The 5 Best Books on Creative Writing I’ve Read

Hey there fellow writers! For the past three or so years, I’ve been curating a small collection of creative writing reference books. And I figured why not share some of my favorites, so far, with the writing community.

One of the most recommended tips for the writing process, especially in regards to improving your writing is:

Read

Simple right? Just pick up a book from your favorite genre or maybe an old favorite that you just can’t shake, and get out of your own head for a few. And when you’re ready to jump back in, pick up a book on writing.

So I took that advice and somehow ended up in the writing/reference section of Barnes & Noble on way too many occasions.

Here are my top 5 finds so far: 

General Creative Writing

The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing: Everything You Need to Know to Create and Sell Your Work by The Editor’s of Writer’s Digest

This is my writing end all be all textbook! It’s an anthology of articles written by established authors, writers and folks in the publishing business. The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing outlines the entire creative process from drafting your manuscript, article etc. to looking for an agent and also what to expect when stepping into the publishing arena. It’s the perfect book for beginners, who just want to have an idea about the entire process, from start to finish and who may need a map of sorts for writers to read.

I currently have the 2nd Edition which came out in 2010. But I recommend the latest, (3rd) edition, as it features more popular author’s since then.

Writing Skills

Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time by Jordan E. Rosenfeld

Now I know this is my top 5, which technically means all of these books I’m recommending are my favorites, so far. But, Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time is my all time favorite book on this list. It is my most used writing reference. I have the tea stains, dog-eared pages and highlights and underlines to prove it. 

Make a Scene, breaks down the importance each scene (not chapter) is to the infrastructure of your story. From the architecture of a scene, which breaks down the beginning, middle and end. To the core elements of creative writing and how important each are to all types of scenes; whether its suspenseful or dramatic etc. And then there’s a bonus section which helps with things like transitions and multiple points of view. 

I feel a bit sorry for the scene: It’s a misunderstood element of writing because, unlike other elements, it’s not a singular thing, but sum of all the parts of great fiction. 

Jordan E. Rosenfeld, Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time

One of the most overlooked aspects of novel writing are scenes. In fact, when I started out, I was too busy plotting out my entire story, that I hadn’t taken the time to understand that the entire story is comprised of various scenes and those scenes encompass all aspects of the writing process. 

Word Painting: The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively by Rebecca McClanahan

Writing descriptively is my achilles heel. So much so that I looked up to the heavens and thanked the writer gods for sending this book my way when I found it. 

And I know what you’re thinking, I have a problem with description in my writing. Nope. I have a problem with over describing. Meaning I use way to many adjectives and analogies and metaphors in my first draft of anything I write, including blog posts.

Word Painting: The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively has helped me understand balance and that less is more. For example, I love using the sense of smell to set the tone for a majority of my scenes. Sometimes it’s great and helps your reader dive more into the world/setting you’ve created. But it can be a huge mistake when you start to over fantasize scents and mix contradictory scents improperly. I mean who wants to run into a wall of sweaty balls and gardenia’s at the top of a scene? No one. 

A picture may be worth a thousand words but a scent is worth a million. 

Rebecca McClanahan, Word Painting: The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively Revised Edition

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. This book is definitely a must read for beginners as well as seasoned writers who need a little reminder of how amazing and moving written word can be.

Writing Encouragement

Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration and the Artistic Process Edited by Joe Fassler 

We all experience writer’s block at some point. And its frequency can range from once in a blue moon to oh lord not again. And when I experience those moments, I usually turn to this book. Light the Dark, reminds me that big authors and those who I’ve admired for years, also went and go through the same peaks and valleys in their writing process. 

All writing, but especially fiction writing, can be the most difficult road and journey. And having a mentor or a community that can pick you up when you’re sunk low in those valleys is important. This book helps bring you closer to the writing community. But make sure you find your own writing community who you can be more personable with, and hold on tight.

Writing Tools for Beginners and Beyond

642 Things to Write About by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto

Did you know you could literally write about anything? 

Growing up I use to hate writing prompts. I felt restricted by them. And now as an adult, I sort of beg for them.

Those days when you’re staring at your laptop, questioning all of life’s choices that led you to this blank nothingness, I highly recommend a book like this that will get your creative juices flowing. And, will probably help you include something you weren’t even thinking about to your story. 

Bonus

To the Point: A Dictionary of Concise Writing

I know, I know. I technically said Top 5. But I’d be remised if I didn’t also include this dictionary in my list. It has saved me from overuse of certain words and also helped me say something straight on. It’s a must have when editing any and all written work.

I discussed in my Creative Writing post how glad I was to find Skillshare and how it has helped me tremendously so far. These books in combination with the classes I’ve taken, have really leveled up my confidence in my writing.

None of the links provided are affiliate links and are for your convenience. The Skillshare link offers you two months of free access to premium perks on the website which will subsequently provide me with a free month as well.