A quick search on Amazon will reveal hundreds, if not thousands of books on the subject of writing. Here are some of my trusted favorites which I refer to and recommend time and time again (in no particular order).
On Writing by Stephen King: subtitled ‘A Memoir on the Craft’, this book by one of the world’s best-selling authors is a book of two halves. The first part is a memoir of his childhood and his journey to become a writer, and it’s endearing and insightful. The second part is where he shares his opinions on writing in the form of a ‘writer’s toolkit’, providing invaluable advice in an entertaining and self-deprecating way.
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King: this is an excellent reference book which teaches self-editing techniques, accompanied by examples and exercises. Topics covered include writing effective dialogue, avoiding too much exposition, mastering point of view, interior monologue and how to make your writing more sophisticated.
How Novels Work by John Mullan: written by the Guardian columnist responsible for ‘Elements of Fiction’, this book is accessible literary criticism which discusses works by contemporary authors such as Ian McEwan, Patricia Highsmith, Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith and Donna Tartt, and analyses what makes them so enjoyable to read.
Into the Woods by John Yorke: written by a screenwriter who is responsible for many UK television dramas, this book discusses the underlying structure of storytelling.
On Editing by Helen Corner-Bryant and Kathryn Price: this book is as much for writers as editors. It will teach you how to analyse, edit and redraft your manuscript. It also includes a section on submitting to agents in both the UK and US.
Write to be Published by Nicola Morgan: this book is primarily aimed at writers hoping to secure an agent and a publishing deal and is packed full of honest insight and advice delivered in the ‘crabbit old bat”s inimitable style.
The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman: a New York-based literary agent, Lukeman has written a series of books covering different elements of writing craft. This one is full of practical and succinct advice, and shows how a successful plot interweaves with other key elements of storytelling.
How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman: full of entertaining and sound advice about what not to do and pitfalls to avoid when writing, illustrated with plenty of examples.
Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction by Patricia Highsmith: one of my all-time favourite authors. An insightful read rather than a guide in the traditional sense, Highsmith shows how to develop a tiny grain of an idea into a novel, revealing snippets of autobiographical information along the way.
The Magic of Fiction by Beth Hill: this indispensable reference book written by editor Beth Hill is a guide to honing and crafting the various elements that go into a work of fiction. I refer to it so regularly that it rarely makes its way back onto my bookshelf.