Top Ten Books to Help You Improve as a Writer

Victory Vision Publishing's list of the top ten books to read if you want to improve your writing.

by Adam G. Fleming

Want to improve your writing skills without breaking the bank? Some of us imagine becoming a world-famous novelist, while others simply want their work to sparkle as they share their expertise or tell a story of personal triumph over difficult circumstances. Many of us wonder for long stretches of time, decades, even, whether or not we’re a fraud. Am I worthy to call myself a writer?

There are several aspects to becoming a better writer. It often begins with accepting yourself as a writer. “I’m a writer,” you say, and then you bite your tongue. You don’t add: “. . . but I haven’t published” or “. . . but I haven’t got a bestseller.” You must discipline yourself not to give a caveat. 

“I’m a writer, and that means I’m always learning.”

A number of the books below will help you become a better writer, because they will help you accept that you are one. The first phase is to accept. The second phase is to practice. Many of these books will inspire you to do both.

Walking on Water, by Madeleine L’Engle 

Are you a Christian author struggling to decide what’s acceptable for you to say, what you can share, and what you shouldn’t? We’re partial to Madeleine L’Engle at VVP. Walking on Water is more than a book about writing—it’s about making art as a Christian. What are the connections between faith and art? There are many books on writing, and many books for Christians, but few enough books for both. 

Culture Care, by Makoto Fujimura 

Again, part of being a Christian writer or artist has a lot to do with seeing what you’re working on as an acceptable and worthy mission, contributing and caring for the culture around you. Our group of artist friends has been deeply impacted by Fujimura’s writings.

The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron 

As you begin accepting yourself as a writer, you now need to practice writing! Cameron’s book is great when paired with a buddy. Find someone who also wants to improve, get two copies of The Artist’s Way, and off you go. 

Postscript to The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco 

Are you already wondering how much time it’s going to take to do all this reading, just to become a better writer? Umberto Eco’s Postscript is short, packs a punch, and it’s not necessary to read The Name of the Rose before you read this book. The novel is dense, but the Postscript is a quick read and one of my personal favorites: it made me think about writing as a craft. Eco even describes how he calculated exactly how long each conversation should be. Monks were only allowed to talk when between tasks, so he calculated how many steps it would be from the kitchen to the chapel, for example, then how long it would take to walk that far, and how many words or pages a conversation could realistically last. WOW. Great tips in this book.

On Writing, by Stephen King 

I’m not a big fan of horror, but if you know anything about one of the most prolific and financially successful writers the world has ever seen, you know that King has written many books that would not fit in the horror genre. One of them is his non-fiction book On Writing. In this book, Stephen King gives lots of great tips. One thing that has always stuck out to me are his comments on how to encourage young writers to read. For example: Is reading Comic books going to make your kid a better writer? This book may have a few swear words mixed in but it’s not what you think when you think of Stephen King. Definitely worth a read.

The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield 

Are you facing lots of internal resistance? The War of Art is great for those who are still wondering if they’re an artist. “It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.” 

Improve Your Writing Technique

If you want to improve your writing from a technical standpoint, the three books listed below will give you pointers. My only caution is to remember that writing is writing, and editing is editing. If you want to edit your own manuscript, that’s great. Focus on that with your second or third draft.

Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, by Benjamin Dreyer. 

Now we’re getting into the nuts and bolts of writing in English. Did you dread English class when it came to boring old grammar? Don’t worry. Dreyer understood the importance of his book not becoming the next best sleep aid. It’s fun. It’s entertaining. It’s everything you need to know about good writing.

The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White 

The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Ed. 

On Writing (and Writers), by C.S. Lewis. Here’s the next book I’ve got to read for myself! I’m putting it on my wish list. Featuring over one hundred excerpts—some short and some essay length—drawn from his wide body of letters, books, and essays, On Writing (and Writers) brings together C. S. Lewis’s reflections on the power, importance, and joy of a life dedicated to writing.

Adam G. Fleming, PCC, is an ICF certified coach and trainer. He has trained people in coaching skills around the world and has also led other seminars as speaker and facilitator. Using both traditional and DIY methods, Adam has published 13 books in a variety of genres, and serves as the CEO and lead ghostwriter for Victory Vision Publishing, Inc. He lives in Goshen, Indiana, with his wife Megan and their four children. Contact:

Interested in getting to the next step? Click here for a free discovery meeting with Adam.

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