My Favourite Reads of 2015

Writing isn’t necessarily something everyone can do, and it isn’t necessarily something you’re just good at. Don’t get me wrong some people have more talent than others. But it hasn’t just appeared out of nowhere, talent needs nurturing, guiding, and practising.

I decided to ask a group of women writers what they thought about self-help books. From a group of 5,559 women in various stages of writing – and that means everything from just starting out or settling down in their award winning career – I had 40 suggestions (including a few of my own).

This blog details the best (writing) self-help books that have been endorsed by actual writers who can vouch for their success as a result of them. There’s something here for every genre and for every stage of the writing process starting with the most popular…

  1. On Writing by Stephen King (2012) – This is a definite favourite between writers as King gives a low-down on how the basics of writing actually work. I’m not a huge fan of the tone he uses in this one but I can’t deny this is gives any writer understanding of the basic skill set
  2. Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne LaMott (1980) – This was another firm favourite and timeless classic, although I’ve never read it, a lot of the authors talking about this said how much it had helped them and opened their eyes.
  3. Writing the Breakout Novel by Dondald Maass (2002)- Claimed to be brilliant, this book has made it pretty far up my list as Maass gives an all round guide for published and unpublished authors alike.
  4. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg (2005) – This combines Zen meditation with the form of writing as been nominated by several of our authors who also went on to nominate another of her books that we’ll come to later on.
  5. 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 (2014) – A great insight into the nuts and bolts of the craft of writing. This books is said to be great for those in any stage of their writing career crafting any type of story.
  6. Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King (2006) – An easily digestible and up-to-date book that enables writers to understanding the importance of finishing a piece of work.
  7. Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss (2009) – This is one of my favourite books and highlights the uttermost importance of correct grammar – it also makes a great audiobook.
  8. The Crime Writer’s Guide to Police Practice and Procedure by Michael O’Byrne (2015) – I discovered this one recently after it was recommended to me and instantly fell in love.  It has everything a crime writer would need to know, and the best bit? It’s UK specific! Something I found very hard to come across.
  9. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler (2007) – Vogler creates a fresh insight into creating stories and reawakens and inspires authors everywhere. This book was recommended as great for helping to plot stories and understanding character archetypes.
  10. Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those who Want to Write Them by Francine prose (2012) – This book has been recommended no matter the genre you’re writing as Prose takes you on a guided tour around the masters of their trade.
  11. The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great by Donald Maass (2009) – This author has come highly recommended by several writers and as somebody who knows what he’s talking about.
  12. Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling in Modern Fiction by Dondald Maass (2012) – Another book by this author that has been specifically recommended by more than one of the writers that were asked.
  13. The Picador Book of Crime Writing by Michael Dibdin (1994) – This is one recommended by me. It has a combination of tips, styles, tactics and extracts to help give you a deeper understanding of the crime genre.
  14. The Writer’s and Artists’ Yearbook (2016)- This is another recommendation from me but one that I believe every author should have.  It has details of how to approach Agents, Publishers and details an international list of anyone and everyone in the publishing world!
  15. Save the Cat!: The Only Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder (2005) – Although this book may approach screenwriting in a formulaic way, it’s been recognised as easy to understand and helpful when improving screenwriting skills.
  16. Writing for Story by Jon Franklin – This book has come highly recommended by one of the writers and details the tricks of the trade as used by Franklin himself.
  17. Write from Life: Turning Your Personal Experiences into Compelling Stories by Meg Flies (2002) – A helpful book to build your writing techniques when writing something that is personal and utilising your private emotions and thoughts for memoir writing.
  18. Proofreading and Copyediting for Dummies by Suzanne Gilad ( 2007) – A must have book for anyone who needs a few tips and tricks to give your proofreading a helping hand.
  19. On Becoming A Novelist by John Gardner (2000) – This one may be a little older than some of the others but that doesn’t mean it’s any less effective.
  20. Aspects of a Novel by EM Forster (2005) – Another classic help-book that enables writers to develop their skills using advice from one of the greatest writers in history.
  21. Elements of Style by William Strunk Jnr & E. B. White (1999) – This is a classic writing-help book with advice that is as helpful today as it was when it was written, helping authors to get back to basics.
  22. Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True by Elizabeth Berg (2012) – A great book to help with creativity and writing from the heart.
  23. Gotham Writers’ Workshop Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide from New York’s Acclaimed Creative Writing School  (2003) – This is a great collaboration from some of the best writers in New York.  Each chapter offers different advice from a new author.
  24. Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee (2010) – A great book for any budding screenwriter.  Written by a critically acclaimed an internationally recognised writer, it provides inside tips.
  25. Writing the Paranormal Novel: Techniques and Exercises for Weaving Supernatural Elements Into Your Story by Steven Harper (2011) – A great book for helping with building worlds, archetypes and avoiding tropes.
  26. The Kick Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience by Chuck Wendig (2013) – This is a great place to start with your writing career with tips for each stage of your writing process.
  27. The Power of Memoir: How to Write Your Healing Story by Linda Myers (2010) – A step-by-step programme to use memoir writing as a therapeutic process.
  28. The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life by Julia Cameron (1999) – This book takes a look at the conventional practices of writing and analyses whether or not they’re worth using.
  29. How to Write Science Fiction by Orson Scott Card (2005) – A great book for focusing on the science fiction genre.
  30. Kate Walker’s 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance by Kate Walker (2015) – This book brings together the experience of an advanced novelist to ensure that others can find success in the romance genre.
  31. Little Book of Writing Romance by Liz Fielding (2014) – A brilliant little book for helping to crack that romance genre
  32. Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction by Jeff Gerke (2010) – A great book to help determine how to balance the two most important characteristics of fiction
  33. Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot that Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell (2005) – Part of the Writer’s Digest series, this book gives the writer key techniques to apply to their writing and strengthen it in every way
  34. Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers by Caroline See (2003) – This book has a very positive effect with some of our writers and may be the only book you need on writing
  35. The First 5 Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman (2010) – A great book for learning how to avoid the rejection pile whether you’re a veteran or novice writer.
  36. Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life by Natalie Goldberg (2009) – This book tackles the source of creativity and is a book for all writers at any stage of their career.
  37. The Writing Life by Anne Dillard (1990) – The perfect book to expose the true elements of a writer’s life.
  38. Writing into the Dark: How to Write a Novel without an Outline by Dean Wesley Smith (2015) – If you’re like me and don’t plan ahead then this is a great book for making sure you stay on track.

So there you have it.  A collection of the best writing self-help books out there as recommended by writer’s themselves. Do you use a hidden gem that I’ve not mentioned? Joint he conversation below!

    2 Comments

  1. D.G.Kaye 28th September 2015 at 11:32 pm Reply

    Great list here Natasha. Gratefully, I’ve read more than half of them and bookmarked those I haven’t. 🙂

    • Natasha Orme 29th September 2015 at 8:20 am Reply

      I’m so glad their helpful! I’ve taken note from quite a few but it’s always reassuring when they’re recommended by other writers 🙂

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