12 min read

Best Creative Writing Books for Writers to Better Their Skills

William Ellis
November 20, 2022

What you'll learn

What you'll need

Creators rule the world. 

They lead far into the future, changing minds, making people think, wonder and fear. They amaze, delight, humor, inform, instruct, entertain, and give us a picture of a world only you, a creative writer, have to offer.

In this article, we will cover the top books by some of the most profound experts in history that teach you not just how, but why - each step of the way.

In 2021, it was estimated that there were over 49,000 writers in America alone. That is a staggering number until you stop and compare it against the estimated US population of 336 million.

Becoming a writer is a journey in which there is no singular roadmap because there is no singular type of writer.

It can be argued that the most popular type of writer is the creative writer.

What is creative writing?

Many people think that creative writing is only when you sit down to write fiction. However, that leaves out the numerous genres and styles of creative writing that can be done.

Creative writing covers everything from prose, fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Any kind of writing done in the name of creation is creative writing. At its core, creative writing is an art form no different from painting or sculpting. The medium just happens to be the written word.

What should I read to improve my creative writing?

There are plenty of people who desire to be creative writers, but perhaps they need a little guidance on how best to channel their creative voice, or even develop that voice in the first place. There is no singular way to develop that creativity, and it can be arduous.  

Fortunately, thousands upon thousands of writers have walked their own path to unlock their creative ability. 

Many of those writers have even written books on how they learned to be creative writers. No matter what genre you are in, if you truly wish to become a creative writer, here are some books that get you on your path to literary greatness.

Best books on creative writing

  1. Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine
Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine


Gail Carson Levine is the author of such fairy tale stories as Ella Enchanted. In her book Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly, she goes over all her favorite tricks of the trade that helped her win the Newbery Honor

She covers the genesis of story ideas, how to keep yourself from getting hit with writer’s block.

It could be argued that this creative writing book is skewed more towards younger writers or only fiction writers with an affinity for fantasy, but at the end of the day, all fiction-based writing has a layer of fantasy. Learning to harness one’s imagination is the key to all sorts of creative writing skills.


  1. Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle
Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle

Poetry is a form of creative writing that many struggle with. There are so many jokes about poems that do little more than rhyme the words “moon” and “June” together that sometimes it can be difficult to feel confident as a poet. 

There is no such conflict in Madness, Rack, and Honey.

Mary Ruefle’s book is a collection of lectures that deal with poetry. Each of these lectures is impassioned, talking about not only the function of poetry as an art form but what poetry is like when it is at its most effective. 

This is a crucial read for anybody who is even remotely interested in poetry.


  1. A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver
A Poetry Handbook: A Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry by Mary Oliver

There is a misconception that poetry is mysterious and inaccessible. One must have a “poet’s soul” to be able to write poetry. Mary Oliver’s book A Poetry Handbook manages to politely dispel that notion by showing how poetry works through prose.

Poetry becomes far more accessible in this book as Oliver shows how poems are created, guiding the reader through concepts such as meter and rhyme. By giving the reader these basics, Oliver lets them in on the ground floor and gives them a foundation to experiment later on. 

A Poetry Handbook is a fine starting point for any budding poet.


  1. Essayism by Brian Dillon
Essayism: On Form, Feeling, and Nonfiction by Brian Dillon

Some people may not necessarily think of essays as being in the same category as creative writing. The truth is that essay writing often requires a degree of creativity to distinguish themselves from one another and ensure that the topic is engaging for the reader.

In Essayism: On Form, Feeling, and Nonfiction, is a book that highlights some of the greatest essayists of all time. It portrays not only Dillon’s passion for the form, but it also illustrates that even something as seemingly academic as an essay can also be a form of true self-expression.


  1. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

Whether you are an aspiring writer or any other form of artist, there is a good chance that you have heard a voice in your mind telling you that you are not good enough to be creative. When that voice gets loud, you can drown it out with The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.

Steven Pressfield has created a book to help you win the battles against creative block and self-doubt, battles that most creatives must go through at one point or another. 

Pressfield’s book examines the source of self-doubt and gives the tools necessary to overcome them, no matter what form they may take. You will receive the necessary writing tools to strengthen your resolve and determination.

Whether you are a writer, artist, or beginning a new business venture, this book will help you overcome imposter syndrome to become the creative you want to be.


  1. The Writing Life by Marie Arana
The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work by Marie Arana

Sometimes you do not need an instructional book to learn how to become a creative writer. Sometimes you simply need to hear directly from people living the writer’s life you are striving for. 

Marie Arana’s book The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work is exactly the book you need if you want perspective on what it is like to live and work as a writer.

Featuring statements from fifty different writers, you will learn what made them start to realize that they wanted to write, what their creative processes are, and what living as a writer is truly like.

It may not give you an abundance of technical information, but it will certainly give you some wisdom.


  1. The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass
The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface by Donald Maass

Many writers and books out there advocate for the use of story structure and methodology to write fiction. However, sometimes the intention behind this instruction can get lost. At the end of the day, if one truly considers their writing to be an act of creativity, one needs to acknowledge that the core tool of all creative writing is emotion.

Donald Maass’ book The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface is designed to teach you how to harness the emotional nature to create compelling fiction writing. Rather than give you rules designed to teach you the mechanics of writing, you are given topics that delve into why those mechanics are effective at eliciting emotion.

Some may argue that this is a form of emotional manipulation of the reader, but that ignores the truth that all art is designed to elicit an emotional response. Writing should be no different in that regard.


  1. The Lonely Voice by Frank O'Connor
The Lonely Voice by Frank O'Connor

The short story has always had an interesting place in creative writing. In some ways, it can be more profitable than trying to sell novels, allowing the writer to express big ideas in a shorter number of pages. Frank O’Connor, a celebrated literary critic, essayist, and short story writer, focuses on what makes the short story unique in The Lonely Voice: A Study of the Short Story.

Above all, O’Connor sets out to define just what a short story is. The misconception is that a short story is nothing more than a miniaturized novel form. Instead, O’Connor argues that a short story is a full-fledged work of art and should be treated as such. 

O’Connor believes that the short story is capable of doing and portraying things that a novel cannot. He also believes that characters are freer to be more human, as you are not trying to shoehorn them into hero or villain roles.

If you are interested in the short story as a potential playground for your writing, then The Lonely Voice is worth your time. You may not agree with every point that O’Connor raises, but his dedication to the belief that the short story deserves the same level of care and respect as a novel is one you certainly can.


  1. Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

One of the most important elements of creative writing, particularly in the realm of fiction, is the plot. The plot is not the story you are telling, but rather the way that story unfolds for the reader. Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish will help you understand all you need to know about creating a plot that grabs your reader’s attention.

Plot & Structure is part of a five-installment series of books called Write Great Fiction. These books are constructed to help you become a better overall writer. In this book for writing fiction, you will learn how to brainstorm for better and more original plot points, explore the relationship between plot and story, and find ways to connect it all together.


  1. A Writer's Guide to Persistence by Jordan Rosenfeld
A Writer's Guide to Persistence: How to Create a Lasting and Productive Writing Practice by Jordan Rosenfeld

If you were to ask a group of amateur writers what their biggest obstacle in finishing a project is, they would almost all say that their biggest obstacle is writer’s block. If you asked a group of professional writers what the biggest obstacle is, they would most likely say finding the will to persist with a project through completion.

With this book by Jordan Rosenfeld, you will learn about the persistence it takes for a writer to complete a creative writing project. Not only will you learn how to see a written project through to completion, but also how to deal with the worst enemy of any creative writer: rejection. When submitting your work to publishers, you will almost undoubtedly be rejected at some point or another. This book will help you learn how to weather rejection and become better at writing for it.

A good deal of the book also addresses maintaining a balance between writing and one’s personal life. That is evergreen advice that every writer should receive at some point.


How to apply these creative writing books

Each book contains vital information to help you become a better creative writer. They will also help you to deal with some of the commonly unforeseen pitfalls that writers deal with early on in their journey. The best way to apply everything you learn is to start writing.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that these books offer a one-size-fits-all solution to becoming better. Instead, you should glean from each book relevant to your writing path the information that will most benefit you and your writing craft.

If you are not into writing prose but would love to dive headfirst into poetry, there is not much that a book on plot and structure would have to offer you, at least not on the surface. Finding tips, methods, and advice that will help you is subjective.

Conclusion on the best books for creative writing

Remember that creative writing has no true rules, only helpful guidelines that have helped numerous other writers throughout the generations. That is because writing is art, and while there are many well-known and used techniques, there is no singular right way to be an artist. 

No book can tell you what your path as a creative should be, only what paths have worked for others in the past. 

However, if you listen to these books' advice, you might find that the process becomes a little easier for you to master in your own way.


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