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14 of The Best Books That Help Your Creative Writing

I was busy searching for some great books that teach you the art of novel writing. I searched extensively in Amazon and selected the most popular and highest-rated books, based on the user reviews of them. In this list, I have included the average rate each book got and the number of reviewers for each.

I haven’t personally read any of the books in the list, except the first one, On Writing by Stephen King. Others are purely recommended based on their rating and reviews.

1. On Writing by Stephen King

Avg Rating: 4.5 (801 reviews)

This is the only book in this list that I read myself and still keep as a primary writing style reference. The mere fact that Stephen King wrote this book fetched whopping 801 reviews for it in Amazon. Almost 600 people rate it as the very best writing guide. I would give it a four.

On Writing is a semi-autobiographical record of King, which touches through some basic elements of writing only. It is perhaps because King likes to give writers maximum freedom and shares the view that writers who are not constrained by too many rules tend to write better.

The book is my personal recommendation to anybody who wants to write better, and be inspired by the struggles and rise to fame and success of a great writer of the 21 century.

2. Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course by Jerry Cleaver

Avg Rating: 4.5 (82 reviews)

This one has been rated 5 by 69 reviewers. So, it seems to be a great venture at teaching fiction writing. The 304-page reference guide published by St. Martin Griffin is deemed to be a valuable resource for writers by many reviewers.

Jerry Cleaver is most famed for his writing workshop, Writers’ Loft, which is rated as the most popular writers’ workshop in Chicago for the last 20 years. He is also the teacher of creative writing in Northwestern University.

3. How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N Frey (Two parts)

Avg Rating: 4.5 (88 reviews)

This seems to be one of the most popular novel-writing guides out there. The book got total of 88 reviews and 63 out of them rated it at five. The author is one of America’s leading creative writing teachers. Several of the people he mentored are now best-selling fiction writers. Here is the second part of the series: Advanced Techniques for Dramatic Storytelling. This part is also rated 4.5 from 33 user reviews.

4. Plot and Structure (Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers From Start to Finish) by James Scott Bell

Avg Rating: 5 (68 reviews)

This book seems to be highly reviewed and rated as one of the best out there. A whopping 59 people out of the 68 rated it at five.

James Scott Bell is an established thriller writer and adjunct professor of writing at Pepperdine University. He has also been fiction columnist for Writers’ Digest magazine. Here is another book of James Scott Bell, Write Great Fiction Revision and Self Editing.

5. Elements of Writing Fiction: Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

Avg Rating: 4.5 (70 reviews)

Orson Scott Card needn’t have an introduction, I suppose. He is one of the best selling American fiction writers. With this book, the science fiction and fantasy writer comes up with a writers’ guide itself. 46 of the reviewers rated it 5, and nobody rated it below 3.

The reviewers note that the guide focuses mainly on character development, which is the most important area of creative writing. Orson is generally regarded to be a characterization expert.

6. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

Avg Rating: 4.5 (57 reviews)

This is another highly rated novel writing book. 40 of the reviewers gave it a five. The book focuses on writing your breakthrough novel, which will get you out of the midlist of the publishing industry.

The book includes case studies of popular authors like Anne Perry. Donald Maass started off as a writer and now heads his own literary agency, the Donald Maass Literary Agency, which represents more than a hundred writers worldwide.

7. Elements of Writing Fiction by Nancy Kress

Avg Rating: 4.5 (36 reviews)

Nancy Kress’s effort on teaching writing has been rated five by 28 reviewers out of the 36 that reviewed it. None of them rated it below 3, and six people rated it at 4.

Nancy Kress is a popular writer of twenty-three books including novels in science fiction, fantasy, and thriller genres. Besides writing novels, she also publishes short stories. Here is her related book, Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints, which is also a useful writing help book.

8. Your First Novel: An Author Agent Team Share the Keys to Achieving Your Dream by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb

Avg Rating: 5 (14 reviews)

This book got a rating of 5 by 12 reviewers. Novelist Laura Whitcomb and literary agent Ann Rittenberg wrote it.

The book is well organized into both sides of writing, the craft and the business part. The first part, written by the novelist herself, focuses on the writing craft. The second part is written by the literary agent, detailing the business of writing. Most of the reviewers felt that this is a complete guide to writing and publishing.

9. Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide From New York’s Acclaimed Creative Writing School

Avg Rating: 4.5 (24 reviews)

This is another popular fiction-writing book. Sixteen reviewers would recommend this as the best.

It’s a collaborative effort from Gotham Writers’ Workshop, which mastered the craft and art of writing. Eleven authors wrote this book collectively. The book treats the writing with proper introduction and delves into its advanced parts.

10. Elements of Writing Fiction by Monica Wood

Avg Rating: 4.5 (27 reviews)

This is a writing guide focusing on visual writing, building writing style, plot pace, point of view, etc. 14 of the reviewers rated it as the best.

Monica Wood is a Pushcart Prize winning novelist from Maine. Many of the reviewers feel that the book is very detailed and gives good information to the readers. However, some gave it a 4 since they felt more writing examples should have been provided.

11. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing a Novel

Avg Rating: 4 (34 reviews)

This is a publication from the famous Complete Idiot’s Guide series. It is rated 5 by 22 of the 34 reviewers, and two reviewers felt it not up to the mark.

The book seems to be popular in that reviewers feel it is a one-stop shop for writing guidelines. The writer Tom Monteleone has a number of publication credits in his name.

12. The Marshall Plan of Novel Writing by Evan Marshall

Avg Rating: 3.8 (38 reviews)

This is a 16-step writing program. The publishers boast that the book is perfect guide to writing any sort of novels. Evan Marshall was a former editor and literary agent, and he knows the publishing industry inside out. He currently leads the Evan Marshall Literary Agency.

Fourteen of the reviewers gave it a five, and five rated it at one. Some reviewers feel that the book is perfect for highly complex plots and doesn’t give practical suggestions for simpler plots. And some others feel that the book focuses more on the writing business than on writing itself.

13. How to Write and Sell Your First Novel by Oscar Collier and Francis Leighton

Avg Rating: 4 (12 reviews)

Five of the reviewers rated it at 5 and five others at 4. The major facet of the book is that it includes interviews with best-selling writers, like Stephen King, John Grisham, etc. Generally the reviewers didn’t feel this book is the best for writers out there.

14. How Not to Write a Novel: Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman

Avg Rating: 4 (9 reviews)

The book is a guide of 200 mistakes the writers make that may cause them not to get published. The book seems to be rather funny about these mistakes, so the reviewers think. Six of the reviewers rated it at 5.

Howard Mittelmark wrote first and then edited business magazines. He was a manuscript reader for literary agency for some time in his career. Later on, he reviewed books for the New York Times. Sandra Newman is a novelist.

Copyright © Lenin Nair 2008


  1. I'm not disagreeing with you, but I'm curious: where did you get the information that Card is "the" bestselling American fiction writer?

    I'm a personal fan of his and would love to know how to verify that statement.


  2. I haven't read Card. I have only heard about him. Wikipedia provided the information. Thanks for the comment.


  3. Hi there, great blog!
    I have a similar list that I created for writers on my Squidoo page:
    Comparing the two I only see one title on both lists, which interestingly happens to have the same important rank.
    Perhaps this means that, like novels, writing guides are geared toward certain tastes as well?
    Just a thought.

  4. John Gardner - The Art of Fiction. My personal favorite, though I've only read a couple from this list.


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