Books on Writing.

Heya all, here’s my first post!

I’ve a slight problem every time I start writing: I buy books on writing. Usually this involves my own inner editor killing my urge to write by bludgeoning with whatever books I end up reading.

Can anyone recommend a book that’s helpful in writing fantasy that is written by a seasoned fantasy author? Also, please let me know what books you’ve read that have helped you with your writing, through encouragement, rules on style, or any other avenue.

I might as well contribute, though I only have one book to recommend. I love NaNoWriMo, and Chris Baty’s book on it (No Plot, No Problem!) definitely helped me last year. This year, it’ll definitely still be by my side during the month.

If buying books kills your urge to write, why ask what book you should buy?

I may well check out Chris Baty’s book and actually try NaNo this year… I’ve been meaning to for the past three. I’m afraid I can’t recommend any good books specific to fantasy. I’ve read numerous books on writing, and if I’m honest with myself, like you it seems, the only reason I bought these books in the first place was so that I could feel as though I was doing something constructive towards writing without actually doing the writing.

One book on writing in general I did like was The Agony and the Ego, a book containing essays on writing by various female published authors (such as Hilary Mantel and Fay Weldon). I quoted my favourite passage, about “growing a story”, on my blog here: … art-2.html

I think my favourite recent quote on writing, though, comes from David Mitchell, author of the Murakami-inspired-great-first-half Number9 Dream:

“The trick to writing a compelling narrative is so simple it’s often overlooked: invent a character the reader likes and make nasty or dangerous things happen to him or her.”

In response to Janra, read KB’s response to my question. His rephrasing of my issue is more accurate.

Thanks, KB, for the recommendation, and I definitely like the quotes. I definitely encourage you to do NaNoWriMo. I’ve done it for the last three years, and it’s definitely been awesome.

Hi Kaed,

There is a free pdf e-book, written by Holly Lisle (a successful Fantasy author) on her website that you might be interested in.

Her website is

On the right hand side of the webpage is a section named ‘Free Stuff’ and within that is a link called ‘Mugging The Muse (PDF)’.

Although not strictly a fantasy writer myself, I did find the tone and advice inside ‘Mugging The Muse’ to be excellent.

Hope this is of use to you!

Kaed, I see what you mean. I do think my question still stands, however… if the end result is that you don’t write, a change of habits may be in order.

And for the record, I speak as somebody who has quite a collection of writing books for very nearly the same reason. :slight_smile:

KB: absolutely do NaNo! It’s a ton of fun. I also encourage you to post your Scrivener invite to NaNo, even though it’ll be a much more polished product this year than last… less bugs for the NaNoers to find, but on the other hand that means you can collect bugs for the month while writing yourself, then you’ll have a good set of notes based on intense use of the program for improvements after November is over. Not sure what you’re planning in terms of release schedule, but a 1.0-prerelease intense test period may be a good idea. And since I’ve heard comments about something being available at the end of summer…


Old post, I know, but I’m just rereading Terry Brooks’ Sometimes the Magic Works and am liking it as much as I did the first time around. Some parts are more biographical/anecdotal, but there are some writing gems in there, too.

For craft itself, I haven’t found anything better than Ursula K. LeGuin’s Steering the Craft.

I don’t know where you are, but if you’re in the US, don’t forget public libraries. They have lots of writing books and you get to not buy the ones you don’t like. :slight_smile:

I wasn’t aware of this thread - but that’s exactly what I would have suggested. Very nice book. Furthermore I found “Zen in the Art of Writing” by Ray Bradbury rather inspiring.

But in my experience the best lessons are hammering away on the keyboard. And reading a lot. Like Stephen King said: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

An all-time favorite of mine: The Art of Readable Writing, by Rudolf Flesch.


Hi. Just discovered the wonderful Scrivener, and had to contribute to this thread. I’m just finishing Stephen King’s On Writing for the second time. It’s full of wonderful stuff for writers of all levels.

Highly recommended.

I liked the Bradbury book, as well as John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction (though it is not strictly geared towards fantasy).

Probably my all-time favorite writing book, from back in my naive youth when I thought I would be writing for a living instead of coding, is Writing in General, and the Short Story in Particular by L Rust Hills.

The LeGuin and Flesch books sound good, I’ll have to keep an eye out for those. Perhaps I’ll take up writing from my (fingers crossed) retirement villa.


Take a look at “How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy” by Orson Scott Card.

Caveat: I’ve not read it but I’ve read other stuff by him on writing that hit the spot, so the book may well help you in that genre.

The bookclub attached to the US magazine Writer’s Digest featured it once - maybe still do. Even Amazon.UK are selling it.


Sorry Kaed,

Given the age of your original post you’ve probably written the definitive book on the subject yourself by now…

But if not you might also find it useful to read the interview with Terry Pratchett at


An agent in New York, Noah Lukemanhas written two books, or more, on the craft of writing from his perspective of having read thousands of manuscripts. This first book is very useful as it details how important the first pages of a novel, or non-fiction book, can be: if the reader (agent/editor/publisher/friend) isn’t hooked by the first five pages, if they don’t like the style or can’t get into the plot or empathize with a character, in those first pages (five is an arbitrary number but you get the idea) then you’ve lost a reader. I’ve re-read it several times. With exercises included.[/url]

I think ‘how-to’ books written by agents can be eye-opening.

My only concern with the concept of the first pages being so important - and they are, no doubt - is that beginning writers will often waste time getting them ‘perfect’ before moving on to writing the rest of the book. Some never get past those pages.

The key point, for me, is that, yes, those first (five or two or one) pages are important, but a writer doesn’t have to write them first. Often, the best time to write the beginning is when the book is nearly done.

Two other agents who have written ‘how to write books’ are Donald Maass and Albert Zuckerman.

My current favourite text on getting published is “slushkiller”. (Scroll down to section 3, although the rest is quite entertaining.) That’s written by an editor, and it details the reasons for rejecting a manuscript, in order of writing quality, starting with “author is functionally illiterate” and ending with “buy this book”.

It’s oddly reassuring the pick out the point I know I’ve passed and the point I think I’ve passed, and both of them put me in the ranks of the people whose manuscripts get read past the first paragraph. It also points out (implicitly) that “first five pages” only applies to those who actually get that far…

So yeah. When I feel like I’ll never get published, I reread slushkiller.

I can see one of them looking into the mirror. :wink:

But now I’ve found not only Scrivener, but also read a very good book about writing a novel or telling a cock and bull story. I left a note about this in my blog, and if you can bear my English, you’re welcome to comment.


On Writer’s Block, by Victoria Nelson

It’s out of print now, but Amazon has some: … 967&sr=1-1

And it’s the best book on Writer’s Block I’ve ever read. So specific, that after you’ve read it, and you get blocked, you’ll think, “Oh, it’s that one!”

And hopefully, write some more.

Great stories in it, too.