What help can the best books on writing fiction be for aspiring authors? Well, evolving into a master of fiction writing is much like apprenticing in a craft—it calls for a practical, hands-on approach, where theory meets execution. And the best way to immerse yourself in the nuances of this art form? Diving headfirst into the world of fiction itself. Yes, it might seem overly simplistic, but therein lies its potency. And yet, because it’s so simple, it’s all too easy to overlook.

A single illuminating book about writing could ignite the latent wordsmith within you, setting ablaze your passion for crafting tales and characters that resonate with readers long after they’ve turned the last page. But with a plethora of books out there, each claiming to hold the key to unlocking your creative potential, the paradox of choice can make the search seem daunting.

If you’re grappling with this conundrum, worry no more. We’ve sifted through the countless offerings and rounded up a curated selection of the most critically acclaimed and reader-approved titles to help you navigate the narrative waters.

But before we venture forth into this literary landscape, we want to illuminate our journey with a guiding light. We believe in transparency, and so we aim to share why certain books made our list and the specific circumstances where you might find them most enlightening and beneficial.

Through every book we introduce, our goal is not merely to provide a list, but to craft a compass—a tool to help aspiring fiction writers like yourself navigate the complex and richly rewarding world of storytelling. Welcome aboard this exciting literary expedition; let’s delve into the heart of fiction together.

Here are the best books on writing fiction…

A Passion for Writing Fiction by Jack Hodgins

“A Passion for Narrative” is a no-frills guide to the art of fiction writing. Award-winning author Jack Hodgins doesn’t seek to entice you into the world of crafting stories, nor does he offer marketing tips. Instead, he presents a robust manual for overcoming the challenges inherent to fiction writing.

The book is comprehensive, covering aspects from finding your unique stories to creating vibrant characters, structuring your narrative, employing metaphors, symbols, allusions, and more. Each chapter is studded with writing exercises to help you flex your writing muscles.

One unique chapter, ‘The Story of a Story,’ sees Hodgins share his personal experience with one of his most famous works, offering a fascinating glimpse into the practicalities of writing.

With a wealth of experience as a novelist, short-story writer, and creative writing teacher, Hodgins imparts invaluable wisdom. “A Passion for Narrative” promises to not only enhance your writing skills but also transform you into a more discerning reader. It’s a must-have for both budding and established writers alike.

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman

In their enlightening book, “The Emotion Thesaurus,” Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi throw open the doors to the hidden depths of character expression. This bestseller is far more than just a reference book; it’s an unparalleled journey into the heart of character development.

Crafting genuine and relatable emotional responses is a tightrope act that many writers grapple with. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of clichéd depictions—overused smiles, nods, and frowns. Ackerman and Puglisi tackle this issue head-on, providing a treasure trove of inspiration that aids writers in bringing their characters to life.

In this expanded edition, they delve deeper, offering 55 new entries, making for a staggering total of 130 emotions, each described across a range of intensities. These entries explore everything from body language cues to visceral responses, offering writers a vast palette of expressions to paint their characters with.

But “The Emotion Thesaurus” goes beyond just offering cataloged emotional reactions. It also guides writers through common emotional storytelling pitfalls and provides insightful advice to ensure the consistent and realistic portrayal of characters’ feelings. Moreover, it lends a hand in subtly conveying hidden emotions and emotional subtext, using dialogue and nonverbal cues as powerful tools.

With its intuitive list format and in-depth exploration of the emotional landscape, “The Emotion Thesaurus” is not just a tool—it’s a catalyst that will spark your creativity, helping you craft compelling narratives that resonate with readers from the first page to the last.

The Writing Experiment: Strategies for Innovative Creative Writing by Hazel Smith

Hazel Smith’s groundbreaking book, “The Writing Experiment: Strategies for Innovative Creative Writing,” is like a cartographer’s guide for the often labyrinthine process of creative writing. It not only uncovers the intricate layers of the craft but also inspires writers to approach their work with a spirit of exploration and discovery.

The secret sauce to successful writing, Smith suggests, isn’t solely an inborn talent or a divine flash of inspiration. Instead, it’s a meticulous process, broken down into bite-sized stages, each contributing to a cohesive and engaging narrative. She sheds light on these often subconscious or overlooked processes, and in doing so, presents them as critical components of a systematic writing strategy.

More than just a manual, “The Writing Experiment” encourages a brave, experimental approach, urging writers to test the boundaries of their imagination. Smith expertly ties practical strategies for writing to influential literary and cultural movements of the twentieth century, offering a contextual backdrop that fuels more profound insights.

