Posted in Writing

Books On Writing That Actually Helped Me Write Better In 2013

As I wrap up the year here at The Backstory Cafe I am surrounded by stacks of books, piles of magazines, and a bulletin board full of Very Important Writer Things. I have been studying fiction, novel structuring, and author platforming recently, and it shows in the books that sit closest to my reach. Not every book around this desk has turned out to be useful, but there are a few standouts, all purchased in 2013:

1) The Scene Book by Sandra Scofield. This book really reinforced the scene writing class I took with award-winning author Susan Pohlman this year. If you write fiction or memoir, you’ll need to craft strong scenes. If you can, come to Scottsdale and take a class with Susan (information at her website!). If you can’t take a scene writing class in person, buy this book.

2) Blueprint Your Bestseller by Stuart Horwitz. This book walks us writers through the process of examining a novel or memoir draft and organizing all of our pretty and not-so-pretty prose so the next draft sings like a lark. I used the architecture technique taught here when I thought I had written the last draft of my latest book (which I hadn’t, it turned out), but the author recommends breaking open this book and working through the exercises right after your first draft. I plan to do that next time.

3) Wired for Story by Lisa Cron. I love to study brain science and writing techniques. This book combines them both! The author shows us writers the way our readers interpret stories, what they crave (brain wise), and how to make sure they have a satisfying read. Good stuff.

4) The Art and Craft of Story by Victoria Mixon. I am a huge fan of editor Victoria Mixon’s blog, and now I’m a fan of her books. This is the funniest and most honest manual about the craft of storytelling that I’ve read so far. My copy is underlined and dog-eared.

What writing books have helped you this year? I’d love any recommendations!


Windy Lynn Harris’s short stories and essays have been published in The Literary Review, Crack The Spine, 34th Parallel, and many other journals. She is the Publishing Tips editor at The Review Review, and a the founder of Market Coaching for Creative Writers. She has been offered a residency at The Dorland Mountain Arts Colony and The Maribar Colony. She is a 2015 recipient of a Professional Development Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts which is funded by the state of Arizona and The National Endowment on the Arts. She is working on her first book.

19 thoughts on “Books On Writing That Actually Helped Me Write Better In 2013

  1. Thanks, Windy, for these book recommendations. I will put them on my Amazon Wish List. In the near future I may also be ready for your “MARKET COACHING FOR UNPUBLISHED WRITERS PROGRAM”. All the best for 2014. ~ Dennis


    1. Wishing you a creative and productive 2014, Dennis! Thanks for stopping by. Let me know when you’re ready to get your poems out to lit mags. I would love to work with you. My next byline is coming in the spring issue of The Literary Review. I’m thrilled to be a part of their legacy.


  2. Thank you for sharing these wonderful recommendations, Windy. I will be putting two of these books on my next Amazon order list. As writers, it is detrimental for us to constantly be crafting our skills, no matter how good we think we may be.
    I recently read “The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published” by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry. I found this to be a tremendous help when building a platform and writing and selling for your genre and audience. It not only explains the publishing process, but it factors in all of the things a writer should be doing even before they write and look to sell their book. I highly recommend it.


  3. Hi,

    I love this post so much, its been really hard for me searching for the right tools and books on writing. And so far this year I had only found two really great books that have actually helped me with writing. “Steven King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” and “The Elements of Style by the great William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White”. I think along with the books you have mentioned to me I will become better in the craft of authorship.

    -Imperfect Writer


    1. Dear Imperfect Writer-
      Thank you for your additional book recommendations! I don’t have Stephen King’s book yet, but I’ve had it recommended to me before. I’ll pick it up next. I’m wishing you a creative 2014, full of learning and success 🙂


  4. Reblogged this on unpackedwriter and commented:
    Dear Unpackedwriter Readers who enjoy writing: Writing and Marketing Coach Windy Lynne Harris over at The Backstory Cafe has sent me on a scene quest using The Blueprint Your Bestseller book she mentions in her post here. More on this soon… I’m up to my arm pits highlighting and taking scissors to my manuscript! I’ll see you when I emerge from my writing cave… . Thank you Windy!


  5. Windy,
    I am so appreciative that I have benefitted from your study of these aspects of story and what these authors put forth. I’m excited to dig into their work and see what it will do for mine. Thank you for analyzing my writing in these terms. I’m certain it’s going to make all the difference!


  6. I haven’t read any of these. They all sound interesting. I just re-found a book that helped me a lot: “The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction” by James Alexander Thom.
    Never enough time is there?


    1. I think it will take decades of study and practice before I pack away my craft books and donate them to another writer, if ever! Thanks for the book recommendation 🙂 I’ll check it out.


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