5 Great Books for Writers

No one ever said writing was easy. Anyone that’s tackled writing their own book knows just how true this is. And while the best advice may be to “just write,” there are many times that you need a little outside inspiration.

While we’ve delved into individual tips from writers before, today we want to take a look at five great books for writers. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on your writing style and your writing goals, but the following books are great places to start.

5 Great Books for Writers

1. “On Writing” by Stephen King

This one is very well known, and for good reason. We all know Stephen King for both his quantity and his quality (most of the time), so it’s only natural to take a look at what he has to say on the craft.

In fact, there are those out there that say “On Writing” is the best book King has produced so far.

Sample quote: “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

2. “The Writing Life” by Annie Dillard

This book also has become a staple of aspiring writers everywhere. Perhaps this is because it equally acknowledges the hard work required for great writing and the magical inspiration you can occasionally tap into.

Sample quote: “Get to work. Your work is to keep cranking the flywheel that turns the gears that spin the belt in the engine of belief that keeps you and your desk in midair.”

3. “The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing” by Alice LaPlante

Often used in university settings, this is an extremely practical and hands-on guide to fiction and nonfiction that also is fun to read. Each of 14 chapters is divided into three parts: the first tackles process, the second provides related writing prompts and the third uses published stories to illustrate the points raised previously in the chapter. Not at all stuffy, LaPlante often advises writers to work against the “rules” of creative writing.

Sample quote: “So it’s always critical to keep in mind that there are no rules in fiction, only conventions that have been built up over the years based on the way that writers have crafted their stories.”

4. “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on the Writing Life” by Anne Lamott

The charm of this book is its straightforward approach to writing and recognizing that writing well is not an easy task at all. Lamott is also extremely funny in many parts of her book. Take, for instance, the “Shi**y First Drafts” portion, which encourages authors to finish the first draft no matter how you think it’s going.

Sample quote: “Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shi**y first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.”

5. “Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do”

The title pretty much says it all. Edited by Meredith Maran, the book features great authors from a variety of backgrounds discussing how and why they write. Writers include Michael Lewis, Mary Karr, Armistead Maupin and Ann Patchett.

Sample quote: “I write to dream; to connect with other human beings; to record; to clarify; to visit the dead. I have a kind of primitive need to leave a mark on the world. Also, I have a need for money.” (from Mary Karr)