11 Helpful Books for Aspiring Writers

If you're taking a creative writing class in school or trying to turn your story idea into a novel, you've come to the right place. And since we all use language to communicate with the world every day, you might get something out of honing your writing skills even if you don't have a particular project in mind. So no matter what your goals are or how close you are to achieving them, check out these eleven helpful books that can help you write like a pro. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

11 Helpful Books for Aspiring Writers

Title Author(s)
1. To Show and to Tell Phillip Lopate
2. How Not to Write a Novel Howard Mittelmark & Sandra Newman
3. Story Genius Lisa Cron
4. Plot Fiction like the Masters Terry Richard Bazes
5. That Should Be a Word Lizzie Skurnick
6. Origins of the Specious Patricia T. O'Conner & Stewart Kellerman
7. How to Write a Murder Mystery Jeffrey Marks
8. Fireflies: A Writer's Notebook Coleen Murtagh Paratore
9. Tiger Writing Gish Jen
10. A Solemn Pleasure Melissa Pritchard
11. Writing Isn't Sexy Katie Rose Guest Pryal

Things Every Writer Should Have

  • A journal where you can keep track of your thoughts & ideas
  • Some coffee or tea to get you through late-night bursts of inspiration
  • A comfortable keyboard so you don't end up with carpal-tunnel syndrome
  • A laptop that's easy to bring along to your local coffee shop
  • A height-adjustable desk to help you avoid hurting your lower back
  • A foam roller for when you inevitably hurt your lower back anyway

14 Tips For Becoming a Writer

In Depth

To anyone who's ever dreamed of seeing their name in print, it can feel daunting to think about all the hard work that goes into writing a book. Whether you've always wanted to pen a brilliant memoir or you're hoping to write the next great American novel, getting down to it is difficult, especially if you don't really know where to start. Thankfully, there are a few books out there that can help.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the best reads for writers looking to hone their craft.

First up at #1, we have Phillip Lopate's "To Show and To Tell." In this handy how-to for nonfiction writing, esteemed essayist Lopate gives readers insight into what it takes to craft an engaging, clear, and concise literary essay, one sentence at a time.

In this handy how-to for nonfiction writing, esteemed essayist Lopate gives readers insight into what it takes to craft an engaging, clear, and concise literary essay, one sentence at a time.

At #2 is "How Not to Write a Novel" by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark. Sometimes, the best tool for good writing is simply a catalog of the pitfalls of terrible narration and storytelling that are far too common. In this comical, breezy book for beginners, two authors combine their knowledge of mistakes, missteps, and other problems to avoid while attempting that first draft.

For #3 we have Lisa Cron's "Story Genius." Is there a science to writing a good book? Lisa Cron thinks so, and here she breaks down what it means to write a truly compelling tale, brick by brick. This guide can provide direction to writers who are just starting out and need help planning.

At #4 is "Plot Fiction Like the Masters" by Terry Richard Bazes. What can we learn from Jane Austen's comedies of manners? What about from Ian Fleming's daring tales about a secret agent named Bond? From literary greats to masters of plotting and suspense, this eye-opening work takes a look at what modern scribes can draw from some of the most successful visionaries to ever set pen to paper.

What can we learn from Jane Austen's comedies of manners?

Coming in at #5 is Lizzie Skurnick's "That Should Be a Word." If you've ever come across a social phenomenon and thought to yourself, "there should be a phrase for that," this book is tailor-made for you. "New York Times Magazine" columnist Skurnick creates some of the most hilarious portmanteaus for describing modern life in this volume for writers to take full advantage of.

At #6 is Patricia T. O'Conner and Stewart Kellerman's "Origins of the Specious." Most people learn how to write when they're in grade school, but do any of us know the backstories of our most perplexing words and phrases? In this work, Kellerman and O'Connor expose the thinking behind grammar and common linguistic choices to make the art of writing more intuitive for aspiring wordsmiths.

In the #7 slot is "How to Write a Murder Mystery" by Jeffrey Marks. Trends in literature may come and go, but one thing's for certain: a great murder mystery will never go out of style. For scribes who like to channel Agatha Christie and Stephen King while writing tales of death, desire, and betrayal, this step-by-step guide will be a huge help when mapping out structure.

Trends in literature may come and go, but one thing's for certain: a great murder mystery will never go out of style.

For #8 we get Coleen Murtagh Paratore's "Fireflies: A Writer's Notebook." As a creative person, you probably feel like your mind is always working overtime to push new ideas to the forefront. But how many of those ideas happen right before falling asleep or in the moments when you don't have a pen handy? This helpful book outlines how you can harness the creativity of stray ideas to create powerful, original works of fiction.

For #9 we have Gish Jen's "Tiger Writing." For so many readers, a great book is a passage to another world. If you grow up alienated from the dominant culture, they can be incredible tools to help you understand that culture. For Jen, books helped her understand the difference between Eastern literature and the Western writing favored in America. In this rich exploration, she explores how writing can help us better understand our world, and ourselves.

At #10 is "A Solemn Pleasure" by Melissa Pritchard. Why do we write? Great authors from Orwell to Didion have been asking this question forever. This book wants to take that central query further: is writing a way of mythologizing the self? Are books here to present a historical version of events? Or is the impulse to put words down on paper guided by something even bigger than any of us can imagine or understand?

Why do we write?

Finally, at #11, is Katie Rose Guest Pryal's "Writing Isn't Sexy." Many young people start their writing careers with romantic visions of a bohemian life in mind. The reality, however, is much different. Novelist Pryal thought her life as a freelancer would be glamorous and fun. She soon realized that it's more hard work than hard partying. But that didn't stop her from penning this all-inclusive guide to getting the literary life you want, even if it's less exciting than you thought it would be.