Because good writers continue to read, learn, and grow, if you’re serious about story writing, I wholly encourage reading books and taking courses, to become better at your craft by design.
The books and resources below are on my own physical and digital shelves — and each has played a huge part in honing my craft. I believe they can do the same for you.
As an Amazon Associate, to comply with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations, it is hereby noted that the purchasing links here are direct links (#ad links) to Amazon.
One of my favorite BOOKS…
After reading and marking up my hard copy, I’m now listening to this gem for the third time. It’s fantastic — full of expertise for beginning through advanced writers. If you’re serious about being a story writer, I wholeheartedly recommend that you get it and read it (or listen to it) now.
Here’s a link to the paperback.
Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies,
by Sol Stein
(It’s also on Audible.)
BOOKS on How to Craft Perfect Plot and Shore Up your Structure…
Here are some books that are so good, I use them in my online fiction writing courses.
A must-read for all story writers, this book outlines “The Hero’s Journey” (the “one storyline,” according to Joseph Campbell’s research, “that all good story follows”) and the major archetypes (character models/types) that readers have come to love and expect in story. This must-have knowledge will put you eons ahead of the rest, and if you work with me in any way in coaching, I ask that you read this book first.
Here’s another book worth its weight in gold. This book, penned by a Hollywood screenwriter, is great in helping to understand the “beats” — those expected plot points that drive a story forward. You’ll also find special how-to story-creation tidbits that, if implemented, will help you get raving-fan readers.
Want to grab readers right away? Get this book, to learn how. The beginning of the book, in particular, is quite good.
Writing Wonder, By David Farland
Want to create a page-turner that people won’t put down? Get the book on WONDER by multi-published story consultant David Farland (Dave Wolverton) — the guy who recommended to the publisher that Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone be put on the front burner and marketed, who started out/coached bestselling authors Brandon Sanderson (Stormlight Archives, Mistborn Saga, and more) and Stephenie Meyer (Twilight Saga), Hollywood consultant, worldwide consultant and speaker… you get the picture. A powerful book, highly recommended.
The best BOOKS (imho) on How to Build Conflict…
This book is still one of my all-time favorites. Donald Maass, you’re my conflict-building hero.
Writing the Breakout Novel: Insider Advice for Taking Your Fiction to the Next Level, by Donald Maass
For Serious Writers…
This book is a collection of subject-specific “essays” on writing by masters at the craft. Some of the chapters here are fabulous. I have an MFA, and I agree… a lot of what’s here is eye-opening to the writing becoming serious at learning the craft.
The Dictionary of Body Language: A Field Guide to Human Behavior, by Joe Navarro, FBI Special Agent (ret.)
Joe, a retired FBI agent specializing in body language for over 25 years, is my all-time favorite author on body language — and this book is one of the BEST for how to “Show, Don’t Tell.” Get this book to know exactly what body movements to write into your characters, for greatest (and most true) impact/believability. Your description and dialogue action tags — and readers — will thank you.
The companion to his Dictionary book, Joe Navarro’s guide shows pictures and takes you simply through what physical actions to write into your characters, to make your character actions understood and believable. An “oldie but goodie,” I’ve been recommending this book since it came out in 2008… because it’s that good.
An Excellent Audio Book for Beginners…
How to Write Best-Selling Fiction,
by James Scott Bell If you’re just starting out, here’s a course on Audible by James Scott Bell that’s simple, practical, and clear. You can get the recording on Audible.
For the most critical, foundational how-to’s of story writing, this is the resource for you.
For All Novel and Story Writers…
My favorite secrets to writing are found here in John Gardner’s book. In not-too-many pages, you’ll find truths as to what makes a good writer — including secrets to creating memorable characters, writing in an “emotionally significant” style, creating a “conscious dream” for the reader, and (my favorite section) understanding and using the rhythm and sound of the written word. Not expensive and worth every penny.
Screenwriters, Television Writers, and Big-Series Writers…
Check out this online article, “Best Screenwriting Courses and Books to Get You Started” by Alex Edge (Dec. 2021) — I’m all in on these resources.
And for the business end of breaking into Hollywood, check this out: Conquering Hollywood: The Screenwriter’s Blueprint for Career Success, by Gary W. Goldstein
Arguably the Best Online COURSES
(For All Writers): Get “My Story Doctor” Courses…
This treasure trove of top-tier online courses by the legendary story consultant/author David Farland are the courses that, aside from my MFA in Genre Fiction, have made the most impact on my writing EH-VAH. I can’t recommend these enough. “Run — don’t walk” — to get them here.
The Habits of a Writer…
Here are some all-around good-to-get books for creating the habits of a great writer…
Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones,
By James Clear
Learn from the Master of Storytelling…
Finally, here is THE book series that has taught me more about novel writing than any other story:
The Great Book of Amber: The Complete Amber Chronicles, 1-10.
The author of this brilliant fantasy series, Roger Zelazny (1937-1995), won the coveted Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) Nebula Award three times (with 14 nominations), the Hugo Award six times (with 14 nominations), and numerous additional awards for his writing — and became a major influence of the works of fantasy writers today. His description, character introductions, tone and style, and storylines are brilliant. I use his character intros in a number of my online workshops, to teach how to introduce a character and create memorable connection with your characters.
Zelazny’s also an award-winning poet, and I love listening to the audiobooks because the twirling and playing of words is so great to listen to. Here’s the first book, Nine Princes in Amber, on Audible (you can listen to it on their FREE 30-day trial period):