This post is going to be my recommendations for the best writing books out there (in my humble opinion), including the best of the ones I’ve used for writing exercises and creativity. I am going to include links to where you can purchase these books. A lot of them may be available at your local library, though, if you want to check there first.
First group–Books on “The Writing Life” a.k.a. the inspiring books on writing:
If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland
This book was first introduced to me and then gifted me by my writing mentor, Mary Medearis, who had a best selling novel in 1942. It’s super inspiring, makes a lot of sense, emphasizes the importance of “creative idling” and taking long walks. I have tons of underlining in mine (same can be said for the other books I’m listing in this category, to be honest).
Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, by Natalie Goldberg
Natalie Goldberg is a Buddhist, which you may or may not agree with (I personally don’t), but her advice on writing is great, and she gives a lot of great ideas for sparking your creativity.
Take Joy, by Jane Yolen
I’ve read a couple of her children’s books, too, and she is big on mythology/folklore and fun to read. Her writing book is just as fun. And inspiring.
Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury
You may think of Bradbury as a science fiction writer, but that is not solely what he wrote, and his advice works for whatever type of writing you do or would like to do. And the book has nothing to do with zen–it’s just a catchy title.
Second group–Books on the craft of writing and some on the business side of it:
On Writing, by Stephen King
A bit autobiographical, but lots of good stuff about writing and the creative process, plus rewriting/revision.
Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande
This is an old one, but it’s a solid book about writing and about making it a daily habit.
How to Write Your Best Story, by Philip Martin
This one is great and gives plenty of examples to illustrate the points. It centers around these three key elements for making your story shine:
1. intriguing eccentricity, 2. delightful details, & 3. satisfying surprises
Making a Literary Life, by Carolyn See
Good book, fun to read!
Essential Guide for New Writers, by Valerie Story
This was another one that my writing mentor gave me, and it’s a great guide.
This is Not a Writing Manual, by Kerri Majors
I recently finished reading this one. Despite the title, it was a lot of good advice about writing, and it’s very contemporary.
Writing Habit Mastery, by S.J. Scott
I also recently finished this one. It’s a great guide for making habit of writing daily.
Third & final group: Books on Creativity & living a creative life (works for writing or other creative arts):
The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron
Also, if you do this one, check out her book Vein of Gold, which is along the same lines but with different questions and focus.
The Creative Habit, by Twyla Tharp
Like the Julia Cameron books, this uses creative exercises and questions to bring out your creativity in whatever form your focus lies.
Hope these help! If I left anything out that you like, please share in the comments!
Update: I totally went & left out some books that I meant to list, and they were what actually started me thinking about making this post. Fibro brain–forgive me. Here they are, and they are books that have exercises to do, and they’ve all got some great stuff in them!
What If: Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers, by Anne Bernays & Pamela Painter
Everyday Creative Writing: Panning for Gold in the Kitchen Sink, by Michael C. Smith & Suzanne Greenberg
Writing for Self Discovery: A Personal Approach to Creative Writing, by Myra Schneider & John Killick
And last, but not least,
Discovering the Writer Within: 40 Days to More Imaginative Writing, by Bruce Ballenger & Barry Lane