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The Ultimate “How-to” Books for Writing Novels & Movies

Updated: May 27, 2021

Whether you’re a lover of great writing, or would love to be great writer yourself, the following books are highly recommended!


Writing Fiction for Dummies, by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy.

This book is the core of a do-it-yourself writing education. It has great content—plot, characters, dialog, getting published—and much more. Plus, it references other “how-to-write” books, most of which could be on this list.

Save the Cat Writes a Novel, by Jessica Brody.

Same great approach—adapted for writing novels—that Blake Snyder gave us for screenwriting (see below).

Zen in the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury.

Want to learn about writing and life? Here’s the title of Mr. Bradbury’s preface: “How to climb the tree of life, throw rocks at yourself, and get down again without breaking your bones or your spirit.” Wonderful words from a master of his craft.

Bonus Tip: Read Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Good Writing. My favorite rule is number 10: “Leave out the parts that readers skip.”


Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder.

My favorite “how-to” book for writing movies is Save the Cat, which gives a systematic approach to screenwriting based on the structure that almost all blockbuster movies have in common. That great idea you have for a movie? Read this book and you’ll find yourself sitting down—finally—to write it.

My Story Can Beat Up Your Story, by Jeffrey Alan Schechter.

Another great book on structure. Are you having trouble with act two? Welcome to the club. But Schechter has a unique way to tackle act two. He uses the term “reversal pair.” First, it looks like your hero is going to reach her goal, then, she has a setback. That’s one “reversal pair.” Write 14 of those, and you’ve got a dynamite second act! Why is that so important? Because, in a 120-page script, your second act is 60 pages – half your movie!

As you know, the process of writing is largely the process of re-writing. This book walks you through that critical endeavor.

Don’t be misled by the title—writing fast is not the point. This is a solid book with good information.

Bonus Tip: Print off the screenplays of your five favorite movies (usually available free online). Read them, mark them up, and read them again. You will be amazed what you learn!

Favorite software:

For writing a Novel: Microsoft Word.

For writing a Screenplay: Final Draft. (Can also be used to write a novel.)

So there you have it, my “must-read” books regarding the craft of the wordsmith. What are some of your favorite books for lovers of the written word?

Story Lover’s Log: Tell a great story.

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