Top 5 Best Books on Writing in 2013

Finally! Here’s my list of the best writing books in 2013.


Thanks, But This Isn’t for Us: A (Sort Of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing is Being Rejected by Jessica Page Morrell

At first glance, this book doesn’t seem like it would be a shoe-in for a book writing award. For one, it was published five years ago but only has 20 (4.5-star) reviews on Amazon. Even I didn’t have high hopes when I read the Table of Contents—nothing jumped out at me (although Morrell definitely won brownie points with some of her chapter titles: “Tragedy Doesn’t Equal Memoir: Writing Life Stories that Readers Cannot . . . . . . “). But despite my initial misgivings, I gobbled up the nearly four-hundred-page book in a matter of days. A great read!


The Writer’s Book of Hope: Getting from Frustration to Publication by Ralph Keyes

This book is another underdog on Amazon. It was published over ten years ago but only has fifteen reviews. Keyes’ first writing book, The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear, is more popular than this one. I’ve read both and my advice is to read one or the other. Perhaps I prefer The Writer’s Book of Hope because I read it first and so was less wowed by the time I got to The Courage to Write. Both books, in my opinion, discuss the same concept. But I would definitely recommend reading at least one of them, especially after the beating you’ll get from Morrell in Thanks, But This Isn’t for Us.


Write Every Day: How to Writer Faster, and Write More by Cathy Yardley

I read this 92-page e-book in one sitting. It’s like the writing version of a coach’s pep talk before the big game; it’ll make you go screaming from the locker room to crush your opponent, or in this case, your inner critic. I especially love that Yardley doesn’t pad her writing books with unnecessary fluff.


Blueprint Your Bestseller: Organize and Revise Any Manuscript with the Book Architecture Method by Stuart Horwitz

This one is an obvious winner given that I have written four lengthy posts on how the methods in this book helped Rowling create complex plots and deep characters. If you haven’t read them yet, here’s the first of the four posts.

And now for my number one writing book in 2013. Although it’s not technically a writing book, it’s helped my writing a ton:


Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence by David Keirsey

This is a psychology textbook that was originally published back in the late ’70s and then revamped in 1998. I never thought I’d say this about a psychology textbook but: It’s Awesome.

Keirsey begins the book with a quote by Henry David Thoreau:

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

Thoreau understood that writing is all about understanding people. If you don’t understand people, you cannot write believable fiction (or nonfiction, for that matter). 

In three hundred pages of fascinating detail, Keirsey delves into everything you can imagine about the sixteen different personality types: their interests, values, self-image, social roles, word usage, mating and parenting styles, even their sexual inclinations (you know you want to read it now). He somehow manages to be both sweepingly broad yet painstakingly detailed in his descriptions.

One of Rowling’s particular strengths as a writer is her ability to depict so many different types of people in a very believable way. In the Harry Potter series, she went deeper than looks and mannerisms. She created characters with complex wants, needs, motives, and temperaments.

So if you’re looking to step up your writing game, check out Please Understand Me II.

And if you missed last year’s list of best writing books, you can read it here.

9 thoughts on “Top 5 Best Books on Writing in 2013

  1. Thanks for all of the encouragement, Amy and Jen. You guys are the reason I sit down at the computer and write instead of nap with my kids (that is, IF they nap). Sending happy writing vibes your way.


  2. What a finish! Thanks for posting this … great list. I’ve got Thanks, But This isn’t For Us (which I really enjoyed) but now that you’ve put the other four on my radar, I can’t wait to read them.

    Thank you Carolyn!

    PS genius idea with the psychology textbook too!


  3. I was happy to find three books I haven’t read. Yardley was on my wish list, and it good to find a positive review. (I’m such a writing guide addict.) I agree with you about Morrell and Horwitz, whose books I’ve read and continue to re-read while working through a first draft. With hundreds of guides from so many generous authors I’d have a hard time coming up with a top ten list, but the book architectural method would be among them. It unique and I’m grateful for the direction it’s given me with my memoir. (I only have to edit way over a million words down to 80,000. No biggie.) ☺

    Love Rowling by the way. I listened to her audio books while working through a painting. I enjoyed Jim Dale’s work so much I didn’t want to see a single movie version.


    1. Thanks for checking in, Jenny! I’m glad the list was helpful, and I know that Stuart will be tickled to see how useful his book has been in writing your memoir. He’s actually working on his second writing book right now, and I’m co-authoring one of the chapters with him! Best of luck with your memoir (that’s exciting!), and I hope to see you around here again.


  4. Is it a bit misleading to say of, ‘Blueprint Your Bestseller: Organize and Revise Any Manuscript with the Book Architecture Method by Stuart Horwitz (2013)’

    “This one is an obvious winner given that I’ve written four lengthy posts on how the methods listed in this book helped Rowling create complex plots and deep characters.”

    There is a dubious sense of order, of what came first and what came second in this sentence; in what was the source for what. The methods listed in this book did NOT help Rowling – Rowling never read Horwitz.

    The ‘Phoenix’ grid Horwitz used was not subsequently used by Rowling – Rowling’s grid was used by Horwitz – it was all over the internet. It is Rowling’s creation. Rowling did not read Horwitz at all.

    However, Horwitz probably does deserve to be on your list – an excellent list. I had not heard of the first one (#5), thanks for that.


    1. Patrick: You’re right—I certainly was not trying to say that Rowling used Stuart’s book to create her grid outline. Stuart didn’t invent these writing tools out of thin air; in fact, a big part of his new book (“Book Architecture”) focuses on showing how successful authors in the past have used tools like the grid outline to write their books. For example, one of the chapters in “Book Architecture” shows how Joseph Heller used the grid outline back in the 60s to write his classic book “Catch-22.” One of the best ways we can improve our writing is by studying the techniques of successful writers in the past and that’s what Stuart’s goal is with his Book Architecture Method. I hope that helps explain my meaning. I think you’d find “Book Architecture” a very interesting read: Thanks for dropping in!


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