Books for Writers

As a writer you no doubt have shelves heaving with much-loved books or own a well-used library card. Some of these books will claim to provide all you need to know to write the perfect script or novel. Some will be favourites you return to again and again for inspiration. Below I’ve listed some of my favourites. You’ll find the essentials as well as books I’ve found useful or interesting.


Writers’ Essentials  

Every writer’s desk should reserve a space for these…

The Elements of Style – Strunk and White   Matters of grammar and punctuation. I admit I haven’t read it cover to cover as it doesn’t make for a gripping read. If I ever have a long illness perhaps I’ll see to it, but in the meantime I keep it to hand to resolve punctuation panics and grammar queries.

Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook   The only reference book you need for publishers, agents, production companies and such. Full of handy articles on writing too. No need to buy one every year – just update using the internet.

From Pitch to Publication – Carole Blake   As it says on the cover: Everything you need to know to get your novel published. Presenting yourself to agents and publishers, and how the publishing industry works.

Writing and Creativity  

These are three I’ve found particularly inspiring…

Fearless Creating – Eric Maisel   Breaks the creative process into seven parts and looks in detail at their attendant anxieties and how to deal with them. Full of exercises to get you creating. For more details see my series on The Creative Process, July – August 2010.

On Writing – Stephen King   Fascinating insight into a writer’s process and full of tips. I especially like King’s idea of a story being a found object, dug up like bones on an archaeological expedition. The bones don’t necessarily come out of the ground in the right order and you must decipher the story from the fragments you have.

Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg   A series of short essays overflowing with insight, challenging you to free the writer within. Best advice? Don’t believe your excuses, and keep your hand moving.

Story and Mythology  

There are tons of books covering story structure and mythology – these are some of the best I’ve found…

The Hero With a Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell   Comparative mythology building a ‘composite hero’ from myths across cultures. The hero’s journey is one we must all undertake if we choose to individuate and claim our lives.

The Seven Basic Plots – Christopher Booker   A doorstop of a book looking at the archetypal roots of storytelling and analysing the seven main plots: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Draws on examples from ancient folk tales and old Greek plays to modern novels, films and television. Fascinating and well-worth studying at length.

The Heroine’s Journey – Maureen Murdock   Interesting counterpoint to the Hero’s journey and a necessary acknowledgement of the feminine side of life in a culture dominated by masculine myopia.

Women Who Run With the Wolves – Clarissa Pinkola Estes   A transformational and inspiring book about contacting the inner wild woman, without whom creativity dries up – whether you’re a woman or man. Packed with stories told from the instinctual, feminine perspective.

Gods in Everyman – Jean Shinoda Bolen   Illustrates the inner lives of men through eight archetypes drawn from Greek mythology: Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Apollo, Hermes, Ares, Hephaestus, and Dionysus.

Goddesses in Everywoman – Jean Shinoda Bolen   Illustrates the inner lives of women through seven archetypes drawn from Greek mythology: Artemis, Athena, Hestia, Hera, Demeter, Persephone, and Aphrodite.

It’s probably worth picking up copies of Robert Graves’ Greek Myths too – always handy to return to the ‘originals’.

What are your favourites and why? Give us an insight into your library in the comments below..

Next time: Books for Screenwriters

More Books for Writers on my website here.

One comment

  1. The Highly Selective Dictionary for the Extraordinary Literate by Eugene Ehrlich. Perfect for word snobs, just to sit on the shelf and go “hehe” but also a good resource for finding precise words with carefully judged definitions. Lives up to its title, and is the only dictionary I’ve read cover to cover.
    Bruce Kaplan’s Editing Made Easy, Partridge’s Usage and Abusage and Webster’s Book of Common Phrases are also referred to.
    My best and favourite resource for writing, however, is reading other people’s.


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