10 books like Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction

By Patricia Highsmith,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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On Writing

By Stephen King,

Book cover of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

When I purchased this book, I bought it to help with tips on writing. I didn’t realize before the section about the craft of writing, King penned a memoir about his life as a boy who loved to write. He told the story as if we were sitting at a coffee shop sharing our stories like friends do. He writes like he talks using some crude words, but not pretending to be anyone but a regular guy who grew up to become a writer. I appreciated how his memoir helps readers and writers to understand the influence those life experiences have on the work a writer creates. You need not be a writer in the horror genre to appreciate this inspiring book. 

On Writing

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

12 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…


Behind the Mystery

By Laurie Roberts,

Book cover of Behind the Mystery

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.   

Behind the Mystery

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.


How to Write a Mystery

By Mystery Writers of America,

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

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.

How to Write a Mystery

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…


Howdunit

By Martin Edwards (editor),

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

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. 

Howdunit

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…


Making Comics

By Lynda Barry,

Book cover of Making Comics

This is an excellent textbook to get readers and comic makers of all experience levels to loosen up, think deeply and personally, and make better, more confident comics. It’s warm but practical, smart but approachable, deep but unpretentious. This is a comics veteran generously sharing both her knowledge of comics and teaching, as well as her own methods for drawing, brainstorming, and writing. It’s an incredible resource and one I often find myself quoting and recommending to my own students. 

Making Comics

By Lynda Barry,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Making Comics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hello students, meet Professor Skeletor. Be on time, don t miss class, and turn off your phones. No time for introductions, we start drawing right away. The goal is more rock, less talk, and we communicate only through images. For more than five years the cartoonist Lynda Barry has been an associate professor in the University of Wisconsin Madison art department and at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, teaching students from all majors, both graduate and undergraduate, how to make comics, how to be creative, how to not think. There is no academic lecture in this classroom. Doodling is enthusiastically…


Steering the Craft

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Book cover of Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew

As with Madeleine L’Engle, everything I’ve read by Ursula K. Le Guin—fiction as well as nonfiction—has radically influenced my writing and my teaching of writing. In fact, her impact on my creative awakening was so profound that I sent her a copy of my first book as a thank you! Steering the Craft is filled with wisdom and exercises for both new and seasoned writers, but perhaps the most liberating for blocked writers is her controversial view that “story” is defined by “change” not “conflict.” That’s especially welcoming for writers who feel hemmed in (and, perhaps, blocked) by the traditional definition.

Steering the Craft

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ursula K. Le Guin generously shares the accumulated wisdom of a lifetime's work.


Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel

By Lawrence Block,

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

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!

Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel

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…


Story Trumps Structure

By Steven James,

Book cover of Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules

Story Trumps Fiction is a non-fiction book that encourages you to tear up the rule book when it comes to plotting and planning a novel. I’m a plotter at heart, but this book offers some thought-provoking arguments for writing organically, to craft exciting and surprising plots. It’s written by an award-winning novelist, so he’s ideally placed to offer great advice on how to make a story more powerful, emotional, and gripping. I recommend it for both novice writers and more experienced ones, too.

Story Trumps Structure

By Steven James,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Story Trumps Structure as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Don't limit your fiction - LIBERATE IT

All too often, following the "rules" of writing can constrict rather than inspire you. With Story Trumps Structure, you can shed those rules - about three-act structure, rising action, outlining, and more - to craft your most powerful, emotional, and gripping stories.

Award-winning novelist Steven James explains how to trust the narrative process to make your story believable, compelling, and engaging, and debunks the common myths that hold writers back from creating their best work.

   • Ditch your outline and learn to write organically.
   • Set up promises for readers - and deliver…


You Can't Make This Stuff Up

By Lee Gutkind,

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

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.

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

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…


Writing Fiction, Tenth Edition

By Janet Burroway, Ned Stuckey-French,

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

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.

Writing Fiction, Tenth Edition

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…


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