JM Williams

A home for all things fantasy and sci-fi.

Best Books to Read to Improve Your Writing


Fellow author and blogger Jamie Todd Rubin recently posted with his advice on what writing manuals to read to improve your writing. In his post Best Books on Writing he offers works by three writers, Asimov, King and Red Smith. I thought I’d add my thoughts.

On Writing by Stephen King is likely known by most aspiring or established writers. It is the go to manual for fiction authors. It provides insights in a couple ways. First by presenting a short biography of the author, showing how he struggled to make it in the business and the  second half of the book is a technical manual, covering many of the basic skills writers need in order to be successful both technically and habitually. On Writing is a must read for any aspiring fiction writer, though it does lean more towards novel writing rather than shorter forms.

Beyond the semi-biographical works of successful authors like King, there are the actual writing manuals to consider. King suggests The Elements of Style by Strunk. I have a copy, though I use it more as a reference than anything else. When I was studying writing in college, the book that we used was Making Shapely Fiction by Stern. This book is very simple, essentially an extended glossary of important terms and concepts in fiction. It also includes two short essays in the middle of the book, one of which is “A Short Guide to What Not to Do.”

Beyond fiction manuals, though, the most important thing for short story authors to read is short stories. One of the collections I read while studying short story writing was The Art of the Story, edited by Daniel Halpern. It includes some of the best literary stories from around the world. But if you’re like me, a genre author, you’ll also want to read anthologies from your genre of choice. For science fiction and fantasy, Writer’s of the Future and Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine are good places to start.

Do you have any suggestions of writing books I should add to my reading list? I am always eager for suggestions.

5 Responses to Best Books to Read to Improve Your Writing

  1. Great advice. I own two copies of On Writing by Stephen King and I read it at least once a year. I also have The Art of the Story and I’ve learned so much from reading the variety of short stories in it. Great advice.

    • Any other books on writing you would recommend?

      • I think the best way to learn is to read the types of books you want to write. I like writing crime and thrillers and so I read about forty crime and/or thriller books a year, occasionally branching out to other genres if something is recommended or sounds really good. There’s no better learning tool than constant reading and constant writing, in my opinion.

  2. I really enjoyed ‘The Writing Life’ by Annie Dillard. It’s not an instructive book as such. But rather a beautiful reflection on the writer’s life; of how writing is not just about sitting down and putting words to paper, but of a whole way of living and experiencing.

Join the Discussion!

Join the Rabble!

Keep up to date with J.M. Williams and receive exclusive content like flash stories, publishing advice and more!

Welcome to the Rabble! Thank you for your                               support. Here's the first exclusive: FREE STORY!

%d bloggers like this: