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5 Important Books for Novelists

Works that shouldn't be missing in your collection

Over time, I have read more than one hundred of books about writing. Here are a chosen few that I'd recommend to anyone who wants to learn how to write on a professional level. The books on this list were picked especially for writers who have never before read a book about writing, but are more than suitable for experienced authors too.

1. Structuring your Novel and Outlining your Novel

Ready to meet one of my personal heroines?

I couldn't decide between Structuring your Novel and her other masterpiece Outlining your Novel here, although I can guarantee that you wouldn't have any regrets if you read them both. In fact, I urge you to do so, because K.M. Weiland is a grandmaster of story structure.

I've read many books on plot, story structure and outlining, but so far, no one nailed it as perfectly as she did. While some of the other books I've read on those subjects may cover roughly the same topics as hers, I found her to be the one who conveys this knowledge in the most enjoyable and well written manner. And trust me, her books will alter the way you look at fiction forever.

Because of Structuring your Novel, I can't even watch a movie anymore without having to pause at all the key scenes to check if they are on time.

She also has a ton of other awesome writing related projects going on, so expect more of my fanboying in further articles.

2. How to write a Damn good Novel

If you were willing to read only one single book about writing in your whole life, this should probably be it.

In How to write a damn good Novel James N. Frey covers the basics of nearly everything there is to know about writing a novel. While other books tend dive fully into one subject, this one touches them all and gives you a broad overview, as well as a solid base to work with.

I especially recommend How to write a damn good Novel to those, who never thought about writing as a craft one can learn and master. If you believe that writing is all about talent and nothing else, this will totally change your mind, and show you how much there is to learn.

Personally, I'm not fully convinced that it earns its title, but you'll definitely learn how to write a pretty decent novel - and while it may not be the best book on writing, it is certainly the best guide for beginners, that I know about.

3. Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer

Roy Peter Clark's 50 Writing Tools are an invaluable collection of wisdom that every journalist should possess.

Granted, the main focus lies on non-fiction here, but that doesn't mean you should skip this gem just because you're filling the pages of a fantasy novel instead of newspaper columns. There's more than enough content to make it worthwhile for novelists too.

Have you ever asked yourself which placement of words in a sentence would achieve the best effect? This book really goes so far to teach you in-depth sentence structure - in a way that's all but boring.

With its short chapters and relatable examples, this book is perfect for taking it out of the shelf every day to read a random one of the fifty sha... tools.

I've had mine for several years now, and I still love to browse through it every once in a while. I really think you should grab a copy too.

4. How Not to Write a Novel

How Not to Write a Novel by Sandra Newman & Howard Mittelmark is kind of a must-read, even if you don't feel the need to improve your writing skills.

Instead of teaching you what you should be doing, this book shows you in 200 hilariously funny examples, just how wrong fiction can go. But don't be fooled to believe that this is a mere for-fun lecture. While being genuinely fun to read, this will still teach you many valuable lessons about what mistakes to avoid, as well as how to avoid them.

And to be perfectly honest, I did recognize quite a few of my own writing quirks in there, all of which were eventually cured by this very book.

5: The War of Art

Combine the perception of a psychologist, the wits of a writer and the dedication of a drill seargeant, and you'll get Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. It will get you going like two cans of coffee.

It's not the writing part that's hard. What's hard is sitting down to write.
- Steven Pressfield

While it doesn't really offer any new advice on writing, it'll definitely help you to finally get things done. It's cleverly written and ripe with relatable analogies and insights you'll instantly agree with. If you're longing to go professional, reading this might just be that final incentive you always needed.

The pages really fly by, and honestly the only reason not to read it in one single go, is that it's going to motivate you so thoroughly, that you simply have to lay it down in order to finish writing some of that leftover chapters you never thought you'd find the time for.

If this little gem won't kick you into writing shape, probably nothing will.


Writing is an art, but it's also a craft that anyone can learn. And although this list is in no way complete, I truly hope you'll find the time to read at least one of these masterpieces. If you do, leave a comment and let us know how you liked them.

Ben Wendtner is an Austrian writer and sofware developer, as well as one of the founders of BelletristicaZum Profil

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