26 of the Best Books On Writing

What’s the number one thing you can do to improve your writing?

Read. A lot.

Read anything and everything you can find, and you’ll become a better writer.

Read your favorite genre, whether that’s historical fiction, creative non-fiction or personal essays. Read books that are similar to what you like to write. And when you’re in the mood to learn about craft, read books on writing.

The titles below will help you with all aspects of your writing, from learning to write better to finding inspiration to figuring out where to pitch your ideas. We’ve even included some books about how to make money writing.

Here are some of the best books on writing.

Books on becoming a better writer

1. On Writing by Stephen King

Part memoir, part guidebook, Stephen King’s classic will appeal even to those who avoid King’s renowned horror-packed tales. In this book, King discusses how he came to be the writer we know today.

2. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird is an essential part of any writer’s toolbox. In this work, Lamott shares herself and her craft with readers, including anecdotes that tie the pieces together into all-around great writing.

3. Writer’s Market edited by Robert Lee Brewer

Writer’s Market helps aspiring writers become published. Its listings contain hundreds of pages of suggested markets for nonfiction writers, as well as those looking to sell short stories, including details for how to pitch your work.

4. On Writing Well by William Zinsser

This classic book targets nonfiction writers and includes writing tips, as well as the fundamentals of craft. Zinsser discusses many forms of writing, from interviewing and telling stories about people to writing about travel.

5. The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White

For years, writing teachers have assigned The Elements of Style to their students. Brushing up on the basics from time to time is critical for continually developing your skills, and this book contains simple truths that every writer needs to know.

6. The Associated Press Stylebook by the Associated Press

AP Style is known by many as the “go-to” writing style for journalists and public relations pros. The Associated Press Stylebook contains more than 3,000 entries detailing rules on grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, abbreviation and word and numeral usage to help you master news writing.

7. How to Write Bestselling Fiction by Dean Koontz

While many books on this list are aimed at nonfiction writers, this one is for those who dream up their own stories to tell. If anyone is qualified to tell people how to write bestselling fiction, it’s prolific author Dean Koontz, who’s sold more 450 million copies of his books. This book was written in 1981 and is out of print, but has valuable insight for writers who manage to snag a copy (check the library!). It’s one of the best books on writing fiction.

8. Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

Goldberg’s book examines the craft of writing including how to start brainstorming, the importance of learning how to listen, the vital role verbs play in writing, and even how to find an inspiring place to write.

9. Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

Aimed at fiction writers, this book tackles everything from models to help with story structure to a variety of techniques to help with crafting great stories from start to finish. You’ll even find tips on creating plotting diagrams. and tools to overcome various plot problems that can arise.

Books on overcoming the struggles of writing

10. The Writing Life by Annie Dillard

The author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek shares words of wisdom in this handy book where she discusses the difficulties of writing. She writes about how hard it is to write and how sometimes it is necessary to destroy paragraphs, phrases and words to re-form them as something even better.

11. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

From time to time, every writer suffers from burnout or writer’s block. Julia Cameron’s book focuses on the craft of writing and training yourself to be even more creative.

She offers valuable techniques like starting each morning with a free-writing exercise, and exploring one subject per week that you find fascinating. Her tips for reinvigorating the creative juices could be of help to any kind of writer.

12. Word Work: Surviving and Thriving as a Writer by Bruce Holland Rogers

Word Work is packed with practical advice for overcoming procrastination, finding happiness in writing and even conquering writer’s block via useful exercises. It also covers how to handle rejection and success.

13. A Writer’s Guide to Persistence by Jordan Rosenfeld

This book focuses on how to be a happy and successful writer throughout your career. It covers everything from finding joy as a writer to avoiding burnout and the all-important challenge of balancing writing with a busy life. It also discusses how to fine-tune your craft, get in touch with your creative flow, revise your work, find critiques, and learn how to be resilient.

14. War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

Published in 2012, this book helps writers and creators of all kinds overcome the biggest obstacle of all: our inner naysayer. The Amazon description says this book is “tough love…for yourself.” If something inside of you is keeping you from your biggest accomplishments, this is the right book to pick up.

