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5 Books on Writing: What I Read in 2018

I turn to books for just about everything.

Entertainment. Inspiration. Confidence.

Improving my coffee game.


And, perhaps most frequently, for learning my craft.

That’s the beauty of books. No matter your trade, hobby or side gig, you can find a book on it. You can probably find several books on it. Plenty of people have already mastered what you’re hoping to further your knowledge on, and, thankfully, they’ve written books about it. We get to learn from their mistakes and successes.

I can’t get enough books on writing. A whole row of my bookshelf is dedicated to craft books I’ve acquired over the years, including everything from copywriting and blogging to more creative writing books that guide me through writing essays, short stories and novels. Writing workbooks, skill books and editor’s manuals fill out the shelf as well.

And it keeps on growing.

Because there’s always more to learn.

The thing is though, it takes time to work through books that are meant to help you grow in a specialized field. With books on writing, especially, you can expect to find plenty of exercises and to have to do extra work aside from simply reading. I have to remind myself that it’s about spending quality time with a book on writing craft versus speed-reading for quantity.

Unlike fiction and other works, you only want to be reading one book on writing at a time. If you’re reading a couple or more writing books simultaneously because you just can’t get in all the information in the world fast enough – remember that you indeed can’t, so don’t even try. There will always be more books, so make time for the ones you need to help you on your current project.

Now that I’ve shared my “precautions,” here are the books on writing I’ve read in 2018.

Books That Helped My Writing This Year

Some of these are helpful for writers in general while some are more focused on what I’m personally working on. I hope my list will help you plan your writing craft curriculum for 2019. To keep up with my craft reading list and book reviews, follow my books-on-writing bookshelf on Goodreads!

*Note: The following books weren’t necessarily published in 2018, I just read them this year. Also, this post contains affiliate links to the kindle versions. If you’re buying paperback, I encourage you to check out your local bookstore. If you don’t have a local bookstore, I’ve included links to mine 😉

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

I have read (or listened to, rather, on audio) Elizabeth Gilbert’s beautiful book on creativity at least three times now, and I think it’s especially helpful in the start of a new year or when you’re feeling creatively blocked or stuck. Big Magic is like therapy for creatives of all types, not just writers. Gilbert has a unique perspective on how to practice what lights us up and pursue it in spite of our fears.

Who should read Big Magic? Writers, painters, photographers – anyone in the creative field. This book is for all levels too. If you’re simply dreaming about pursuing a creative lifestyle but can’t seem to make the first move, I think you’ll get a push from Big Magic.

When should you read Big Magic? Between projects. When you have an idea but are afraid to do anything about it. When you haven’t done the thing you love in years. When you need a kick in the butt.

Get the kindle version >>

Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence by Lisa Cron

Seriously, I don’t know how any book was successfully written without the author having first read Wired for Story. And yet, I doubt many bestselling authors have read it but they seem to have this storytelling thing down anyway. It blows my mind.

Lisa Cron dissects every element of telling a compelling story, from start to finish. What stands out about this book on writing is how Cron incorporates human psychology, how we are cognitively wired to connect with stories and crave them. Since I’ve been reading it, I’m not only thinking about her lessons in my own writing but I’m looking for these storytelling elements everywhere – in movies that hook me (and those that don’t), in songs, in email newsletters.

Yes, email newsletters can tell us stories that hook us. For any type of communicator, the craft of storytelling is essential. You can apply this to stories of all types.

If you do pick up Wired for Story (and you absolutely should if you want to write anything), be prepared to take notes. I’ve filled up a whole journal and I’m only on Chapter 5.

Who should read Wired for Story? This book leans toward fiction writers in the way it’s written, but as an essayist and copywriter, I see immense value in what I’m learning for nonfiction and even brand writing.

When should you read Wired for StoryYou should probably drop everything and read it now. It’s that good. It’s that vital to your writing career.

Get the kindle version >>

Writing & Selling Short Stories and Personal Essays by Windy Lynn Harris

My new essay-writing guru, Miss Windy Lynn Harris. I read Windy’s book this year (yes we’re on first-name basis, no big deal!) because it pertains to my personal writing goals. I’m working on an essay collection and learning that the first step is getting those essays published in literary magazines and online publications.

Windy’s book is the ultimate resource for those who want to start making a splash in the literary world. The market is huge for short stories and personal essays, and there’s plenty of room for beginning writers to get their name and work out there.

