I’ve read so many books about how to write fiction throughout my time as a creative writing student in college, and I have a few books I routinely read and take notes from even now. These books have helped me improve writing screenplays, novels, flash fiction, and a ton of other mediums.
If you find any books you are interested in, I recommend checking out Thrift Books (link is an affiliate, which means we both get credit at no cost to you), which is where I get most of my books. Seriously, they are like $4 or $5 since they are second-hand. (More on Thrift Books down below.)
So, if you are looking to improve your writing, here are five books I recommend:
Crafting the Character Arc by Jennie Jarvis
From crafting characters to plot structure, this book covers a great range of writing elements that make a story fascinating. Crafting the Character Arc dives into the process of creating well-rounded, dynamic characters for any story. This book breaks apart each aspect of a character in a way that’s easy to understand and simple to follow.
Not only does Crafting the Character Arc explain how to write dynamic characters, but it also explains story structure and how the character’s journey fits in it. You’ll learn how to take a character from the beginning of their story through each plot point and to the end, where they’ll come out a changed person. Jarvis also explains how to create conflict and clear goals that will propel the plot forward.
This book talks in great detail about writing a character’s goals and arcs, and also things to consider when developing their personality. And yeah, many books explain things like personality, but this book tells you how to incorporate the character’s persona into your story in a natural way.
One other thing I’d like to mention is that this book uses examples from popular movies and books, which is super helpful in understanding the methods Jarvis describes. Having a character you have seen and know well to apply the teachings to is excellent.
So, if you’re looking to improve your character writing skills, this is definitely the book for you.
Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction edited by Tara L. Masih
Flash fiction is one of the best ways to practice writing and improve your craft. Flash fiction is basically a shorter version of a short story. And, although there’s no exact word count, flash fiction is usually between 300-1,500 words, but this can vary depending on who you ask. With that little word count, writing flash fiction is an excellent practice for improving since it doesn’t take too long to write. Also, it can be challenging to create an entire story in under a thousand words, so flash fiction pushes you to simplify and nail down story structure.
Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction is a collection of information from many different industry professionals on their knowledge of writing. One great thing about this book is that it gives each author’s biography and shares their achievements and publications, so you feel they know what they’re talking about.
This book isn’t a how-to guide per se but rather explains the history of flash fiction and shares tips from professionals on writing in this style, and gives a bunch of exercises, prompts, and examples to help you develop your writing.
As one of the most interactive books on writing fiction I’ve read, I’d recommend this to anyone looking to improve the writing skills.
Screenwriting is Rewriting by Jack Epps Jr.
If you want to get into screenwriting or just want to improve your knowledge of it, this is the book for you. Screenwriting is Rewriting has so much information, examples, and tips for writing screenplays, editing them, and getting into the industry. The majority of the book is focused on revising, but there are so many great screenwriting methods in general that it’s one of my favorite books to use as a reference.
There are quotes about writing from filmmakers and writers throughout the book, and the book is laid out in an easy-to-read way. When using it as a guide alongside your work, the book is easy to skim through to find the information you need.
Epps goes back to the basics and explains the importance of knowing your industry by watching classics, reading scripts, and having a general knowledge of pop culture. He gives a list of recommended scripts, movies, and more.
The revision part of the writing process is one of the most complex parts. Between knowing what needs to be changed, where to begin, and the daunting task of editing a whole script, this book lays out each step with examples to follow.
If you’ve wanted to learn about screenwriting or need help with revision, this book is a great resource to improve your writing!
The TV Writer’s Workbook by Ellen Sandler
Television writing has always interested me, and Sandler’s book has helped me improve my script writing. Writing for tv is incredibly difficult as there is so much that goes into each script. The TV Writer’s Workbook lays everything you need to know out for you.
The book is split up into three primary sections: what you need to know, what you need to do, and what to do when your script is done. So, basically the book covers the scriptwriting process from start to finish—it’s excellent! The first section explains things like spec scripts and how to break a script down. There are also some simple exercises to help you learn to read scripts better.
The section detailing what you need to do is where all the best (in my opinion) information is. It breaks everything down from treatments to themes, story structure, the outline, revision, and so much more! I have so many sticky notes marking information throughout this section.
Finally, the last section explains how to sell your script, publishing information, and so many resources for breaking into the industry. This information is something many books leave out, so I highly recommend checking this one out if you’re unsure what to do after you’ve written a script.
The author shares her journey as a writer through scripts, which is something I’ve not seen much of. There are charts for reading scripts, things to avoid and why, and an excellent section on showing, not telling.
Writing Screenplays That Sell by Michael Hauge
Writing Screenplays That Sell is an all-around great read. The book contains so so so much information not only about screenplays but also about writing in general. Again, this book is also filled with sticky notes, and I use it so often.
Hauge’s book explains how to develop a story, write the screenplay, and has a ton of information on the business end of things. He discusses how to market yourself as a writer and how to sell your screenplay.
If you are interested in writing movies, this is an excellent resource that will help you not only write a screenplay but also gives you the knowledge to break into the industry and sell your work.
As a writer or even just a reader, ThriftBooks is a go-to for anyone who loves books. I rarely buy books brand new anymore, and this website has saved me so much money throughout the years.
Buying second-hand saves money, is a great way to reuse otherwise wasted books, and helps reduce waste, and ThriftBooks has so many books that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to find.
As someone who loves learning languages, I have found books on French, Spanish, Icelandic, and more. There are learning books, but also stories in other languages which help so much in learning a new language.
The books range from acceptable to new, so it’s up to you to decide how used you are willing to have your book be. The more used it is, the cheaper it is. I generally choose ‘pretty good’ or ‘good’ condition, which means the books have a little wear and tear but are in otherwise good condition. These books usually cost $3-$5, which is so much cheaper than the $10-$20 that new books cost.
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