My Starting Lineup of Writing Books

When I’m tackling a writing project, whether it’s for one of my clients, a freelance article, or a chapter in my novel, I surround myself with the best of the best writing books.

I’ve accumulated a lot of writing books—almost enough to fill an entire shelf on my bookcase. I have two style guides: The Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press Stylebook; a slew of how-to books on writing and publishing books, and one pocket-sized grammar handbook I bought from the Texas A&M Bookstore way back when for one of my Journalism classes. This book is old, but grammar, spelling and punctuation doesn’t change that often, so I haven’t gotten rid of it.

I discovered some of these books at writing conferences, and others I ordered online after learning about them via a podcast, social media or writing blog. The information about writing and publishing (both online and in print) is endless, but the books below are my go-to resources for information about writing, editing and publishing.

When I set out to score a writing win, these books are my starting lineup.

My Starting Lineup

1. The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

The Emotion Thesaurus is an incredible collection of the things people do and think when they are experiencing elation, anguish, and everything between. It helps me to better show how my characters would react in various situations.

2. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

As far as I’m concerned, On Writing is gold. Stephen King not only gives guidance on the important how-tos like character development, dialogue, story structure, writing habits, etc., but he also shares his personal writing success story, which is fascinating and inspirational.

3. Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich

Fiction Writer’s Workshop is an older book, but I’ve kept it around because it inspires me as much as a writing conference does. (And it’s much less expensive!)

4. Your First Novel by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb

Covering everything from developing a story idea to marketing a book, Your First Novel was the perfect resource for my first novel.

5. Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies For Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark

Writing Tools focuses on the writing process and offers concrete suggestions on how to make stories shine.

6. DIY MFA by Gabriela Pereira

The DIY MFA podcast is one of my favorites, so I had to buy the book, which provides in-depth guidance on how to “Write With Focus”, “Read With Focus”, and “Build Your Community.” The author’s suggestions for developing writing habits are very helpful.

7. How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author by Janet Evanovich with Ina Yalof

This fun how-to book is by Janet Evanovich, who has been one of my favorite authors for a while because I can always count on her novels for a laugh. Her witty personality also shines in her book on writing, which is formatted as Qs and As. It covers the basics on the writing process, like showing versus telling, and also includes info on querying and publishing.

8. Get a Literary Agent by Chuck Sambuchino

I attended a writing conference a couple of years ago, and Chuck Sambuchino was the lead instructor. His insight into the writing and publishing process was so interesting that I bought one of his books! Get a Literary Agent includes how-tos and examples of query letters and synopses, and guidance on important topics like simultaneous submissions, beta readers, and word count by genre.

9. The Writer’s Little Helper by James V. Smith, Jr.

Here’s another writing resource that includes all of the technical basics for writing fiction (voice, characters, pacing, plot, POV, etc). And I’m a big fan of outlining and organizing my thoughts before I start writing, so I enjoyed the sections of this book about scene development. The checklists in The Writer’s Little Helper make this book a quick and informative read.

10. How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript by James Scott Bell

Dazzling is right! Because who wants to read boring conversations between characters? The author explains in this book how to make dialogue punchy and meaningful, and he provides example after example of bad dialogue vs dialogue that will captivate readers.

Do you have a book on writing you would add to this list? Leave a comment below to share!

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"Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic."

Albus Dumbledore (J. K. Rowling)


Albus Dumbledore (J. K. Rowling)

"Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic."
"If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."

Toni Morrison


Toni Morrison

"If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."
“To write is human, to edit is divine.”

Stephen King


Stephen King

“To write is human, to edit is divine.”