Suitable for novices and seasoned scribes alike, the book traverses a variety of genres, encompassing fiction, poetry, performance writing, and new media. It boasts a wealth of vivid examples from both student projects and acclaimed published works, providing a rich source of inspiration. Alongside these, Smith offers challenging exercises that afford writers of all levels the opportunity to flex their creative muscles and hone their skills. “The Writing Experiment” empowers writers to navigate the creative landscape with confidence and curiosity, making it a remarkable asset in any writer’s toolkit.

Stein On Writing by Sol Stein

“Stein On Writing” by Sol Stein is a potent blend of practical advice, cemented with tangible examples, destined to invigorate writers across the fiction and nonfiction spectrums. It does not discriminate between newbies and veterans, amateurs and professionals, students and instructors – its wisdom is universal.

Stein’s manifesto is clear and unequivocal – this is not a book of elusive theories but a practical manual of workable solutions. He gives you a toolkit to mend flawed writing, enhance good writing, and, most importantly, lay the foundation for compelling writing from the get-go.

The book is rich with insights pulled from bestselling novels and students’ drafts, illuminating various facets of the craft. It delves into character development, crafting engaging dialogue, mastering the art of pacing, and effectively using flashbacks. Stein’s incisive guide also shows you how to trim away the excess and streamline your prose for maximum impact.

A standout section is the one dedicated to the “triage” method of revision – a systematic approach to reworking your drafts for increased effectiveness. One more innovative touch is the discussion on how techniques traditionally associated with fiction can be co-opted to inject life and interest into nonfiction pieces.

In a nutshell, “Stein On Writing” isn’t just a guide – it’s a masterclass from an expert craftsman, providing you the techniques and understanding to not only write better but also to see your writing through a more discerning lens.

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody

“Save the Cat! Writes a Novel” by Jessica Brody is the novel-writing guide that lifts the veil on the mechanics of compelling storytelling. Hailing from the acclaimed Save the Cat! series, this book brings the renowned screenwriting methodology into the domain of novel writing.

This isn’t just a rudimentary guide; it’s a blueprint for success, revealing the 15 essential plot points, or “beats,” that lay the foundation for any winning story. From the initial image that catches the reader’s eye to the climactic finale that leaves them breathless, Brody meticulously elucidates each step.

She presents the Ten Story Genres, including ‘Monster in the House,’ ‘Whydunit,’ and ‘Dude with a Problem.’ With these genres as your guideposts, you can map out a plot that caters to the tastes of a broad array of readers.

Sprinkled throughout the guide are Brody’s unique and innovative insights like ‘Save the Cat’ and ‘Shard of Glass.’ These nuggets of wisdom are the spices that will add zest to your narrative and make it stand out in the crowd.

To sum up, “Save the Cat! Writes a Novel” isn’t just about teaching you to construct a plot—it’s about giving you the tools to weave a captivating story that readers can’t resist. So, if you want your novel not only to enthrall but also to sell, this guide is your perfect companion.

Steering The Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin, renowned as a master storyteller and lauded for her intellect and wit, bestows upon us “Steering The Craft,” a guide that expertly navigates the sea of writing craft. This edition is not merely an update but a complete reinvention, addressing the modern opportunities and challenges that today’s writers face.

Deceptively compact, this manual breaks down the essentials of writing into digestible chunks, turning a potentially daunting endeavor into a manageable one. With ten concise chapters, Le Guin explores the bedrock elements of storytelling—from the resonance of language and the finesse of sentence construction to the artful choice of perspective.

However, this isn’t a dry, theoretical text. Each chapter sparkles with examples drawn from an array of global literature, punctuated by Le Guin’s lively commentary. To ensure the teachings are grounded in practice, each chapter culminates in an exercise that writers can do on their own or in a group.

Not stopping at individual craft, Le Guin extends her guidance to the realm of collective work, offering an exhaustive guide to effective collaboration in writing groups, whether in-person or digital.

As masterful as it is concise, “Steering the Craft” promises to be a timeless companion for writers, deserving a place on every aspiring and experienced author’s bookshelf.

The Creative Writing Coursebook by Julia Bell and Paul Magrs

“The Creative Writing Coursebook,” edited by Julia Bell and Paul Magrs, serves as a comprehensive and thoroughly updated guide aimed at elevating your creative writing prowess. This invaluable resource maps out the terrain of the writing journey into three essential stages, assisting writers in navigating from the inception of an idea to its ultimate manifestation as a polished piece.

