Writing Books recommendations


Waiting for tea time
Mar 3, 2011
I couldn't find a thread talking about recommended books on writing. I fully understand that each book about writing can be absolutely worthless. I also understand that it all can be just trivial/ego thumping. I do not think no-one can become a good writer by reading some other writers advice on writing, but I do think you can get good information and different ideas that maybe a amateur writer may never thought about.

I am currently re-reading 'On Writing' by Stephan King. I don't even like many of his books but he brings up some good things that I never have thought about.

Any good books on writing science fiction or fantasy? I don't want ones that people know about but what people have read and thought it was good/semi good. (can you really have a great book on writing?)

Thanks for the help.
Not SFF-specific, but one I've found very good is "Writing a Novel" by Nigel Watts. And almost as good, and very funny, is "How Not to Write a Novel" by Mittelmark and Newman.
How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card. Excellent book that raises solid points on writing that most texts wouldn't think to cover. Highly recommended.
The only book on writing I've personally read so far is Sometimes the Magic Works by Terry Brooks. I would recommend it, though, as it's an entertaining read on top of covering topics from outlining to seeking an agent.
I would second How to write science fiction and fantasy. Read it a few days ago, and it was very good.
Not SFF-specific, but one I've found very good is "Writing a Novel" by Nigel Watts. And almost as good, and very funny, is "How Not to Write a Novel" by Mittelmark and Newman.

Seconded. Every mistake you will ever make in writing is in that book. And yes, it is very funny.
Stephen King's On Writing is definitely worth a look.

Note, though, that no one book can tell you all you need to know, because - as should be evident if you've read widely - there isn't just the one way to structure a book, in spite of what various boosters will tell you.

(And yes, How Not to Write a Novel is a fun read even if you're not an aspiring writer.)
I was looking for similar recommendations so reviving this thread itself. Does anyone have more recommendations? My focus is more on plots, structures and characters instead of punctuation, grammar and settings.
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Searched a bit further and I came up with the following tentative list.

  • Nigel Watts - Write a novel and get it published OR Teach yourself writing a novel
  • Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman - How not to write a novel
  • Nancy Kress - Beginnings, Middles and Ends
  • (Orson Scott Card - How to write science fiction and fantasy) OR/AND (Philip Athans - Guide to writing fantasy and science fiction)
  • (Orson Scott Card - Characters and Viewpoint) OR/AND (Nancy Kress - Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint)
  • James Scott Bell - Plot & Structure
  • Stanley Schmidt & Ben Bover - Aliens and Alien Societies
  • Ralph Keyes - The Courage to Write :)o I need that I suspect)
Thoughts? Suggestions? More books? :)
I also need help resolving the OR/AND choices... :confused:
I just bought Philip Athans Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction on Friday and I'm 20 pages from being done. I like the overall structure of the book and the many different examples. Athan goes over topics not really discussed in Stephen Kings On Writing, like: religion, magic, world building, ect. I won't recommend it since I havn't really written anything yet, so I am not sure if it is helpful, but I think it will be.
Thanks Arkose :) Even I've not really written anything... just doing world-building stuff and waiting for the muse to strike :)

@Montero - The link looks very promising. I read just 2 of his articles, one on Dialogue and the other on Sentimentality. He explains everything really well...
I'm currently taking a class from James Blaylock, who recommended John Gardner's Art of Fiction. It's an older book, but Gardner taught Raymond Carver, who had nothing but praise for Gardner, so that's reasonable credentials. Blaylock also mentioned (in passing) Dean Koontz's How To Write Best Selling Fiction, primarily because Koontz has successfully published under something like ten different pen names. I've also heard recommendations for Elements of Style pretty regularly over the years. Finally, Jim Butcher has some semi-recent livejournal/blog posts with short tips for writing, by no means as extensive as the above works but possibly of interest.
The Art of War for Writers - James Scott Bell.
I really enjoyed it and it in spired and taught me loads. I gave it 5/5 on Goodreads.
King mentions The Elements of Style in his book often, and for good reason. That book has had the most impact on my writing, as far as books on writing go.

I've been working through Gotham Writers' Workshop: Writing Fiction, and I think if you're looking for a book that breaks the elements of a story down and provides practical instruction, this is it.
Another excellent book is 'Moving on: from Short Story to Novel' by Della Galton. Not fantasy/sci-fi specific, but some really useful and informative ideas for developing your writing talent and doing what it says on the cover.
I read 'Dynamic Characters - How to Create Personalities That Keep Readers Captivated' by Nancy Kress and found it really interesting and useful..
I didn't see these mentioned, so I thought I'd add them here.

Creating Short Fiction by Damon Knight.
The Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells by Ben Bova.
Zen and the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury.
Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy by Various Editors.
I've a shelf full of books on writing, most carefully chosen and most offering something of value.

I'd agree that both Stephen King's and Dean Koontz's books are very good. I struggled with the John Gardener one already mentioned.

Others that I've found very helpful include several by Lawrence Block (the ones that compile his articles on writing from magazines are especially good) and the following:

Story - Robert McKee. On the surface it's about writing screenplays, but really it's about telling a good story, and understanding all the elements that go into story.

The Writer' Journey - Chris Vogler. An easy to read text on The Hero's Journey, just one framework we can use to write stories (Also see the original text: Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joe Campbell) and one that employs underlying myths to help the stories resonate with readers/viewers. Star Wars used the framework as have many wonderful tales. It's not like writing to a formula, you can take what you need from the Hero's journey and mix it into whatever plot you're using. Great stuff!

How To Write A Damn Good Novel - James N Frey. James N Frey (I think there's another James Frey, too) has written several books on writing. They are all very similar and you probably only need one. But he cuts to the chase very well and like Story above and Immediate Fiction below it's all about what makes a story grip a reader.

Immediate Fiction - Jerry Cleaver. Great book that will drive you to use conflict in your stories. It's one thing learning how to write and another thing all together to learn how to tell a page-turning story.

Lessons From A Lifetime Of Writing - David Morrell. Bit like the King and Koontz books, why not learn from someone who's been there and done it and sold a lot of books? Very inspiring and very clear, and although none of these books are overtly about SFF the principles are all the same.

Plot & Structure - James Scott Bell. Some great ideas for setting out/planning your story.

There's probably a dozen more equally good texts on my shelf but the above are the ones that come to mind. Most are about telling stories rather than writing, which, having read many recent best-sellers, is clearly the more important element in today's market-place.

Kind regards,

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