But knowing where to start is tricky. Windy gives you everything you need in one straightforward guide – writing and crafting short works, finding the right opportunities for publication, and pitching editors of those publications to get your work accepted.

Want to know if it works? The first essay I pitched after reading this book was accepted within a month.

(But seriously, if you’re interested in pitching personal essays, let’s talk more. I’m obsessed with the essay right now!)

Who should read Writing & Selling Short Stories and Personal EssaysThose getting started in writing essays or short stories, those who have been pitching publications for a while and haven’t gotten anywhere, and anyone who wants to know about your opportunities for essays and stories.

When should you read Writing & Selling Short Stories and Personal Essays? Before you start an essay or story is an ideal time, but if you’re in the middle of writing or pitching and aren’t getting anywhere, give this a read.

Get the kindle version >>


Growing Gills by Jessica Abel

Growing Gills is one of my favorite books I’ve ever read on productivity. It’s specific to people looking to complete creative projects, achieve goals in the arts and make a regular practice out of their creative outlets.

What I loved about it most is how the author helped me determine what I need to focus on now. Many people in creative works have ideas coming in a mile a minute, and all of them seem shiny and better than the last one. We want to do them all and do them all right now.

And then we either do none, or we do all of them really crappily.

Jessica Abel is the gal to turn to if you’re looking to plan your creative projects. This book will help you set up a roadmap and learn how to diminish distractions. I can honestly say I’ve been working devotedly to my essay project for six months straight, since I finished this book. Her worksheets are part of my weekly planning and reviewing sessions to stick with my goal.

Another good thing about this book? You get to draw a Should Monster. I still have mine up above my desk.

What’s a Should Monster? Guess you’ll have to read the book!

Who should read Growing Gills? Writers, artists, entreprenuers – anyone with a crap-ton of ideas and the same amount of time as anyone else.

When should you read Growing Gills? When you’re stuck, procrastinating, or overwhelmed by your ideas. I would also suggest eliminating any other advice-type of input for a while and just doing the work in this book. Worth it.

Get Growing Gills on Kindle >>

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Bloggers, copywriters, journalists – Made to Stick is more for you than the creative writing folks. Chip and Dan Heath are amazing at what they do. It’s not easy to get engrossed in a book about copywriting, but all of their books are enlightening and fun to read.

The brothers practice what they preach by executing engaging storytelling abilities to compel their readers. They present tons of data in the forms of stories that are, you guessed it, made to stick. You’ll retain much of what you learn here because it’s almost impossible not to.

This book has transformed my blog writing, which I do in my day job, but many of its principles have also been beneficial in my essay writing. Made to Stick has helped me focus on the “core message” of every piece I right – whether it’s a blog post, personal essay or Instagram caption – and ensure that every word, sentence and phrase supports that message.

The concepts in this book are essential for any writer. Well, any writer who wants to captivate their readers.

Who should read Made to Stick? Copywriters, bloggers, journalists, business owners

When should you read Made to Stick? Any time.

Get Made to Stick on Kindle:

What Books on Writing Do You Love?

Your turn! Which of these books will be on your 2019 roster? Did you read any books on writing this year that you loved? Please share them in the comments!

Happy writing, happy creating, happy reading 🙂

P.S. Follow my books-on-writing bookshelf on Goodreads to see my book reviews and what I’m! reading in 2019

Improve your craft with these 5 books on writing.

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  1. Hi Michelle! I’m so happy that my book has been helpful to you this year. I’ll gladly add to this list :).

    I’m working on a novel project at the moment and I’ve read many craft books along the way. These three have the most dog-eared pages and I have them within arm’s reach right now:

    The Secrets of Story by Matt Bird. If you want study character motivation for memoir and novels–I can’t recommend this book enough!

    The Last Draft by Sandra Scofield. I am a HUGE fan of Scofield’s The Scene Book and her new project is another must-have on my shelf. This guide to revision is meant for novels, but I think the info is just as relevant for other book projects.

    Save The Cat Writes A Novel by Jessica Brody. This book obviously teaches the popular screenwriting “Save The Cat” story-structure method, but Brody has figured out how to best use the info for writing a novel. This book is filled with annotated examples of published works.

    Wishing you a fabulous 2019!


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