Recommended Reading for Writers

This is my personal list of recommended reading for writers. In this list, you’ll find many of the book titles are older and out of print. There are two reasons for this.

1) I believe in being kind to the earth, so I shop at thrift stores for used and out-of-print books. A quick scan usually reveals whether an older book has potential. When it does, I purchase it. Some have made it to this list.

2) Times change; applications change; yet the principles of good writing are incredibly consistent. (Has Hemingway lost his appeal?) So many aspects of writing have remained constant for the past 60+ years. Today’s writers have built their careers on many of the books I’m recommending.

Recommended Reading for Writers: Tested Personally

Every book I’ve listed here proved helpful to me personally. I’m not copying someone else’s recommended reading list.

If you see asterisks around the title, I found the book took my writing to a new level. I especially recommend these books for your library. They’re the kind you’ll reference when you sense you need a writer’s tuneup.

Because so many of these books focus on fiction, you may be tempted to think, “This isn’t much value to me.” Please reconsider if that’s your reaction. The same writing techniques that make a fiction book successful are techniques that will transform your non-fiction writing from dull to fascinating.

Blogs Worth Reading

These blog posts from various sources are so well written, I prefer to send you to the original.

Clutch Words: Why They Cripple Your Writing

Books Worth Reading

*Dialog Tips and Traps: A Guide for Fiction Writers [Kindle Edition] by Brent Spencer*


This little Kindle jewel is worth the $2.99 price tag. I found new concepts on every page, even though I had used most of his techniques. I learned how to get more from the techniques I’d been using. This book is a must read for every fiction writer!

*Polish Your Fiction: A Quick & Easy Self-Editing Guide by Jessica Bell*


Bell writes from the fiction author’s perspective, yet I recommend this book highly to any author. If you follow her clear editing steps, you will enhance your chances of success as an author.

*A Writer’s Guide to Active Setting, by Mary Buckham*


I purchased Writing Active Setting: Book 1 several years ago. I grabbed the second book and third as they ‘came off the press.’ When Writer’s Digest recognized Mary’s talent, it was well-deserved. No other author I’ve read teaches this subject so effectively with spot-on examples that make concepts replicable.

A Writer’s Guide to Active Setting is a must read set for every writer. There are so many places where non-fiction writers can use these techniques. As you enlist the different strategies, you’ll find it easier to craft that elusive ‘good read’ everyone recognizes instantly, yet struggles to produce.

*Tell, Don’t Show! By James Lofquist*


This approach works especially well for writers who can’t turn the word spigot off. It’s also helpful for any writer who wants to build a solid foundation for using the active setting techniques shared by Mary Buckham in her book.

*Break into Fiction by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love*


While formula based, this book provides an excellent base for the beginning novelist. You’ll learn the power of plotting.

Purchase the newest edition. It contains updated content.

*If I Can Write, You Can Write by Charlie Shedd*


I found this Writer’s Digest Books title at a thrift shop. I thought the name Charlie Shedd seemed familiar, so I picked the book up. It turns out his published titles exceeded 26 books as of 1984, the year of publication.

For learning how to cut the fluff and self-edit, this is one of the best books I’ve read. He’s very practical.

Note: Emotionally, it’s so much easier to be hard on your own work than to have someone else do it.

The Naked Author: A Guide to Self-publishing by Alison Baverstock


Published in 2011, this book remains the definitive work on how to self-publish and look professional while doing it. Baverstock is an industry insider who researched her book at the request of Bloomsbury, one of the UK’s major publishing houses. The principles apply to Canadian and US markets as well.

Smashwords Style Guide: How to Format Your EBook by Mark Coker


This is an indispensable guide for formatting MS Word documents for eBook publication. The same tips provided for preparing a file for Smashwords, work for Kindle as well. This book was invaluable before I took the plunge and subscribed to InDesign. While I prefer to never go back to Word for book layout and design, this guide will get you as close to professional results as Word’s idiosyncrasies allow.

Smashwords Book Marketing Guide: How to Market any Book for Free by Mark Coker


This is another useful eBook from the owner of Smashwords. And best of all, it’s free.

Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success: How to Reach More Readers by Mark Coker


This is another marketing-oriented eBook from publisher Mark Coker. It shares 30 best practices self-publishing eBook authors should learn so their work looks professional.

Creative Techniques for Christian Writers by Norma R. Youngberg


Don’t pass this book over because it was published in 1968. Youngberg covers viewpoint exceptionally well in this book, which makes it a strong writer’s resource almost 50 years later.

This book has a history for me. Bette Jewel Rhoads, who taught Senior English, recommended this book to my parents in 1974. I devoured it. Even though college had steered me in a new direction, it remained a cherished possession. Then I lost it in 1989 to Hurricane Hugo.

Something about my memories of its value motivated me a few years ago to see if I could replace it through Amazon. It cost me more than the old cover price. However, I’ve never regretted my re-acquaintance with this gem. The last half of the book may be obsolete (where to sell your writing). However, the instruction within the first half is timeless!

Damm! Why Didn’t I Write That? by Marc McCutcheon


This book is full of inspiration for non-fiction writers. It covers everything from choosing your topic to marketing your book. However, it really needed a few copy editors before it went to print.

You Can Market Your Book: All the Tools You Need to Sell Your Published Book by Carmen Leal


This book is full of great ideas for in-person promotion. It’s weak in the area of using online tools.

If you are one of those people who prefer doing things the ‘old fashioned’ way, you’ll find this book more useful than a techie type. In 2003, websites and search engine optimization were barely into the toddler phase. Social media wasn’t even in its infancy. (2003 is the year MySpace launched.) Published in 2003, many of the links mentioned are no longer valid.

Publishing information has also changed as well. Print on demand (POD) didn’t exist yet. Don’t go out of your way to find the book!

Get Published! Get Produced!: A Literary Super Agent’s Inside Tips on How to Sell Your Writing by Peter Miller

Comments: This is one example of why an editor is essential, even for an agent. The edition I purchased has so many typos, I wondered if Miller was really an expert in his field. I still recommend this read because it offers solid advice for how to write a book that’s marketable.

Courses Worth Taking

Masterclass offers a 22-video series with James Patterson that is well worth the $90 investment. While he focuses primarily on writing mysteries, there’s so much valuable material in this course, you should take it no matter what your genre.

Sign up for James Patterson Teaches Writing.

Note: I do not receive compensation if you sign up for this Masterclass.