FAVE FIVE BOOKS for Writing Novels (Writing Books for Beginners)

Hi folks:

What’s in the drink special? Writing books for beginners. That is books on writing for beginners. Not that you would be writing a book for a beginner, uh, unless you wrote a book on my list. 🙂

Writing novels? Looking to make that jump? Is this your first attempt at writing a novel? Have you written a few and looking to improve your craft? Have you started one, but find you cannot sustain the story?

These are my favorite books to recommend. The advice is foundational and timeless.

I still personally reference these depending on the project. These are geared more for beginners with emphasis on nuts and bolts – LEARN STRUCTURE! What you do within that structure is what will become your art and style. Think Trojan Horse.  For a deeper dive on this topic check out my BEST ADVICE FROM FAMOUS PEOPLE blog.

(If you want to read about how I thanked one of my creative influences CLICK HERE.)

A follow up blog will list the books I recommend to level up, have helped me and still reference. CLICK HERE in the future.

Take a look at these books on Amazon. Read a sample and if the material resonates or looks intriguing order from your local bookstore. I am NOT an Amazon Affiliate so I get no green no matter what you do.


Fave Five Books for Writing Novels, author, writing tips, novelist, books, fiction, plot, storytelling, writing novels, beginning writers, Techniques of the Selling Writer, Dwight V. Swain, The Fountain, David Scott Hay, Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain

Nuts and bolts on scene structure, elements, plotting, etc. rooted in the pulp fiction school of writing, i.e. page turners. So a bit more craft. Full disclosure: my undergrad writing program was based on these teachings.

Of course, being younger and full of piss and vinegar, I didn’t embrace them as soon as I should have. I thought knowing a character’s motivation towards a goal and the disastrous consequences of not reaching that goal were too formulaic.But that is storytelling.

When I finally embraced it, my career and opportunities went to the next level. This is the difference between a story that leaves you wanting to know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT, or WHAT IS GOING ON.You can sustain the former much longer that the latter.

I like a good story question, but I don’t like the constant MYSTERY BOX style of “it’s complicated, Jack.” Let the reader in on the story, don’t keep them at arm’s length.

Let them in on the joke.


Fave Five Books for Writing Novels, author, writing tips, novelist, books, fiction, plot, storytelling, writing novels, beginning writers, 20 Master Plot, Ronald Tobias, The Fountain, David Scott Hay, 20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them by Ronald Tobias

Here’s a quick reference guide that breaks down the major plot points of 20 Master Plots.

I’ve used this mostly when I’ve been asked to pitch a movie based on someone else’s idea.It gives me a spine on which I can hang my ideas, set pieces, and character reveals.

This is also handy if you have a germ of an idea or character and not sure what to do with them. A quick flip through here might spark an idea or even an idea for a genre mash-up.

Plus: Checklists!


Three Uses of the Knife by David Mamet

A short book on dramatic structure compiled from a lecture series. Yes, it focuses on theatre, but many of the ideas transfer quite nicely to any form of storytelling. 

Three essays including why sports are the perfect dramatic metaphor. This may seem obvious, but when Mamet breaks down the “perfect” football game. I’ve reread this section several times over the years and often return to it as a refresher. This book/section has stuck with me, when other books have long faded. 

I understand that even though this is a formula — a FORM, that form when watching in real life, delights, surprises and thrills. The same for your story. How well do you execute this form?

Again, more tools for the toolbox.


Fave Five Books for Writing Novels, author, writing tips, novelist, books, fiction, plot, storytelling, writing novels, beginning writers, On Writing, Stephen King, The Fountain, David Scott Hay, On Writing by Stephen King

It’s considered a classic for a reason.

Every couple of years, I pull this one out and reread it. Mostly because I’ve been been a Constant Reader for decades and this reads like one long Dear Constant Reader letter.And I like that. It’s part biography and all the ups and downs of his career and part his thoughts on the craft — King is def an ass to chair kinda writer. There’s no secret ritual or lighting of sage.

But his love of language shines through. Now that I think about it, I more often recommend this book as a good read. I can’t recall any craft tips off the top of my head.  Maybe I’ve already assimilated them. Heh.


Fave Five Books for Writing Novels, author, writing tips, novelist, books, fiction, plot, storytelling, writing novels, beginning writers, Dreyer's Englsh, Benjamin Dreyer, The Fountain, David Scott Hay, Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style by Benjamin Dreyer

This book is like having a Big 5 editor look over your book. Because it is.

Kill your junk words. If you read nothing else but Ch. 1 to kill habitual junk works and make your prose leaner and cleaner.

This will be the easiest thing you ever do to improve your writing. Plus, the book is genuinely funny. Learn while you laugh.

A MUST HAVE reference for me for the final polish. SPOILER ALERT: This book will also end up on my LEVEL UP blog for advanced writers as well.

And there you have it. A list of writing books for beginners or writers looking to make the jump to writing novels. Never hurts to refresh the basics, and this is not a comprehensive list. Just books that I have referenced and return to time and time again.

Feel free to comment or add your own favorite books in the comments below.


Ready to level up your writing game? Here are my Fave 5 for taking your art & craft to the next level.

Click here to read the Kirkus Starred Review of The Fountain by David Scott Hay

Click here to order it!