The best ‘how to write…’ books

My regular blog posts are normally summaries of writing events I’ve attended and book news. As I spent most of August either on holiday or working on my edits this post is going to be a little different. When this post goes up I’ll be on stage at the Festival of Writing in York delivering a key note speech to 350 aspiring writers. I’ll be talking about my career so far and how, in my experience, criticism, rejection and set backs have lead to the most amazing opportunities and developments, and how aspiring writers need to learn to put self-doubt and fear to one side and ‘bounce back’ and grow as a writer in order to succeed in the publishing industry.

One of the other things I’ll be talking about is how you never stop learning as a writer. You learn by reading the bestsellers, by analysing the most popular books in your genre and by studying the craft of writing. ‘How to write’ books aren’t for everyone. I know a lot of authors who’ve never so much as opened one but I’ve found them incredibly useful – for short stories and for novels.

Here’s a list of my most recommended ‘how to’ books. These are all book that I have bought and used, or continue to use. Many of these I used when I started my career. The books I use most frequently at the moment are starred.

Short Stories

Creating Short Fiction

How to Write and Sell Short Stories (Secrets to Success)

Writing novels

Plot and Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot that Grips Readers from Start to Finish (Write Great Fiction)

How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-By-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling

Writing the Breakout Novel: Winning Advice from a Top Agent and His Best-selling Client

Characters & Viewpoint (Elements of Writing Fiction )

Writing the Romantic Comedy


The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition

Revision and Self-Editing: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft into a Finished Novel (Write Great Fiction)

Screenwriting (I use these to help structure and strengthen my novels rather than for actual screenwriting)

Screenwriting Tricks for Authors (and Screenwriters!): STEALING HOLLYWOOD: Story structure secrets for writing your BEST book: Volume 3 *

Save the Cat!: The Only Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need

The Story Book: A Writer’s Guide to Story Development, Principles, Problem-solving and Marketing *

Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting (Methuen Film)

Agents and the publishing process

From Pitch to Publication: Everything You Need to Know to Get Your Novel Published

Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2016

General books on writing

Monkeys with Typewriters: How to Write Fiction and Unlock the Secret Power of Stories

Into The Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them *

Stein on Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies

Solutions for Writers: Practical Craft Techniques for Fiction and Non-fiction

The Art of War for Writers *

I’ll be teaching a three hour workshop on how to write gripping novel at the Bristol Festival of Literature on October 22nd. Time and location to be announced.

If you want to know more about my workshops, speaking events or when I’ve got a new book out do please join the CL Taylor Book Club. I only send out a few mailings a year so your inbox won’t be clogged up.

4 thoughts on “The best ‘how to write…’ books

  1. Karen says:

    I used to love ‘how-to’ books, and Save the Cat! is one of my favourites, it was a real eye-opener for me. With deadlines to meet now, I don’t have as much time to read about the craft, but you’re right that we never stop learning

    Good luck with your workshop 🙂

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