The Book List for Writers

Lonely books need love too.


A short while back I asked for recommendations on books about the craft of writing. Well the ideas poured in and I thought I’d share the results. I compiled all the suggestions, and almost every one of these authors had more than a single stamp of approval. If you’re like me and have been looking for new content to peruse, maybe you’ll find something helpful.

In case any sensitive types are skulking about, the list is in alphabetical order so no one gets their feelbads hurt.

Plot and Structure
James Scott Bell

Story Engineering
Larry Brooks
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
Renni Browne and Dave King
Character and Viewpoints
Orson Scott Card
Goal, Motivation and Conflict
Debra Dixon
How to Write a Damn Good Novel
James Frey
Write Away
Elizabeth George
Writing and Selling the YA Novel
KL Going
Writing Down the Bones
Natalie Goldberg
Get Known Before the Book Deal
Christina Katz
On Writing
Stephen King
Bird by Bird
Ann Lamott
Writing Magic
Gail Carson Levine
Writing the Breakout Novel
Donald Maas
The Novel Writer’s Toolkit
Bob Mayer
Word painting
Rebecca McClanahan
Playwriting and the Structure of Action
Sam Smiley
Save the Cat
Blake Snyder
First Draft in 30 Days
Karen Wiesner
Will Write for Shoes
Kathy Yardley
On Writing Well
William Zisner


Thanks to everyone who played along and helped me compile this great list of writing know-how. I’ve got some reading to do! But since this collection is obviously not definitive, feel free to add a comment if you’ve discovered something new, remembered a gem you forgot, maybe have a caveat to add to the clamor, or found something shiny-shiny to share.


  1. #1 by Traci Kenworth on March 19, 2012 - 2:40 am

    LOVE the list!! Will have to copy so I can look up the others I’m missing.

    • #2 by Leslie on March 20, 2012 - 9:07 am

      There are so many books about craft – I’m happy to have so many suggestions from people who actually read these!

  2. #3 by Marion Spicher on March 19, 2012 - 1:26 pm

    I would add to the list Donald Maase “The Fire in Fiction” and Christopher Vogler “the Hero’s Journey. Great list!

    • #4 by Leslie on March 20, 2012 - 9:08 am

      I’ll definately make a note of those too! Thanks Marion! With so many books available, it’s nice to get recommendations from people who’ve actually read them.

  3. #5 by Barbara McDowell on March 19, 2012 - 2:06 pm

    Fab list! Some that I haven’t read yet, that I’ve been wanting to like “Writing the Breakout Novel.” I have a book called “Naked, Drunk and Writing” that I just found again on one of my book shelves last night. It was buzzed about a few years back, but I haven’t read it yet. Just loved the title.

    • #6 by Leslie on March 20, 2012 - 9:11 am

      Ohhh! Naked, Drunk and Writing is a great title. Let me know what you think after you’ve read it! Many of these I’ve had recommended repeatedly so I’m willing to try them out – but I like the more obscure titles too. Thanks!

  4. #7 by Traci Bell on March 19, 2012 - 3:39 pm

    I own some of those, and some I haven’t heard of before. Thanks for sharing!!

    • #8 by Leslie on March 20, 2012 - 9:12 am

      Isn’t it great to get so many opinions? I love that! Now I have some good starting points from recommendations made by people who are actually writing and publishing, not just wearing their artistic berets and arguing over absinthe. I think I mixed things up there, but you get the idea…uh. Yeah.

  5. #9 by Marcia Richards on March 19, 2012 - 6:37 pm

    Wow, Leslie, you have a great list there! I’ve read many of them, but Bird by Bird and First Draft in 30 Days intrigue me. Thanks!

    • #10 by Leslie on March 20, 2012 - 9:14 am

      I found the First Draft in 30 Days to be a little overwhelming but I haven’t looked at it in a long while. Now that I’ve written a number of pieces I might find some of the suggestions helpful in a new way. For me it’s a matter of figuring out what works with my process and my organizational methods. I love notecards but am not a big fan of computer based organizers like Scrivener and Writer’s Blocks. I haven’t read Bird by Bird but I remember a bell ringing when I read the title and am going to check that one out too. Enjoy!

  6. #11 by Patricia Sands on March 20, 2012 - 6:04 am

    Thanks for doing this! I keep making notes and never seem to have all the titles in one place so will print this out for sure.

    • #12 by Leslie on March 20, 2012 - 9:16 am

      I’ve been thinking about putting a list up somewhere on my website for that same reason – then I can add to it when people make a recommendation. There are so many books about craft and many of the ones I’ve read have been okay, just not amazing. Enjoy!

  7. #13 by Margaret Yang on March 20, 2012 - 4:51 pm

    Some of my favorites on this list. I love Writing the Breakout Novel and Save the Cat!

    My blog is exclusively devoted to reviews of how-to books for writers, so if anyone is wondering which books are great and which are ho-hum, I invite you stop by and take a look at my reviews. Maybe you’ll agree with me, maybe you’ll disagree.

    My review of First Draft in 30 days by Karen Wiesner is quite….interesting. Not for the review, but for the comment section. Take a look, you’ll see what I mean.

    • #14 by Leslie on March 21, 2012 - 6:23 pm

      Thanks for the comment. I visited your blog and it’s outstanding! What a great resource! I like the personal evaluation because it’s nice to know why a book worked for you (or didn’t). Sometimes people forget that reviews are just opinion (informed and otherwise), but I enjoyed reading the comments section.

      I’ll be visiting again!

  8. #15 by Bridgette Booth on March 21, 2012 - 11:50 am

    Oooo thanks for compiling this list. Quite a few I haven’t seen so I’m taking notes.

    Saw in your comment above about “Bird by Bird” and want to recommend it to you. Are you an Anne Lamont fan? You strike me as someone who would appreciate her wisdom and style of writing. Although it’s been a few years since I’ve read Bird by Bird, her words and ideas haunt me. In fact, the story behind the title (her brother had to make a bird feather collection) is the ONLY quote I have on facebook simply because the metaphor resonates with me so much.

    Just seeing what you’ve written here makes me think you’d like reading it. And, now, I want to re-read it too.

    • #16 by Leslie on March 21, 2012 - 6:29 pm

      Thanks Bridgette!

      I’m definately moving Bird by Bird up to the top of my reading list. Ironically I haven’t read any of her work although I’ve run into her at events a couple of times in San Francisco. Small world, that. Actually I can’t say I’ve run into…I should say we’ve been at the same event, but never spoken. Unless she was the unfortunate recipient of that glass of red wine? That would be epic, in a bad way. LOL

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