Sandra Gerth - author of the Writers' Guide Series

Recommended books on writing

books on writing
books on writing

In my office, an entire bookcase is dedicated to books on writing. While you can’t learn writing just by reading a book about it, there are books that can help you plot your novel, create believable characters, revise your manuscript, and improve your writing skills.

Since there are so many books on how to write a novel out there, it’s hard to know which ones to read. Maybe my list of personal favorites will help.


Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King

Despite the title, this book doesn’t cover just self-editing; it covers all aspects of writing. I really recommend it for a basic understanding of concepts such as show and tell, point of view, and dialogue mechanics.

Stein on Writing by Sol Stein

Sol Stein’s books is a classic—and for a good reason. Stein was a well-respected editor and novelist. His book addresses both writing fiction and writing nonfiction and includes a great chapter on writing dialogue.

On Writing by Stephen King

This is both a memoir and a book on writing. Read it even if you are not a fan of Stephen King.


Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress

This is a part of the Writers’ Digest Elements of Fiction series that also includes other excellent books. It covers developing three-dimensional characters and also point of view.

The Power of Point of View by Alicia Rasley

One of few books that deals with point of view in fiction. The author, Alicia Rasley, is an editor who also has a blog that I recommend.


Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

James Scott Bell explains story structure and how to develop strong openings, middles, and ends.

Rock Your Plot: A Simple System for Plotting Your Novel by Cathy Yardley

Ms. Yardly’s book will help you plot the turning points of your novel, create a scene-by-scene outline, and get to know your characters better.

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K.M. Weiland

This to-the-point book explains the benefits of outlining and gives you pointers on how to brainstorm and outline your novel.


Woe Is I by Patricia T. O’Conner

Well written and fun. Who knew there was such a thing as grammar book that makes you laugh!

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition)

This is the dictionary I use. There’s also an online version.

The Synonym Finder by J.I. Rodale

This very expansive volume will help you out whenever you’re in need of a synonym.

The Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

The style guide that most companies publishing fiction use. Make sure you (and your editor) are familiar with it.

There are many more helpful books on writing, but these are the ones I use most often.

If you can recommend other helpful books on writing, please leave a comment.

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4 thoughts on “Recommended books on writing”

  1. Thank you for the list Sandra!

    I think “On becoming a novelist” by John Gardner is a superb book for a novice writer. It covers in details the “how” of writing (in Gardner’s words creating a “vivid and continuous dream” that your readers can later share) and becoming a writer (the qualities that are indispensable or important in a young novelist). His love for both writing and the language and the painstaking care with which every sentence is crafted are visible on every page.

    His book is also mentioned on the first page of “Self-editing for fiction writers” which you listed first.

    Hope that helps!


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