The initial stage, Gathering, encourages writers to ignite their creative engines by getting started, learning the art of note-keeping, making acute observations, and unlocking the potential of memory. The subsequent stage, Shaping, dives into the heart of writing, addressing elements such as structure, perspective, character development, and setting.

Finally, Finishing equips writers with the necessary tools to critique their own work, tap into the power of workshops, and navigate the world of publishing. This stage is an empowering reminder that the journey doesn’t end when the last word is written; rather, a new exciting phase begins.

This edition, featuring a foreword by Marina Warner and contributions from an impressive roster of 44 authors—including Ali Smith, Kit de Waal, and Amy Liptrot—provides rich and diverse insights into the art and craft of writing. It’s a perfect resource for beginners who are taking their first step in the writing realm, as well as for seasoned writers seeking to refine their already completed work.

The coursebook is a treasure trove of exercises and activities designed to ignite inspiration and provide practical tools to budding writers. Regardless of whether you are writing for publication, part of a writing group, or simply finding pleasure in the act of writing, this guide is for anyone prepared to embark on a journey from thought to ink.

Pity the Reader: On Writing with Style by Kurt Vonnegut and Suzanne McConnell

“Pity the Reader: On Writing with Style” is a remarkable guide from Kurt Vonnegut and Suzanne McConnell that presents the intricate relationship between writing and life through Vonnegut’s unique perspective. This book is more than just about the craft of writing—it serves as a testament to Vonnegut’s belief that the practice of an art form, such as writing, can nourish the soul.

This guide offers valuable insights into Vonnegut’s journey to becoming a writer, his experiences as a teacher, and his enduring friendships. It includes rare photographs and reproductions, painting an intimate portrait of the man beyond the artist.

A highlight of the book is a letter Vonnegut’s daughter wrote to a disgruntled customer, which illustrates his key writing advice: “Find a subject you care about.” “Pity the Reader” is not just an instructive guide—it’s a heartfelt exploration of Vonnegut’s ethos and principles, providing unique insights into the soul of a celebrated writer. Be prepared for an emotional journey as you flip through its pages.

The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr

Will Storr’s “The Science of Storytelling” is a groundbreaking guide that takes an innovative approach to creative writing. Utilizing a blend of psychological research and cutting-edge neuroscience, Storr investigates the potent impact of stories on the human psyche. He then cleverly links this to practical writing advice, providing readers with unique insight into crafting compelling narratives.

In the heart of Storr’s analysis lies an examination of how master storytellers and our own brains construct engaging worlds through the interplay of expectations and surprising twists. He expertly illuminates these concepts through a wide range of examples spanning from ‘Harry Potter’ to Alice Walker’s works, Greek drama to Russian novels, and Native American folk tales to popular TV shows like ‘Breaking Bad.’

The book also includes practical sections like “The Dramatic Question,” “Creating a World,” and “Plot, Endings, and Meaning,” offering readers applicable tools for their writing endeavors. An additional valuable feature is the appendix dedicated to “The Sacred Flaw Approach.”

“The Science of Storytelling” is more than just a creative writing guide—it’s a fascinating exploration of the intricate connection between storytelling and the human mind. It is set to become an essential resource for writers across genres and mediums. Its unique blend of scientific inquiry and practical writing advice makes it a standout addition to any writer’s bookshelf.

Story Engineering by Larry Brooks

“Story Engineering” by Larry Brooks is an illuminating guide that proposes a holistic approach to storytelling. Brooks argues that successful stories rely not just on artistic flair, but also on solid structural engineering. As such, he believes that drafting a story without initial planning can be futile unless you’ve mastered the key aspects of successful storytelling.

The book unfolds this unique approach by first establishing the architecture of storytelling. Brooks identifies six specific facets of storytelling that, when combined artfully, exceed the sum of their parts. These six core competencies include four elemental aspects: concept, character, theme, and story structure (plot), along with two executional aspects: scene construction and writing voice.

Brooks suggests that the magic of storytelling truly comes to life when these core competencies harmoniously blend together on the page. What makes his approach even more appealing is its universal accessibility; anyone can master these competencies with practice.

Beyond being a critically acclaimed best-selling author of psychological thrillers, Brooks is a dedicated writing instructor and the creator of Storyfix.com, a leading instructional writing site. In “Story Engineering,” he provides a practical and structured approach to storytelling, making it an invaluable resource for writers who want to grasp the fundamental mechanics of creating a compelling narrative.