Books on writing as an art form

15. The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work edited by Marie Arana

This book contains columns from a decade of The Washington Post’s “Writing Life” column, with contributors as diverse as Jimmy Carter, Joyce Carol Oates and Carl Sagan. Essays are paired along with biographical information about each author, helping readers learn more about these skilled contributors and their ideas on writing.

16. The Paris Review Interviews

The Paris Review offers in-depth interviews with some of the leading names in the literature world, from novelists to playwrights and poets. This series of books features a collection of interviews with past and present writing superstars including Ernest Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, Kurt Vonnegut, Toni Morrison, among many other famous names.

17. Art & Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles & Ted Orlando

This book reflects on the artistic side of being a writer. Making art is no easy feat, and Bayles and Orlando — both artists themselves — explore the challenges of making art and the arious obstacles that can discourage people along the way.

Originally published in 1994, Art & Fear is now an underground classic, dishing out relatable, valuable advice.

18. The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century by Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker offers a new take on some of the classic writing manuals. Inside The Sense of Style, he analyzes examples modern prose, pointing out fantastic writing and offering tips to spruce up lackluster work.

19. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, put together this book of essays portraying his passion for the craft.

20. The Lonely Voice: A Study of the Short Story by Frank O’Connor

World-renowned Irish author Frank O’Connor takes on the short story in this favorite book on writing. Short stories are challenging, but O’Connor shares tips and tactics for mastering the art of the short story that can help any writer begin to feel more confident about crafting their own works. This is one of the best books on writing short stories.

Books on making money writing

21. Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook: The Step-by-Step Guide to the Legal Issues of Self-Publishing by Helen Sedwick

Attorney and self-published author Helen Sedwick uses her 30+ years of legal experience to help aspiring self-publishers navigate the business side of writing. This first-of-its-kind guidebook covers everything from business set up to spotting scams to help keep writers at their desks and out of court.

22. How to Make a Living With Your Writing by Joanna Penn

Joanna Penn’s How to Make a Living With Your Writing and her companion workbook can help any writer examine their current writing situation and make a plan for the future. Penn discusses her multiple income streams and shares the breakdown of her six-figure writing income, which includes book sales, affiliate marketing commissions, a series of courses she offers and speaking fees.

23. Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success by Kelly James-Enger

Divided into five sections James-Enger discusses everything from when it makes sense to ignore per-word rates, how to ask for more money, how to set goals and even how to fire troublesome clients. This book is a valuable read when working towards a sustainable career as a full-time freelance writer.

24. Earn More Money as a Freelance Writer by Nicole Dieker

The Write Life’s own contributor Nicole Dieker has a book out about writing and money. The book focuses on setting goals for each phase of a writer’s career, including getting rid of lower paying jobs to make way for better work and higher-paying clients.

25. Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living edited by Manjula Martin

In her new anthology, Martin includes a series of essays from well-known literary icons such as Cheryl Strayed, Jennifer Weiner, and Nick Hornby where they discuss the intersection of writing and money in essays and interviews.

26. Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

This content-creation book, Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, drives home the point that anyone with a web site or social media channels is a writer.

It focuses on how to craft quality writing that boosts business and helps find and retain customers, including writing tips, content help, grammar rules, and more.

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This is an updated version of a story that was previously published. We update our posts as often as possible to ensure they’re useful for our readers.

Photo via Andrii Kobryn/ Shutterstock

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Conduct Better Phone Interviews: 5 Strategies for Freelance Writers

For freelance writers who work with magazines or online publications, completing phone interviews is a way of life.

Technology, social media and email have certainly made it easier to connect with sources, but when it comes to writing a feature story, phone interviews beat email every time.

Why? As a writer, when you speak with a source on the phone, you’re able to:

  • Build rapport and a comfortable dialogue with a source.
  • Put an interviewee at ease, making them more likely to share compelling information.
  • Ask provocative questions that build off of previous questions and answers.
  • Hear and feel the person’s emotions as he shares his story, giving you a better understanding of the given topic.
  • Find new angles or hidden gems that might not have been shared if the interview had been completed via email.
  • Save the interviewee the work and time of having to type her answers out in an email.

