10 Best Books on Writing Fiction For Your Reading List

Improve your fiction writing by adding these best books on writing fiction to your reading list.

If you are ready to jump into the world of fiction writing, books are about to become your best friend. Not only can you learn from reading other fiction works, but you can also learn from reading the best books on writing fiction. Creative writing is a skill, and the more you learn about that skill, the better your writing will be.

So what books should you be searching for at the library or adding to your Amazon wish list? How can your reading lists turn your own writing into the next bestseller? Here are some of the best books on fiction writing that will make you the next Anne Lammot or Stephen King, or at least make your creative writing and story structure just a little better.

Best books on writing fiction

1. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

Yes, this book is talking about nonfiction, but the tools you will learn in On Writing Well will also translate into your fiction writing. This book by William Zinsser was originally published in 1976, and since that time it has grown into a classic.

Best Books on Writing Fiction
A pile of books are about to become your best friend

So what can you glean from this work? This book is full of writing tips on sentence structure, mechanics and overall writing skills. The tone is very conversational, making it an easy read.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
  • Zinsser, William (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 336 Pages - 04/05/2016 (Publication Date) - Harper Perennial (Publisher)

2. Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing

This book by Larry Brooks is vital to fiction writers. Writing short stories and novels requires an understanding of storytelling, or building a story and bringing characters to life, and that’s exactly what this book strives to teach.

The book treats storytellers like engineers. It teaches them how to build a successful story, piece by piece until they have a workable story and plot structure. The writing is a bit intense, but the skills you will learn are helpful in teaching fiction writing.

Story Engineering
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Brooks, Larry (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages - 02/24/2011 (Publication Date) - Writer's Digest Books (Publisher)

3. The Secrets of Story

Have you ever wondered why some stories are so compelling, and others fall flat? The Secrets of Story tries to unravel the answer to this question. This book by Matt Bird will help you learn how to tell a story that will engage your audience, leaving them wanting to come back for more.

This particular book makes it on the list because it has a handy checklist. With the checklist in hand, you can improve your fiction writing to make it the type of story people feel compelled to read. This is a must-read that should be on the reading lists of all aspiring writers.

The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers
  • Bird, Matt (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 368 Pages - 11/01/2016 (Publication Date) - Writer's Digest Books (Publisher)

4. Improv for Writers: 10 Secrets to Help Novelists and Screenwriters Bypass Writer’s Block and Generate Infinite Ideas

Every writer, no matter their skill level, will face writer’s block. Improv for Writers by Jorjeana Marie helps writers learn how to overcome that and generate new, fresh ideas that keep the writing flowing.

Like most good books about writing fiction, this title is packed with practical tips written in a positive, affirming manner. The author’s love for writing and writers shows on every page, making it an enjoyable read.

Improv for Writers: 10 Secrets to Help Novelists and Screenwriters Bypass Writer's Block and Generate Infinite Ideas
  • Marie, Jorjeana (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 08/27/2019 (Publication Date) - Ten Speed Press (Publisher)

5. About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, & Five Interviews

About Writing explores the specifics of fiction writing. Author Samuel R. Delany explores thoughts like when is it appropriate to use flashbacks and how you can create vivid characters that pull on the reader’s sympathies.

In this book, Delany explores how today’s writers are different than authors of past generations, like Hemingway and Fitzgerald. This helps today’s writers learn how to understand the great classic writers, while still understanding their own needs as a modern author.

About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, & Five Interviews
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Delany, Samuel R. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 432 Pages - 01/04/2006 (Publication Date) - Wesleyan University Press (Publisher)

6. The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers

Author John Gardner takes classic works of literature and helps young writers understand what makes them great. With The Art of Fiction, new fiction writers can learn to view their craft as a type of art. It assists people in making the transition from reader to writer through criticism, passion and respect for artistic works.

The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers
  • Writers, Fiction, the are of...Notes on Craft for Young Writers
  • ISBN:0679734031
  • John Gardner copyright 1983
  • Gardner, John (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

7. How to Write a Damn Good Novel

Dramatic storytelling is an art that James N. Frey explores in this book. Not only does it explore good writing, but it also explores storytelling and story structure.

With the writing advice in this book, writers can create a first draft that is compelling and effective. Fiction writers who are interested in novel writing must put this one on their list.

How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling
  • Jacket - yellow with black and red lettering
  • Hardcover Book
  • Frey, James N. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 192 Pages - 12/15/1987 (Publication Date) - St. Martin's Press (Publisher)

8. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Books written by exceptional storytellers are always great to add to the writer’s library, and Stephen King offers up On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. King goes back to his childhood to explore what made him into the famous writer he is today. This gives the reader a little peek into the mind of a master storyteller.

Along the way, King also explores the structure and mechanics that make writing work. He also touches on the lifestyle of a writer, and that makes his book a must-read for anyone who is truly passionate about fiction writing. The book has much practical advice woven into an engaging memoir.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (A Memoir of the Craft (Reissue))
  • King, Stephen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 06/02/2020 (Publication Date) - Scribner (Publisher)

9. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Anne Lamott explores what it means to be a writer in Bird by Bird. She believes that many people have a book inside of them but may need a little help to let it out. Her witty approach to exploring the writing life can help you understand exactly what it will take to overcome writer’s block and create your next new book or screenplay.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
  • Lamott, Anne (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 09/01/1995 (Publication Date) - Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (Publisher)

10. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

Not all books on this writer’s book list are about plot structure and character development. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King teaches writers how to use solid editing techniques to edit their own work. It explores everything from dialogue to point of view to ensure your writing is solid before you send it to the publisher.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print
  • Browne, Renni (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages - 04/13/2004 (Publication Date) - William Morrow Paperbacks (Publisher)

The Final Word on the Best Books on Writing Fiction

Writing fiction is a skill that takes time to polish and develop. Many of us have our own stories to tell, but you may need a little bit of help to get it out. Before hiring a literary agent or seeking a publisher, first, take some time to do a little reading for yourself from this list of must-read books for writers.

FAQs on the Best Books on Writing Fiction

What books should be on every writer’s bookshelf?

The best books for your bookshelf will depend on the writing you are going to tackle. Non-fiction writers need different reading material than fiction writers.
For non-fiction writers, books on grammar and structure, like The Elements of Style are critical. For fiction writers, books on how to overcome writer’s block and how to build a plot structure are a good choice.

Who are some of the top authors for fiction writers?

As a fiction writer, you should read books by other fiction writers. Renni Browne, Dave King, Stephen King, Anne Lamott and Larry Brooks are all excellent authors with practical advice for aspiring writers.

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  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.