takes you with minimal planning.

By K.M. Weiland,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Structuring Your Novel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Is Structure the Hidden Foundation of All Successful Stories?

Why do some stories work and others don’t? The answer is structure. In this award-winning guide from the author of the acclaimed Outlining Your Novel, you will learn the universal underpinnings that guarantee powerful plot and character arcs. An understanding of proper story and scene structure will show you how to perfectly time your story’s major events and will provide you with an unerring standard against which to evaluate your novel’s pacing and progression. Structuring Your Novel will show you:

How to determine the best techniques for empowering your unique and…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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