Books to Read Before Starting Your Novel

Everyone has a book inside of them. More so if you’re a reader. There’s something about the constant consumption of books and stories that infects the best of us with the story bug. Whether it’s because you read a terrible book or because you read an amazing book, the idea must have crossed your mind.

How do I write a book? What are the building blocks of story? How am I supposed to organize something as great as a book? These are all valid questions to ask as book lovers who want to pay homage to their first and always love. Books.

Personally, as a forever fan of books, I always think the first place to start with learning anything is with books themselves. So consider this your book list for writing that novel that’s been brewing inside you.

Read current books within your genre

If you have an idea for a book, you’ve probably read a lot into the genre you want to write in. But this type of reading is different than entertainment reading. When you’ve made the conscious decision to write your book, you need to make a mindset shift when it comes to reading. Instead of reading to experience the story, read to learn from the story.

Highlight dialogue. Learn the rhythm of action and romance. Pay attention to the pacing. How does it make you feel? Don’t just read these books for craft tips, though. Learn the names of the publishers, agents, authors, and editors within your genre.

Maybe someday they will become your friends, colleagues, and co-workers. Either way, you’ll become knowledgeable about your chosen field, and that knowledge will show in your story and how you present it to readers if you choose to share your book with the world.

Story by Robert McKee

Whenever I start a new book or dive in for another round of revision edits, I return to Story by Robert McKee, an absolute masterclass in the art of crafting a story. Though it was released over ten years ago, the book doesn’t take a look at story in the way most other craft books do. Instead of talking about what’s trendy or popular, McKee breaks down story into how it affects the reader, why, and ways writers can use the techniques in their own works.

It is not for the writer who is unfamiliar with storytelling elements and ideas on plot, structure, and character. So I caution newer writers against diving in and expecting to glean all the information the first time. It’s a thick boi with lots of content and takeaways. That’s why I suggest starting with our next on the list to help you get a grasp on story before diving into McKee’s work.

Writer’s Digest Complete Guide to Novel Writing

The most updated version of this Writer’s Digest novel writing guide was released in 2017, so it’s more targeted and geared toward contemporary publishing trends and ideas. The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing: Everything You Need to Know to Create & Sell Your Workby the editors of Writer’s Digest is a collection of all the novel advice published through the Writer’s Digest magazine and site, including newer pieces from top professionals in the field.

The guide is aimed at the new or beginning writer who wants to understand novel writing in all its parts. There are sections on finding the right genre, searching for the writing practice that’s right for you, and more. It’s a great guide for demystifying the whole novel-writing experience. While it will help writers understand what a novel entails and how to write one, it won’t teach writers how to craft something unique and original like McKee’s book will.

Creative Fight by Chris Orwig

This is not a craft book. It’s a book about art, inspiration, and committing yourself to a creative career or endeavor. Since it’s a workbook, it leads the reader through self-examination and reflection about what they want out of life and out of their craft. Interspersed with vignettes and moments from the author’s life, Creative Fight brings the loft act of being a creative down to the real world.

Though it won’t teach you craft secrets, it will help you form a healthy connection with your book and writing to ensure that you have a sustainable practice to carry you through the rough waters. It’s also packed filled with interesting creative practices to keep creativity fresh and alive in your everyday life.

Write Smart, Write Happy by Cheryl St. John

This book isn’t for the write everyday writer. Write Smart, Write Happy proposes that the best approach to a creative practice is to have a healthy work-life balance. I found it great at breaking myself out of the mindset of being a content mill. Because the author has been in the game for decades, she gave me lots of perspective on how to prepare myself now for future success later in my career.

The author goes into best practices when it comes to setting up a calendar and how to go about finding your passion in the craft. It’s unlike most writing books out there, but similar to The Writer’s Journey without all the God talk, which is off-putting to some.

Start writing right

Too often do amateur writers dive into a novel to realize they have no idea what they are doing. This leads to discouragement and turning away from their passion because they feel like they’ll never understand this whole writing thing. Don’t be like those failed writers. Write smart and do it from a standpoint of knowledge and skill.

Your future self and the first draft will be grateful for it.

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