My Top 12 Favorite Writing Books by Beth Barany

My top 12 favorite writing books, in no particular order…

I admit. It’s a somewhat random list, and not all the books are only about writing, but are actually about creativity — that which underpins all our work.

We are all the sum of our parts and our teachers. And I consider these authors and their books my teachers. I am the writer I am today because of them, and all my hard work, of course. 😉

My Top 12

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

The War of Art by [Pressfield, Steven]

Short, direct, to-the-point. When the going gets tough I think about his definition of resistance and how it’s directly proportional to the challenge I face. The harder the challenge the more resistance. When I realize that opposing force as a force of nature, I relax and get to work.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Her advice to start small, write in a small frame, helps me focus on what’s in front of me.

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by [Goldberg, Natalie]

I read this book at 20 years old and was a yearning quivering newbie writer who didn’t know anything. This book helped me write anything and everything in a journal I carried with me everywhere. Still carry it everywhere. And still give myself permission to write anything and everything in there.

Story Grid by Shawn Coyne

The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by [Coyne, Shawn]

I love how Shawn breaks out story structure. So many lightbulbs went off reading this book. It’s simple and complex and so helpful when I want to analyze what’s not working in my stories. I use it for planning too and appreciate the scaffolding it offers.

Building Fiction by Jesse Lee Kercheval

Building Fiction by Jesse Lee Kercheval

Some golden nuggets in this book, especially the “consciousness sandwich” which I’ve adapted to help me write description mixed with dialogue and inner thought.

The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray

The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray

Without this book I would have never written my first novel. No, you won’t ever get to read it, but I felt such a thrill and sense of pride finishing it. Then I knew I could write another one and another…

If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland

If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland

First published in 1938, this practical book by a lifelong write reminds me to stay grounded and take walks.

Archetypes for Writers by Jennifer Van Bergen

Archetypes for Writers by Jennifer Van Bergen

I admit — I haven’t finished this book because I did a fabulous exercise in it and was off and writing. But I think about her lesson of just writing what you observe — no more, no less — and use that as a starting point when I’m stuck. I will finish it, eventually.

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

Her discipline! I bow in awe. If I can still show up in my writing studio with half her focus and discipline, I’m doing all right.

Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention (Harper Perennial Modern Classics) by [Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly]

He cracked open the inner workings of what is creativity for all of us, showing that it’s something we all have and also something that we can cultivate and become excellent at. And it’s still hard to define.

The Virgin’s Promise by Kim Hudson

The Virgin's Promise: Writing Stories of Feminine Creative, Spiritual, and Sexual Awakening by [Hudson, Kim]

A wonderful story structure book for “writing stories of feminine creative, spiritual and sexual awakening.” Yep, that’s the subtitle. This book has been so helpful in understanding the beats to these interior stories of transformation.

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler

Oh boy. This book opened my eyes to a story structure I’ve had all around me since I was a wee thought in my mother’s belly. Fairy tales and folk tales, myths and legends are all structured this way. When I discovered this book, my brain exploded and then I could finally write my fantasy adventure series, Henrietta The Dragon Slayer, my first novel, an award-winning epic tale about a young woman who thought she was done being a hero, but so wasn’t.

What are your favorite writing books (and/or creativity books)?

Share in the comments below.

PS. Yes, all these books are on my shelf. 🙂



Beth Barany, Creativity Coach for Writers. Start writing with your Writer Discovery course here: Barany is creativity coach for writers, a teacher, workshop facilitator, and speaker, who helps fiction writers experience clarity, so that they can write and polish their novels, and proudly publish them to the delight of their readers.

Owner of the Barany School of Fiction, an online training hub, Beth takes great interest in how humans learn, create, and grow, and includes all her students’ life experiences, including the ancestors, into the moment.

She offers a year-long group program to help novelists edit and publish their novels. See more here.

*Want a course to help you prepare to write your novel? Check out the comprehensive home study Plan Your Novel course here or our annual October intensive here.

*Questions? Just drop Beth a line here.

*Start your writer’s adventure with the Free 5-Day Writer Discovery course here:


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  • Hugh Tipping says:

    I am happy to say I have many of these… and a few of yours. 🙂

    Thanks for the additions. I’ll check them out.

  • Beth Barany says:

    You’re welcome, thanks, Hugh! 🙂

  • Sue says:

    Here are mine, Beth. Story Trumps Structure, The Emotional Craft of Fiction, The Emotional Thesaurus-a writer’s guide to character expression, Story Genius and Self Editing for Writers. I’ll take a look at yours. Thanks.

  • Beth Barany says:

    Sue, thanks for sharing your list with me. I know of them all, and I think even have a few on my shelf. Maybe you could do a little write about them and post it on my blog here, or yours! I’d love to hear more about why you like them.

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