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Here are some useful links to help you improve your writing skills. Studying how to write is an important part of becoming a better writer.
Highly-recommended titles have an asterisk (*)
Audiobooks & Podcasts
Writing Great Fiction* – audiobook by James Hynes
Includes writing and revision; tilted toward literary fiction.
How to Write Best-selling Fiction* – audiobook by James Scott Bell
Includes writing, revision, and publishing; tilted toward commercial fiction.
Writing Excuses Podcast*
Over 700 episodes covering a variety of writing topics, hosted by published authors with many guest authors. You can listen for free on the website, or on your mobile device through Apple Podcasts (iphone) or on android a podcast app like Podcast Republic (one of the best, in my opinion, as it has all the old episodes of this podcast). If you’ve listened to the other two books above, or if you’re on a budget, this is a great resource, but the information is less efficiently communicated due to the podcast format (although it is more entertaining).
Books on Writing
The Elements of Style (audiobook)* by Strunk & White
The most enjoyable is the illustrated version in hardcover, which is the fourth edition (2005). The first edition is public domain and available for free, but the revised editions are superior
The Emotional Craft of Fiction* by Donald Maas. Learn how to evoke emotions in the reader.
James Scott Bell’s writing books
Most of this content is covered in Bell’s audiobook, but if you want to read this content instead, here you go. He also has another set of five writing books and a standalone on Plot and Structure.
Books on specific writing topics
- Anatomy of Story by John Truby
- Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
- Creating Character Emotions by Ann Hood
- Dialogue by Gloria Kempton
- Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress
- Heroes and Villians by Mike Alsford
- Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody
- Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain
- The Emotion Thesaurus by Ackerman & Puglisi
- The Writer’s Guide to Fantasy Literature by Philip Martin
- Understanding Show Don’t Tell by Janice Hardy
Books on Editing
Learning how to edit your work is crucial for revision, but also it helps build your skills so you write better first drafts.
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers* by Renni Browne & Dave King
A quick and easy read to get you started editing. Primary focus is fiction editing.
Revising Fiction: A Handbook for Writers* by David Madden
A deep and thought-provoking guide to revising your work. Primary focus is literary fiction.
A Writer’s Reference* by Diana Hacker
This is a college textbook on editing, and while a few sections aren’t relevant to fiction writing, most of them are. There is a ton of useful information in this book. I have the fifth edition, but they are on the ninth now. The best value is a used copy of the eighth edition, for about $10. This book focuses on grammar, punctuation, building effective sentences, and communicating effectively as a writer. It is like a much-expanded version of The Elements of Style by Strunk & White.
Books on Philosophy and Process
These books incorporate a lot of philosophy or biography, so while they are good reads, they are not necessarily practical manuals on writing. But if you like a looser form of instruction, then these are for you.
- Bird by Bird (audiobook) by Anne Lamott
- On Writing (audiobook) by Stephen King
- Steering the Craft by Ursula Le Guin
- Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer
- Writing Down the Bones (audiobook) by Natalie Goldberg
- Zen in the Art of Writing (audiobook) by Ray Bradbury
Grammar and Punctuation
A Writer’s Reference* by Diana Hacker (see above)
Websites on Grammar and Punctuation:
- Purdue University OWL* Grammar and Punctuation Guides
- The Punctuation Guide
- Grammar Girl
- Grammar Monster
- Helping Writers Become Authors (K.M. Weiland)*
- Writer’s Digest* – lost of great articles written by professionals
- Anne R Allen’s Blog with Ruth Harris
- Kathy Steinemann’s Blog
- TV Tropes – lists of common plot devices and cliches
- NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month (in November each year)
- Writers Helping Writers
- The Write Life
- Brandon Sanderson 318* – Lecture series on fiction writing by an accomplished author
- Masterclass.com Writing – good classes from experienced authors, but a subscription (unlimited) is $180 a year.
- Amy Tan – Where does creativity hide? – TED talk – from an author
- Julian Friedmann – The Mystery of Storytelling – TED talk – from an editor
- Terrible Writing Advice – funny video series on writing
- The Clues to a Great Story – TED talk – from the creator of Toy Story and Wall-E
- How to Write Your First Novel video class from Michigan State University
Sounds and Music
- Ambient noise generator (waves, rain, etc.)
- Youtube live stream radios – many are designed for studying, relaxing, etc.
- Spotify is great as well, as it has many large instrumental playlists for “Focus” and “Studying” that can be great for writing.
- Google Docs* – free cloud-based word processor, spreadsheets, and storage, for use in your browser or with their mobile apps. Widely used for critique and writer groups due to excellent sharing and commenting tools.
- LibreOffice – a free word processor and spreadsheet program for desktop use on Windows, Linux, and Mac
- Scrivener – popular paid writing app (for Windows and Mac)
- yWriter – free Scrivener alternative (for Windows only)
- Bibisco – free writing app for Windows, Mac, and Linux with paid upgraded version
- Hemingway App – free online writing tool to analyze your prose, and also a paid downloadable version
- Freewrite – a basic physical word processor for distraction-free writing ($500)
- AlphaSmart Neo 2 – basically the same thing as the Freewrite but can be had used for about $30
- If you’re looking for distraction-free writing, you can also use Google Docs, then press the F11 key on your keyboard to take your browser into full-screen mode. You can then hide most of the Google Docs menus at the top and right side using the arrow icons. See our full tutorial here!