Strategies for conducting an effective phone interview

After completing phone interviews with sources and experts for magazine feature stories, I’ve found a few strategies can lead to better, more insightful conversations.

Here are five phone interview tips that will help you write better stories.

1. Be prepared for the interview

There’s nothing worse than jumping on a call with a source with little to no background information.

Do your homework and research the person before your interview. Ask your editor for as much information as possible about the source ahead of time, and come to the call with a list of pre-written questions to get the conversation going. Not only will you appear more prepared, you’ll put the source at ease with your level of professionalism.

Plus, when you prepare well beforehand, you can often complete an interview much more quickly than if you hadn’t done your homework. I like to schedule phone interviews for 30-minute blocks. With the right amount of pre-work, I’m able to stick to that timeframe, helping me complete interviews more efficiently, and feel confident I’ve collected all the information I need.

2. Start with a softball to break the ice

To get the best interview possible, you need your interviewee to feel comfortable. When a source feels relaxed and at ease, you’re in a better place to find the most compelling angle and capture quotes that will enhance your story.

Start the phone interview with general pleasantries and small talk. I find this strategy often helps the source feel more comfortable speaking with me because he recognizes that I’m a real person, just like him.

To ease into my list of interview questions, I like to ask this one first: Tell me a little bit about who you are and how you got to where you are today.”

This question helps the interviewee open up, gives you some much-needed background information and lays the groundwork for the questions that will come later in the interview. Also, this open-ended question gives you the chance to learn something new that might help the story and trigger other interview questions.

3. Listen (and resist the urge to talk)

Depending on if writing is your full-time gig or a side hustle, listening carefully may prove difficult.

In my role as the founder and CEO of a content management agency, I’m usually the one talking, consulting and teaching my clients. Being quiet and truly tuning in to a source can be challenging. I find myself wanting to have a two-way conversation, and while it’s great to build rapport with the person you’re interviewing, you’ll get a better story when you keep your mouth shut and let the other person do the talking.

On some calls, I don’t speak for 10 minutes — I’m busy furiously listening and taking notes. I don’t record my interviews, so taking clear, concise and accurate notes is of utmost importance, making listening carefully even more crucial.

And these calls where I don’t speak for 10 minutes at a time often give me the best information.

Resist the urge to interrupt with further questions or comments while a source is telling her story. Instead, write down your comments or questions and wait for the interviewee to finish speaking before you jump in and move the conversation forward.

4. Embrace the silence

Silence can feel uncomfortable, but in the case of phone interviews, it can be pure gold. Sources often share crucial bits of information if you let the silence linger just a little bit.

Because of the feeling of discomfort or awkwardness, the person you’re interviewing will generally jump to fill the silence…and he’ll often fill it with great information you may not otherwise have been able to pull out of him.

Plus, when you leave room for a little silence, the interviewee has a moment to reflect, gather his thoughts and perhaps share information in a different and more quotable way than before. Don’t fear the silence; practice embracing it and you will soon be reaping the benefits.

5. End interviews with this question 

Here’s the best question you could ask at the end of an interview: “Is there anything else I should know?”

As the writer, you’ve come to the interview with a list of questions. You have an idea of the information you need from a source to complete your story. However, the interviewee is usually a wealth of knowledge… and there may be an important question you haven’t asked.

To make sure I get all the information I need before hanging up the phone, I end all my interviews by asking the source if there’s something she hasn’t had the opportunity to share but feels would benefit the story. Usually there is a question I haven’t asked, and some information the source is dying to share.

It’s usually a hidden gem that I only discover in asking that last open-ended question.

Or, sometimes the interviewee doesn’t offer new information, but summarizes everything you’ve talked about with a quote that’s the perfect addition to your story.

You’re a writer, yes. But you can make your job a whole lot easier — and do that job better — if you ask good questions.

This is an updated version of a story that was previously published. We update our posts as often as possible to ensure they’re useful for our readers.

Photo via GuadiLab / Shutterstock 

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