Best Books on Writing: Plus Videos and Other Resources

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There are so many amazing resources out there for writers. In this article, we walk you through our favorite books on writing along with some other resources we’ve found helpful.

Best Books on Writing

Start Here

The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne

The Story Grid was developed by editor Shawn Coyne to analyze stories and provide helpful editorial comments. It’s like a CT Scan that takes a photo of the global story and tells the editor or writer what is working, what is not, and what must be done to make what works better and fix what’s not.

The Story Grid breaks down the component parts of stories to identify the problems. And finding the problems in a story is almost as difficult as the writing of the story itself (maybe even more difficult.)

Buy at StoryGrid.com or on Amazon.

Mindset and Work Ethic

The War of Art

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

A succinct, engaging, and practical guide for succeeding in any creative sphere, The War of Art is nothing less than Sun-Tzu for the soul.

What keeps so many of us from doing what we long to do?

Why is there a naysayer within? How can we avoid the roadblocks of any creative endeavor—be it starting up a dream business venture, writing a novel, or painting a masterpiece?

Buy on Amazon.

Craft of Writing

The Story Grid Annotated Edition of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by Shawn Coyne

The Story Grid editing method in action, from start to finish.

Buy on Amazon.

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

The Heroic Journey explored and explained, by the screenwriter who brought Campbell’s ideas to Hollywood.

Buy on Amazon.

The Heroine’s Journey by Maureen Murdock

Explores archetypal journeys from a different perspective, relying on myth and folktales.

Buy on Amazon.

The Virgin’s Promise by Kim Hudson

A different take on the heroic journey that also explores a different archetype.

Buy on Amazon.

Story by Robert McKee

A classic for storytellers of every medium. Even though it was published in 1997 and focuses on film, Story is one of the foundational texts on story theory.

Buy on Amazon.

Dialogue by Robert McKee

One of the few resources on dialogue and it’s for page, stage and screen. The online companion course to this book is also recommended.

Buy on Amazon.

Buy the online course.

The Anatomy of Story by John Truby

Truby’s focus is on helping writers become great storytellers. Even though he focuses on film, the principles he outlines are compatible with the Story Grid methodology and applicable to novels.

Buy on Amazon.

A Practical Handbook for the Actor by Melissa Bruder et al.

This is the go-to resource for literal and essential action, and analyzing a scene.

Buy on Amazon.

How Fiction Works by James Woods

Comprehensive discussion of narration, point of view, detail, and character in fiction.

Buy on Amazon.

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody

An adaptation of Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. It applies Snyder’s storytelling theory for film, to novels.

Buy on Amazon.

Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman

This book was originally recommended to us by Steven Pressfield. Its focus is on the commercial bestseller and there’s some useful information about point of view and scene development.

Buy on Amazon.

Mastering Suspense, Structure and Plot by Jane K. Cleland

The ideas in this book don’t exactly align with the Story Grid concept of narrative drive (mystery, suspense and dramatic irony), but they do compliment it nicely. Plus it includes interesting examples from novels.

Buy on Amazon.

Aristotle’s Poetics: A New Translation by Anthony Kenny

Aristotle’s Poetics is a must-read for serious writers. It’s fascinating that his ideas still hold true today.

Buy on Amazon.

Invisible Ink by Brian McDonald

Some of the clearest, most straightforward and useful insights into the use of subtext in building plot and character.

Buy on Amazon.

Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias

Iglesias is a film industry veteran who specializes in evoking an emotional reaction in readers (since all scripts are first read by a studio executive). The concepts in this book are exactly in line with Story Grid principles, but they’re viewed through another lens. In other words, it shows writers (of novels and screenplays) how to use storytelling tools specifically to generate empathy for the protagonist and hook readers emotionally.

Buy on Amazon.

The 21st Century Screenplay by Linda Aronson

An excellent resource for examining, understanding options within the STRUCTURE leaf of genre clover.

Buy on Amazon.

Into the Woods: A Five-Act Journey into Story by John Yorke

Examines story structure and the historical, philosophical, scientific, and psychological journey to the heart of all storytelling.

Buy on Amazon.

Write Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell

All about the midpoint shift / mirror moment for the protagonist, great intro into story structure anchored by the midpoint.

Buy on Amazon.

Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole

Excellent resource for writing stories for middle grade and young adult audiences.

Buy on Amazon.

Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer

Useful and beautiful book that explores writing speculative fiction from where to get your ideas and worldbuilding to drafting and revision. The book includes lots of exercises to apply to your own work in progress, and the examples in “Approaches to Style” are particularly useful when trying to find your authentic voice.

Buy on Amazon.

Forms of the Plot by Norman Friedman

The basis for Shawn Coyne’s internal genre categorization

Read Online.

Point of View in Fiction by Norman Friedman

A comprehensive discussion of point of view options.

Read Online.

Training Videos

Masterclass Online Seminars

There are many A-List authors interviewed here, but of particular value are lessons by Neil Gaiman, Aaron Sorkin and Margaret Atwood. There’s a little something to be gleaned from all the writing classes, and also from the masterclasses from actors (re character development) and directors (re global story structure, emotional engagement etc). For example, Ron Howard has a terrific bit on how he handled Dramatic Irony in Apollo 13.

Register for Masterclass.

Brandon Sanderson’s Creative Writing Lectures

These videos come directly from Sanderson’s courses at BYU and are designed to help beginning writers who want to become professional writers of science fiction and fantasy.

Watch the lectures on YouTube.

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About Anne Hawley

Anne Hawley is a developmental editor specializing in literary historical fiction and stories set in fantasy and science fiction worlds. When she's not editing, she's creating courses for writers at Pages & Platforms, a women-owned business aimed at helping diverse writers tell the best story they can—and then market it to its intended audience. Anne is the author of Restraint, a queer love story set in 19th Century London, and the forthcoming The Footman, set in the same universe. She lives and rides a bike around Portland, Oregon.

About Kimberly Kessler

Kim is obsessed with the internal genres and specializes in helping writers craft authentic character arcs in any setting. Her favorite clients are hungry to learn and bring their full authentic selves to the collaborative process. Nothing is more rewarding than digging in together to uncover the breakthroughs they need. As a novelist and filmmaker, she intersects trauma and grief with humor and love, believing somewhere in the dark is a redemptive perspective on the pain. Bring. On. All. The. Feels. She lives in Washington state with her stand-up comedian husband and three "think they're a comedian" kids. Connect with her at www.kimberkessler.com

About Leslie Watts

Leslie Watts is a certified Story Grid editor, writer, and podcaster. She’s been writing for as long as she can remember: from her sixth-grade magazine about cats to writing practice while drafting opinions for an appellate court judge. When the dust settled after her children were born, she launched www.Writership.com to help writers unearth the treasure in their manuscripts. She believes writers become better storytellers through practice, and that editors owe a duty of care to help writers with specific and supportive guidance to meet reader expectations and express their unique gifts in the world.

About Valerie Francis

Valerie Francis is a Certified Story Grid Editor and best-selling author of both women’s and children’s fiction. She’s been a Story Grid junkie since 2015 and became a certified editor so that she can help fellow authors become better storytellers. To learn how to put story theory into practice join Valerie's inner circle: valeriefrancis.ca/innercircle