My 5 Favorite Books on Writing (and some honorable mentions)

Need some new books on writing? Check these out!

So this is going to be another one of those posts: a post where I discuss my favorite tools of the craft! And I think this is a fun one. You see, I keep a running list of non-fiction books that have helped me in my journey to become a better writer, and from time to time I like to update and share that list to help other writers. It’s been several years since my last update, and I’ve read some really good ones.

So here we go. My favorite books on writing.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King

This was one of the first writing craft books I ever read, and honestly, I feel like every writer should read it. Maybe multiple times (speaking of which, I may be due for a re-read!). It’s considered one of the classic books on how to write, and for good reason. It’s packed with advice on writing (of course) as well as the life of a writer and life in general. And it’s also full of Stephen King’s voice and wit, which makes it an entertaining, as well as informative, read.

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott

This is another classic book on writing and another I think all writers should read. Anne’s voice is familiar and friendly and full of tough love all at once, and she really has so many quotable bits on inspiration throughout the book. It was a joy to read this. 🙂

Wired for Story, by Lisa Cron

Back when I was more active on Tumblr (in fact, this came up the last time I updated this list), a follower recommended this one to me. I was in grad school for neuroscience, also trying to write and query my first novel (which is now published), and this book hit all my check boxes for things I loved.

Friends. This book. If you want to know how to write a captivating story – and the biology that makes it so captivating – this is the book for you! It’s full of tips and tricks to engage readers, and there is so much to learn about why certain things work in stories. It’s a fantastic, fascinating, and fun read!

Unlocking the Heart of the Artist, by Matt Tommey

I actually read this one as part of a Christian artist Bible study group (yes, it is a Christian book on creativity).

It blew me away.

It was exactly what I needed at that point in my life, discussing the rich inner life of the artist, discussing the misnomer of “Christian art” (hint: art cannot be Christian, but the artist can. Christian is a description that fits a person and doesn’t need to be applied to objects. You can disagree if you like, but this is my viewpoint.), and discussing all the ways we can set up roadblocks for our creative selves.

This book will challenge you, break your heart, and uplift you all at once…clearing the way for you to become your best artist (writer) self. Highly recommend!

The Business of Being a Writer, by Jane Friedman

So this one I’m actually STILL reading, but it already rates high on my list! This book should be in every writer’s arsenal. It’s the most comprehensive look at the history, current market, and practice of being a career writer (or having any kind of writing career, even if it’s on the side) that I’ve seen yet. It looks at everything from traditional to indie publishing, small press, literary fiction, how to query…and so much more. Definitely a must-read.

Honorable Mentions

This section is all my also-loved books that I highly recommend. These are great to read and keep on your shelf, either as references or bits of inspiration for your writer self.

Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, by Madeleine L’Engle

Much like Matt Tommey’s book above, Madeleine L’Engle’s book speaks to the Christian artist, also reflecting on her own journey as a writer. She has some powerful words to share, and it so interesting to see some of her ideas behind some of her most famous works!

Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity, by Ray Bradbury

This book is a collection of essays that offer both encouragement and some tough love to get serious about your work. There is so much here, and every time you read it, I’m sure you will find something new to pull out and inspire yourself.

On My Own: How to Format Your Ebook and Print Layout in Microsoft Word, by Savannah Jezowski

This one is an excellent resource for indie authors ready to format their manuscripts. It is a step-by-step guide, written in Savannah Jezowski’s familiar and friendly voice, that will walk you through everything you need to get that manuscript uploaded to retailers. An incredibly useful tool to save some money!

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

This is another excellent tool to have at your disposal. It’s an in-depth guide to emotions and how to describe them in your stories, giving you tools to make your characters relateable and realistic, especially if you’re writing about some emotion outside your own experience. I unfortunately got this one right before they updated the edition, but this book is packed full of information on emotions.


That completes this edition of Selina’s Favorite Writing Books. Do you have any to add? I’m always looking for new ones! (Wonderbook is currently on my radar) Share your favorites in the comments below!

Five Reasons Why First Drafts Are My Favorite

Every writer has a part of the writing process they love most. For some, they love going back to their manuscript and fixing and polishing, so they love to edit. For others, they live for the brainstorming and information gathering that is a pre-write. For many, including me, first drafts are the most desirable stage of writing.

Let’s talk for a moment about the first draft. What exactly is it? Obviously, it’s the first time you write your story down on paper. But there are a few other definitions and ideas floating around that are also useful. My personal favorite is by Terry Pratchett:

The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.
What a beautiful sentiment.

Then there’s Anne Lamott, who said in her absolutely excellent book Bird by Bird: “Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them.”

It’s awesome to hear someone giving us permission to write something bad (pardon the language in the quote).

Jane Smiley says of first drafts: “Every first draft is perfect because all the first draft has to do is exist. It’s perfect in its existence. The only way it could be imperfect would be to NOT exist.”

Again, someone telling us it doesn’t matter what we write, as long as we write it.

So why do I love first drafts so much? I have five main reasons.

  1. First drafts provide a place for short-lived catharsis. We can say whatever we want, with no fear. We can yell at the top of our lungs about something unjust or painful. We can write something just because we want to write it and for no other reason. We can write scenes that ease our hearts and sing beauty to our souls… and then delete it in a later draft.
  2. There is no judgement. Seriously, this is the best place to write without fear of judgement. I don’t know about you, but some things I want to say or include, I don’t actually want to share. I just want to get it out. But I know it’s for me, not for the people who might judge it. And no one is judging how good it is or if you wrote something correctly. You can write as poorly as you want. An extension of catharsis, this is a place of no fear.
  3. It’s all storytelling and no fixing. It can be one of the fastest parts of the writing process, which can be encouraging to the feeling of accomplishment. I know some people edit while they write, but for me, I just love being able to zip through telling a story without worrying about what I already wrote or fixing keystrokes or scenes. It’s incredibly freeing, to have no worries about what happened before or what the edits will bring. I soar on the pages of the book. I get to live in the story. Speaking of which…
  4. You learn the story for the first time. Just like Pratchett said, the first draft is where the writer really gets to know the story in a way much more intimate and detailed than any outline or plan can give you. This is where the feels happen. This is where the magic happens. This is where you begin to find out what it is you’re actually trying to say with the story.
  5. You get to truly create… it’s magic. Writing is its own kind of magic. You create where nothing was before, and you shape it in the way you want, to play with the world you built and the world around us. You are in complete control of what happens. No other stage of the process can give you that pure creation. Everything else is innovating and improving what you start with. But the act of that first creation, the first keystroke or pen stroke, that is true magic.

Those are definitely my top five reasons why first drafts are my favorite part of the process. It’s a magic, creative endeavor that lightens the burden of everyday living and allows the writer to truly play. What could be better than that?

But what about you? What stage is your favorite? Why? Tell me in the comments!