Is it hard to become a fiction writer?

best books on writing fiction

While the process of becoming a fiction writer can be challenging, it’s important to remember that anyone with a passion for storytelling and a dedication to honing their craft can become a fiction writer. The path involves continuous learning, persistence, and resilience in the face of rejection.

Becoming successful in fiction writing involves more than just writing. It requires understanding the elements of storytelling, creating compelling characters, devising engaging plots, and mastering the use of language. Additionally, being open to feedback and criticism and continually striving to improve is critical.

In the digital age, there are many opportunities to self-publish, allowing greater access for aspiring writers. However, getting traditionally published can be competitive and requires perseverance and sometimes a bit of luck.

Remember, every famous writer started from the beginning. They faced rejection, honed their craft, and continued writing until they achieved their goals. It might be hard, but it’s not impossible, and the joy of sharing your stories can be incredibly rewarding.

What tools and support can new writers turn to?

As a new writer, there’s a myriad of tools and resources at your disposal. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

  1. Writing Software: Tools like Scrivener and Final Draft can help you organize your thoughts, plot your story, and format your work. They also offer features to help you avoid distractions and stay focused on your writing.
  2. Writing Groups and Workshops: These offer a community of writers who can provide feedback, support, and camaraderie. They can be found in local community centers, libraries, and even online on platforms like Meetup.
  3. Online Learning Platforms: Websites like MasterClass, Coursera, and Udemy provide courses on creative writing taught by experienced authors. They cover a wide range of topics including storytelling, character development, plot construction, and more.
  4. Professional Editing Services: Before submitting your work to agents or publishers, consider having it professionally edited. Services like those offered by PenFellow not only provide expert book editing, but also a full range of writing services. PenFellow’s professional ghostwriters can collaborate with you to bring your unique ideas to life, covering an array of genres from children’s books to novels and blog articles. This can be an invaluable resource when you need that extra level of support.
  5. Reading Widely: One of the best ways to improve your writing is to read a lot. Read within your chosen genre, but also venture outside of it. This can give you a broad perspective and expose you to a variety of writing styles and techniques.

Remember, the key to becoming a successful writer is to continually learn and grow. Use these resources to build your skills and stay open to all the support available.

What is the success rate of new fiction authors?

The success rate of new fiction writers can be challenging to quantify given the vast number of variables involved, from the genre of writing to the writer’s marketing abilities.

According to a report from The Guardian in 2018, it’s estimated that out of the thousands of hopeful writers, only a small fraction – around 0.7% – manage to secure a deal with a traditional publisher. This is a rough estimate and fluctuates based on various factors like market trends and the quality of submissions.

Furthermore, Nielsen Book Research UK reported in 2019 that 92% of authors who had published in the last three years earned below the UK average income from their writing.

However, with the rise of self-publishing and digital platforms, many authors are finding success outside traditional publishing routes. In the Kindle Direct Publishing platform, for instance, thousands of self-published authors have been able to earn over $50,000 per year, with more than a thousand surpassing $100,000 in yearly income.

It’s crucial to understand that success in writing doesn’t solely equate to financial gain. Many authors find fulfillment in reaching a small, dedicated audience, or even in the process of writing itself. While financial success can be elusive, the journey of writing and sharing one’s work can offer its own forms of satisfaction and accomplishment.

To Conclude the best books on writing fiction…

And there you have it, writerly warriors! We’ve journeyed through a constellation of some of the best books to guide you on your path to penning fantastic fiction. Whether you’re just dipping your toes in the vast ocean of storytelling or you’re a seasoned scribe seeking new insights, these treasures offer invaluable advice and inspiration.

Remember, while writing is a solitary endeavor, it doesn’t have to be a lonely one. There are countless resources out there for you, including supportive writing communities, online platforms, and yes, the magical skill set of a professional ghostwriter from PenFellow, ready to aid you in your adventure.

Even though the road to becoming a successful fiction writer may seem long and fraught with challenges, don’t let the statistics discourage you. They are but numbers on a page, not a prediction of your personal journey. Success, after all, is a subjective term. It might mean publishing a bestseller to one person, while to another, it could be the simple joy of crafting a story from the heart and sharing it with others.

So, go forth, brave authors! Carry these guides in your literary toolkit, and remember, every successful writer was once where you are now – teetering on the edge of the first sentence, the first page, the first book. Keep writing, keep dreaming, and most importantly, keep believing in your unique voice and the stories only you can tell. Happy writing!

If you enjoyed this article on the best books on writing fiction, you may also want to check out our article on advice for aspiring authors. We’ve interviewed over 150 authors and condensed the best advice into on article! You’re welcome!