Best Books for New Authors
What are the best books for new authors?
The following books are the options I’ve found to be the most helpful…
In an attempt to be as helpful as possible, I’ve defined the order in which I think new authors should purchase/read these books. That way, if you haven’t purchased a single book yet, you can get started on the right track.
#1 — The FIRST Book I Would Buy:
Syd Field’s book, The Screenwriter’s Workbook.
Now, I know what you’re thinking… “I want to write novels, not screenplays!”
Absolutely. But, stories have structure — a beginning, a middle, and an end. And if you’re a new author, understanding how to structure your book can be challenging. Yes, Syd Field is writing predominantly for screenwriters, and yes, his advice might be too constraining for some authors…
But here’s what new authors get: A guide for determining a basic outline, explanations for the essential story beats many stories have and how to incorporate them into your novel, and helpful structure templates.
Once you understand the basics, you can break all Syd Field’s rules, but for new writers, constraints can be very helpful.
#2— The SECOND Book I Would Buy:
As a follow-up to Syd Field’s book, the very next book I would recommend new authors buy would be Lagos Egri’s book, The Art of Dramatic Writing.
Hang on! The Art of Dramatic Writing is about stage plays, isn’t it? It is. And the writing is a little old school. But I have yet to encounter a book that gives a better description of how to write a solid premise — the reason your story matters — or a book that explains character development better than Egri’s.
This is a perfect complement to Syd Field’s book on structure. If you purchase both books, you’ll have a workbook on how to structure your story and additional info on how to develop a great premise and compelling character arcs for your characters.
(Special shout-out to Dr. David Esselstrom, who first referred me to those two books when I was a new author.)
Now you’ve got one of the best books on structure, one of the best books on premise and developing character arcs. So where should new authors go next?
#3 & #4 — You Choose:
Here, you have a choice…
Do you need help adding emotion to your story and understanding what elicits emotion from your audience?
Do you need to better understand how to craft a story that makes readers want more?
If you’re a new author struggling to get readers to connect emotionally, I recommend picking up a copy of Karl Iglesias’ book, Writing for Emotional Impact. He examines how to produce an emotional response in your readers. And yes, it’s another screenwriting book, but who cares, it’s great!
On the other hand, if you’ve nailed the emotional impact aspect of your writing, but you’re struggling with putting everything together and keeping audiences engaged…
I recommend Lisa Cron’s book, Wired for Story. In it, she explains how the human brain engages with stories, and how writers can use techniques to draw readers in and keep them glued to your book.
#1: Tackle story structure with Syd Field’s book, The Screenwriter’s Workbook…
#2: Learn premise and character development with Lajos Egri’s masterpiece, The Art of Dramatic Writing…
Well, I’ve got two more books for new authors, and these two books are finally intended for novel writers specifically.
#5 — The FIFTH Book I Would Buy:
In order to write fiction that engages readers, you need to be a skilled writer. And writing can take time to learn. But by now you should be writing, so let’s improve that writing a bit, shall we? The next book in any new author’s arsenal should be: The Elements of Style by Struck and White. Part grammar workbook, part style guide, Elements of Style will help new authors understand the rules of writing. It’s not an exciting book, but it’s a good one to have on your desk.
#6— The SIXTH Book I Would Buy:
And finally, the book many people would list first (but not me, I think you should write for a while before reading this book), Stephen King’s simply titled memoir, On Writing.
The reason I suggest adding this book to your quiver after you’ve been writing material for a few years is that King’s book has a lot of things seasoned writers will empathize with, and reading it as a new author will spoil those aspects of the book. Or, new authors will just ignore those sections altogether and miss some of the wisdom.
But it is a book worth reading, so pick up a copy after you’ve read all the rest!
Buy Stephen King’s book, On Writing on Amazon…
About How Stories Work with Jay Sherer
Jay Sherer is the co-writer of the full cast audiobook and novel, Death of a Bounty Hunter, and the time travel serial story, Timeslingers. He also runs the How Stories Work with Jay Sherer YouTube channel, podcast, and blog where his goal is to tell better stories, help audiences understand popular stories, and help other storytellers improve their craft. If you enjoyed this article and would like others like them, please support Jay on Patreon.
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