Top 5 Best Books on Writing 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

While this book seems to have gotten buried under the mounds of other writing books out there, it’s still a gem. Morrell’s advice is spot-on and—bonus points—she’s funny. I gobbled up the nearly four hundred pages in a matter of days.


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

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; they pretty much cover the same concepts. But I would definitely recommend reading 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 little e-book in one sitting (I love that Yardley doesn’t pad her writing books with unnecessary fluff). Write Every Day is the writer’s version of an awesome pep talk before the big game.


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 for her Harry Potter series. If you haven’t read my posts yet, here’s the first of four.

And now for my number one writing book in 2013 (although it’s not technically a writing book):


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

This is a psychology textbook that was originally published back in the late ’70s, then revamped in 1998. Keirsey begins his book with a quote from 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.

I chose this book as my number one pick because you cannot write incredible, believable fiction (or nonfiction, for that matter) if you do not have a deep understanding of people.

In three hundred fascinating pages, 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. He somehow manages to be both sweepingly broad yet painstakingly detailed.

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. Her Harry Potter characters go deeper than looks and mannerisms; she gave them 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, click here.)

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

  1. Naps are the blessing and curse of parenting, I’ve decided. Good luck with that.

    Also, genius list. I LOVE LOVE the ending quote. Such truth!
    (your blog is fricking awesome, BTW….I think I’ve made it almost the entire way through the JKR posts!)


  2. 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.


  3. 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!


  4. 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.


  5. 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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