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Best Writing Books

Ian Irvine

Author of 31 novels including the internationally bestselling Three Worlds epic fantasy sequence – over a million print copies sold.


Here’s the pick of the many writing books I’ve read over the past year (or decade, for that matter). All of these books are terrific because they concentrate on the art of storytelling. Many writing books focus on literary writing and aren’t nearly as useful.

  • Cleaver, Jerry (2002). (Has run the Writer’s Loft in Chicago for nearly 30 years). Immediate Fiction. No one has ever explained the craft of storytelling more clearly or simply.
  • Maass, Donald (2009). (Top NY agent, teacher and novelist). The Fire in Fiction. Chapter by chapter, he goes through the problems his agency sees thousands of times a year in almost every submitted manuscript, and in many books that get published, and tells you what to do about them. A fantastic book.
  • Lukeman, Noah (2002). (Top NY agent). The Plot Thickens. Terrific chapters on characterisation, suspense and conflict, a lot of stuff I’ve never thought of before.
  • Lyon, Elizabeth (2008). (Freelance editor of vast experience). Manuscript Makeover, Revision Techniques no Fiction Writer can Afford to Ignore. A terrific book, much better than the classic by Browne and King, in my opinion.
  • Bell, James Scott (2004). Plot and Structure. Probably the best book on the topic.
  • Bell, James Scott (2008). (best-selling novelist). Revision and Self-Editing. Also a great book; a wealth of practical info and examples.
  • Kress, Nancy (2005). (Multi-award winning SF/fantasy author of more than 20 books, and writing teacher). Characters, Emotion and Viewpoint.
  • Vorhaus, John (1994). (Comedy writer, writing teacher (he taught at AFTRS for a while in the 90s) and master poker player). The Comic Toolbox. Not just the best book on comic writing, but better than all the others put together. He demystifies what everyone else makes complicated, and shows simply and briefly how it works.
  • Truby, John (2007). (Top story consultant and screenwriting teacher). The Anatomy of Story – 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller. After I read this I felt I understood all the elements of story for the first time, and everything he says is clearly illustrated with examples from movies or books. Great stuff on the creation of a unique story world, among other things, and on story structure, and clear exercises at the end of each chapter, though his 22 steps is rather cumbersome in practice. Easier to read than to put into practice.