9 Writing Books That Are Actually Worth Your Money


Okay, there are a LOT of writing books out there. When you’re stuck, it can seem overwhelming perusing the shelf of your nearest bookstore–or worse, utilizing Amazon. But, believe it or not, there are actually writing books that are worth your money. Some of them, can even be helpful! The best writing books are informative, but not too wordy. Purposeful, but chock full of great examples.

Let me share with you some of the books that I keep on my own shelf and which ones have actually helped me write my debut novel. But first, let me share my list of what I think makes a good writing guide:

  • Writing exercises galore! The more, the better.
  • Quality Advice in Short Chapters
  • Chapters are clearly labeled with an index somewhere for easy reference
  • A plethora of examples!

3 Of The Best Nonfiction Writing Books

I actually LOVE memoir and I hope to write one of my own, one day. Personal essays are captivating and often share more intellect that fiction can. After studying nonfiction in college, it’s been near and dear to my heart and I’ve been collecting nonfiction writing books ever since.

In the process of writing my own stories (and taking some college classes way back when), I have tried a few different writing books that I’ve found helpful. These are the ones that I enjoyed the most and USED the most.

Crafting The Personal Essay by Dinty W. Moore

Crafting The Personal Essay is one of my favorite writing books on my shelf. I would argue that you should buy it even if you don’t write nonfiction.

One of the things I really enjoy about this book is that it splits the narrative into two goals: writing, and reaching your readers. Moore also simplifies ideas really well and makes concepts easy to understand. I can’t tell you how many passages in this book I have highlighted because I found them to be incredibly insightful.

This is a chapter-style book and lessons range from writing travel, spiritual, and nature essays to conquering writing block, building on writing routines, and dealing with rejection from publishers.

Your Life Is A Book by Brenda Peterson & Sarah Jane Freymann

If you’re looking to write a memoir, Your Life Is A Book is a good place to start. I can’t remember where I first read about these two authors, but I believe I read something else that Peterson & Freymann wrote and really enjoyed it. I’ll have to try and see if I have another book of theirs somewhere—for some reason I think I do.

Anyway, this book is another chapter-style book, but it does have writing exercises at each juncture. I personally found that this style of writing book doesn’t work for me, but I do really like being able to have it on hand to reach for when I need assistance with a particular topic. And, this book has a wealth of knowledge.

I loved all of the different advice that the authors share. from creating characters (which can be really difficult when you’re writing memoir) to food writing, to over 75 pages that goes in depth about publishing…there’s something for every memoirist here.

The Art Of Memoir by Mary Karr

Back when I was a baby writer, Mary Karr’s The Art of Memoir was the first writing book I purchased for myself. I was taking a nonfiction workshop in college and I was struggling. My professor wasn’t giving me the information I needed and I wasn’t satiating my appetite for writing. This book did that for me.

The Art of Memoir is not your typical writing book. Written by an accomplished author, it delves into Karr’s own experiences writing a memoir and her thoughts. I think at one point, she says that she even threw away over 1200 pages of her last memoir because she changed her mind so much.

There’s a lot of raw, real artistry here and I think Karr’s firsthand advice made me feel like I was talking to a friend, rather than reading a book. I’d definitely recommend this one.

3 Of The Best Fiction Writing Books

There’s a lot of fiction books on the market, and for some reason I feel like fiction can be more difficult when it comes to picking a writing guide; maybe it’s because there are so many different genres in the fiction market.

That being said, a novel is a novel and good writing is good writing. Here are a few of the guides catered toward fiction that I would say are the best writing books out there (this is totally subjective).

Writing Your Novel From Start To Finish by Joseph Bates

This is one of those books that I picked up a while ago that I never really read until I needed it. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t like reading entire chapter books when I’m writing–I get a glimmer of inspiration and then I’m off to writing land, entirely forgetting where I was in the writing guide. But, maybe then that’s what makes Bates’ book a good guide.

Writing Your Novel From Start To Finish is another book that has a wealth of writing exercises, tons of information about developing ideas, and even worksheets! This book breaks down each step, making each task simple and easy for the novice writer. I think, if I didn’t know where to start my novel, THIS is the book I would pick up.

The 90-Day Novel by Alan Watt

I bought this book before starting NaNoWriMo this year (you can read all about my journey here) because Watt claims that he wrote his first novel in just under 90 days, selling it 6 months later for $500,000. I mean, if that’s not success then what is?

One of the things I REALLY liked about this book is that it’s not set up in chapters. It really does go day by day and Watt walks you through what he would recommend doing that day. That being said, the first 30 days of the book were too slow for me, and I just flew through them in like, a week.

However, I did really enjoy the writing exercises that are included in part three of this book. I think they helped me jump-start the first few scenes of my book and I still find myself flipping through the stream of consciousness exercises.

DIY MFA by Gabriela Pereira

This is kind of a funny anecdote, but I bought this book because I had to drop out of my MFA program without finishing my degree. Without going into too many details, I had to take medical leave and I wasn’t able to go back. Pereira’s DIY MFA helped me make peace with this decision and it gave me a lot of interesting insight that I wouldn’t have gotten in another college-sanctioned workshop anyway.

This book is chapter-style, and it is entirely written by a writer and teacher who makes it her mission to empower writers to take an entrepreneurial approach to their education. The book helps writers set realistic goals, helps teach readers to outline and prepare, and it also emphasizes establishing a place in the bookish community.

I think this is a great read for a lot of reasons. It might not tell you HOW to write your next book, but it will give you the tools to sit down and do it, which is just as important.

More Writing Books Worth Your $$$

These next books aren’t necessarily guide books for your next novel, but they’ll make a difference in your writing. Let me explain.

Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace by Joseph M Williams & Joseph Bizup

Editing, a necessary evil. If you struggle with grammar, THIS is the book you want. It’s a little pricey, but if you want to edit correctly, it’s worth the money. The book examines correct sentences, how to write clearly, and creating more concise, ethical writing.

Enough said.

The Dialogue Thesaurus by Dahlia Evans

Someone recommend this book to me on Tiktok and I will forever be grateful. Seriously.

Dahlia Evans has created a bunch of unique thesauruses for writers. My favorite is the Dialogue Thesaurus but I also have her Character Expressions book, too. These books are laid out like a thesaurus and give writers various different tags and phrases for different expressions.

The books go well beyond any online thesaurus that I’ve found and they are well worth the money. They will always have a place on my shelf.

Writer For Hire: 101 Secrets To Freelance Success by Kelly James-Enger

This is one of the only books I’ve found that accurately depicts freelance writing in today’s market.

I bought this book years ago when I was grant writing and I actually was able to get a freelance job with it. While it’s not what I wanted to do long-term, I found a lot of helpful advice in Writer For Hire and I’ve kept it around, despite it now being a few years out of date, because I think a lot of this information still rings true.

The book explores how to market yourself, from creating a platform to harnessing social media. More importantly, it teaches writers how to make the most of their time and it embraces networking and making connections. There are countless lessons to be learned here. Definitely a must-read if you’re hoping to do any kind of freelance writing.

These are the books that already have a home on my shelf, but don’t worry! I have my eye on a few more and I’ll definitely be updating this post (or making another!) as new books are being released every day.

Have you used any of these writing guides? What do you feel is the best writing book you’ve used? I want to know! Drop me a comment below.

And, if you’re still looking, here’s a comprehensive list of even MORE writing books from Bookriot.

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