The best creative writing books

11 authors have picked their favorite books about creative writing and why they recommend each book.

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A Stranger's Journey

By David Mura,

Book cover of A Stranger's Journey: Race, Identity, and Narrative Craft in Writing

Master teacher David Mura’s A Stranger's Journey addresses long-overlooked issues of race and identity in publishing and in the standard teaching of creative writing and he brilliantly advocates for a more inclusive and expansive definition of writing craft. Though this book is partly aimed at educators, he offers incredibly useful craft lessons as well, primarily through his deft analysis of work done by writers ranging from James Baldwin to Mary Karr to ZZ Packer. In a world that no longer accepts the notion that our greatest authors have to be “dead white men,” Mura offers a necessary window into the intersection of race, literature, and culture.


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Crafting The Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Non-Fiction

By Dinty W. Moore,

Book cover of Crafting The Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Non-Fiction

What is my book about?

Award winning essayist Scott Russell Sanders once compared the art of essay writing to "the pursuit of mental rabbits"—a rambling through thickets of thought in search of some brief glimmer of fuzzy truth. While some people persist in the belief that essays are stuffy and antiquated, the truth is that the personal essay is an ever-changing creative medium that provides an ideal vehicle for satisfying the human urge to document truths as we experience them and share them with others—to capture a bit of life on paper.

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.


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Crafting The Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Non-Fiction

By Dinty W. Moore,

Book cover of Crafting The Personal Essay: A Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Non-Fiction

What is my book about?

Award winning essayist Scott Russell Sanders once compared the art of essay writing to "the pursuit of mental rabbits"—a rambling through thickets of thought in search of some brief glimmer of fuzzy truth. While some people persist in the belief that essays are stuffy and antiquated, the truth is that the personal essay is an ever-changing creative medium that provides an ideal vehicle for satisfying the human urge to document truths as we experience them and share them with others—to capture a bit of life on paper.

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel

By Jessica Brody,

Book cover of Save the Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last Book on Novel Writing You'll Ever Need

This book teaches the secrets of storytelling and story structure from a popular screenplay perspective. When I start a new novel, this is the first book I reach for every time. It teaches how to keep your story engaging to readers and how to best structure the overall plot so your story flows beautifully throughout and ends with satisfaction.


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Deep Blue Sea

By Valerie Howard, Alex McGilvery,

Book cover of Deep Blue Sea

What is my book about?

Jamie Walker has a secret. And she'll do anything to keep it that way. Her missing cousin's cold case has been reopened at the worst time. And by the worst person: a hotshot detective from New York striving to close his 100th case. As the detective gets closer and closer to uncovering the truth of what happened all those years ago, Jamie will go to any lengths to make sure this dusty mystery is one he'll never solve.

Plagued by her guilty conscience, Jamie searches for forgiveness, finding an unlikely ally in a pastor she interviews for her magazine's monthly cover article. Will Pastor Byron Mitchell let Jamie in on the key to lifelong peace before her dark past drags her to drown in the depths of despair?

Structuring Your Novel

By K.M. Weiland,

Book cover of Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story

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.

Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Deep Blue Sea

By Valerie Howard, Alex McGilvery,

Book cover of Deep Blue Sea

What is my book about?

Jamie Walker has a secret. And she'll do anything to keep it that way. Her missing cousin's cold case has been reopened at the worst time. And by the worst person: a hotshot detective from New York striving to close his 100th case. As the detective gets closer and closer to uncovering the truth of what happened all those years ago, Jamie will go to any lengths to make sure this dusty mystery is one he'll never solve.

Plagued by her guilty conscience, Jamie searches for forgiveness, finding an unlikely ally in a pastor she interviews for her magazine's monthly cover article. Will Pastor Byron Mitchell let Jamie in on the key to lifelong peace before her dark past drags her to drown in the depths of despair?

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!


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

The Ambitious Card

By John Gaspard,

Book cover of The Ambitious Card

What is my book about?

Magician Eli Marks is the top suspect in a series of murders. His greatest trick? Not becoming the next victim. Psychics are being murdered and all the clues point to magician Eli Marks. What begins as a simple Halloween magic show turns into a deadly cat-and-mouse encounter as the body count rises while Eli frantically attempts to clear his name.

“This is a hugely entertaining crime novel, packed full of comedy. Do read it!”—FictionFan’s Book Reviews

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.


Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by books since a young age. Not just reading the stories but also how they’re written, the cover design, literary agents, and the publishing industry in general. I’ve written five novels (four of which are USA Today bestsellers) and my work has been translated into twenty-five languages worldwide. My second novel, Rise & Shine, Benedict Stone, was made into a Hallmark movie in 2021. I still get excited about generating ideas for characters to take on unusual and joyous journeys of discovery. I’m a huge fan of reading books about the craft of writing, and I especially love novels about bookshops and libraries.


I wrote...

The Messy Lives of Book People

By Phaedra Patrick,

Book cover of The Messy Lives of Book People

What is my book about?

A heart-warming, feel-good story from the USA Today bestselling author of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper and The Library of Lost and Found.

Mother of two Liv Green scrapes a living as a cleaner to make ends meet, finding escape in books while daydreaming of becoming a writer herself. So, she can't believe her luck when she lands a job housekeeping for her personal hero, bestselling author Essie Starling, a mysterious and intimidating recluse. When Essie passes away suddenly, Liv is astonished to learn of her dying wish: for Liv to complete Essie’s final novel. As Liv begins to write, she uncovers secrets from the past that reveal a surprising connection between the two women—one that will change Liv’s own story forever.

Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction

By Patricia Highsmith,

Book cover of Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction

No one can deny that Patricia Highsmith knew how to create suspense. Alfred Hitchcock saw that Strangers on a Train was the ideal spine-tingler for a great movie. Other directors have found the Ripley series perfect nail-biting stories to work with. Highsmith takes us through the process of building suspense from the germ of an idea through the plotting, the drafts, and the revisions, using examples from her own work, short stories, and novels. I’m not surprised this book has stayed in print for over fifty years. I still dip into it and get inspired.


Who am I?

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. 


I wrote...

The Last Detective

By Peter Lovesey,

Book cover of The Last Detective

What is my book about?

Originally intended as a one-off book, this won the Anthony Award for best novel at the Bouchercon and generated a series of twenty mystery novels that I am still writing. Diamond of the Bath police is a good man and a smart detective, but he creates havoc around him and drives his team to despair. Fortunately, the women in his life know how to keep this maverick functioning. Here he investigates a body found floating in a lake and his investigation of her last hours leads him into Jane Austen territory and university infighting, with disastrous personal consequences for Diamond.

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. 


Who am I?

I’m an artist who likes to write, but I’ve never been interested in classic superhero or pulp graphic novels. Early in my career, the word “comics” felt like an insult—it's not “real art,” right? Too childish! While that instinct was definitely wrong, I found a (small) world of experimental, abstract, genre-breaking graphic novels that combine art and writing in a wholly unique way. This is a list of some of my recent favorites that have inspired my drawing and writing practice, and will hopefully inspire you. 


I wrote...

2120

By George Wylesol,

Book cover of 2120

What is my book about?

2120 is an interactive graphic novel formatted like a retro point-and-click video game. You control Wade, a 46-year-old computer repairman, sent to fix a computer in a nondescript office building. Then the door locks behind you. You’ll have to explore the building and figure out its horrifying secrets on your own. This book is not linear, and you’ll use choose-your-adventure-style prompts and directional arrows to navigate the building. 

Reading Like a Writer

By Francine Prose,

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

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.


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Road of Bones

By James R. Benn,

Book cover of Road of Bones

What is my book about?

Billy Boyle is sent to the heart of the USSR to solve a double-murder at a critical turning point in the war in this latest installment of critically acclaimed James R. Benn's WWII mystery series.

It’s September 1944, and the US is poised to launch Operation Frantic, shuttle-bombing missions conducted by American aircraft based in Great Britain, southern Italy, and three Soviet airfields in Ukraine. Tensions are already high between the American and Russian allies when two intelligence agents—one Soviet, one American—are found dead at Poltava, one of the Ukrainian bases. Billy is brought in to investigate is paired, at the insistence of the Soviets, with a KGB agent who has his own political and personal agenda.

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.


Who am I?

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.


I wrote...

Road of Bones

By James R. Benn,

Book cover of Road of Bones

What is my book about?

Billy Boyle is sent to the heart of the USSR to solve a double-murder at a critical turning point in the war in this latest installment of critically acclaimed James R. Benn's WWII mystery series.

It’s September 1944, and the US is poised to launch Operation Frantic, shuttle-bombing missions conducted by American aircraft based in Great Britain, southern Italy, and three Soviet airfields in Ukraine. Tensions are already high between the American and Russian allies when two intelligence agents—one Soviet, one American—are found dead at Poltava, one of the Ukrainian bases. Billy is brought in to investigate is paired, at the insistence of the Soviets, with a KGB agent who has his own political and personal agenda.

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