How to Become a Better Writer

100 Resources: Books, Essays, Websites, Quotes, Lists, Advice, Movies . . . Whew.

Shaunta Grimes
Jun 8 · 16 min read

Here are some of resources that have helped me become a better writer.

I hope they help you, too.

I’m curious about the resources that you find useful. Share your favorites in a comment.

Writing Novels

1. Thought Verbs

2. NaNoWriMo

I wrote my first novel during NaNoWriMo in November 2004. Getting your first novel finished is a big deal — maybe this will help you get there.

3. Key Plot Point Breakdowns at Script Lab

I love, love, love these. They’re one of the best ways I know to understand how plot structure works. There are hundreds of them. It’s a resource designed for scriptwriters, but novel writers can learn a bunch from it.

4. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

This book taught me how to structure a novel. It changed the way I write. A definite must-read.

5. Plot Boards (or Books)

6. How To Develop (and Test) a Story Idea

This is the system I use to record and start to develop new ideas, so they don’t derail my work in progress. (This is a short free course.)

7. The Plotting Workshop

This is a longer, very specific (but still free) course in actually plotting your book from beginning to end.

8. MasterClass

MasterClass is a collection of courses. Some of them are for writers and are taught by bestsellers like Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, and Judy Blume.

9. Grammar Girl

10. Critique Circle

I found my first critique partner on Critique Circle. Fourteen years ago. She’s still my critique partner, and one of my best friends. The site hasn’t changed much since 2004 — which means it’s very basic. But it’s a great resource.

Writing Short Stories

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11. Duotrope

Duotrope is a resource to help you figure out where to submit your stories, and help you keep your submissions organized.

12. Bradbury Stories (or another book of short stories by a writer you love)

Many, many master writers have books full of their short stories. I think there’s real benefit in reading a body of work from one writer. My favorite is Bradbury Stories by Ray Bradbury.

13. Classic Reader

The best way to become a better short story writer is to read as many short stories as you can. This site is over-flowing with them.

14. Storymatic

I love these cards. They’re simply a collection of characters and ideas designed to spark story ideas. Works for me, every time.

15. Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Rules for Short Story Writers

Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

16. How to Write a Short Story from Start to Finish

A good primer for short story writing from my friend Joe Bunting.

17. A Good List of Short Story Contests

18. Creating Short Fiction by Damon Knight

I read this book during my MFA program and learned a lot from it.

19. Stephen King on Short Stories

In this interview with Rich Fahle of Bibliostar.TV, bestselling author Stephen King discusses the art of writing short stories and short fiction, and the fact that many writers today forgo the short story to write the novel, sometimes before they are ready to navigate “the quagmire of the novel.”

20. A Little More Advice from Stephen King

Writing for Children

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21. The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

SCBWI is a great way to connect with other writers. They put on amazing conferences, too.

22. Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul

23. The 12X12 Picture Book Writing Challenge

24. Kid Lit

25. The Six Golden Rules of Writing Middle Grade

26. The New York Public Library’s List of 100 Children’s Book Everyone Should Read

You learn to write for children by reading excellent books that were written for children. This is a good place to start.

27. The DIY MFA’s Intro to Kid Lit

This page gives a solid introduction to every category of children’s book, from board books to Young Adult novels.

28. The Magic Words by Cheryl Klein

29. This Advice from Madeline L’engle

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book is too difficult for grown-ups, you write it for children.”

30. And This Advice from Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss)

“You can fool an adult into thinking he’s reading profundities by sprinkling your prose with purple passages. But with a kid you can’t get away with that. Two sentences in a children’s book is the equivalent of two chapters in an adult book.”

Writing Advice from Masters

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31. An Evening with Ray Bradbury

This video changed my life. I watch it at least once a year.

32. Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writers

You should read his book On Writing — but this is the bones of it.

33. My Advice to Aspiring Writers by Hugh Howey

A few years ago Hugh Howey posted some advice to writers on Wattpad. There’s some good stuff here, especially for people who are thinking about indie publishing.

34. Shitty First Drafts by Anne Lamott

Perhaps the quintessential piece of writing advice.

35. On Keeping a Notebook by Joan Didion

One of my favorite essays of all time.

36. 10 Writing Tips from Mark Twain

37. Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art Speech

38. Six Writing Tips from John Steinbeck

39. Octavia Butler’s 7 Rules of Writing

Please be sure to pick up a copy of Butler’s Blood Child and Other Stories and read her short essay in it, Furor Scribendi.

40. Robert HeinLein’s On The Writing of Speculative Fiction

Read the whole essay here. It includes his famous 5 Rules for Writing.

1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you start.
3. You must refrain from rewriting except to editorial order. 4. You must put it on the market.
5. You must keep it on the market until sold.

Systems for Writers

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41. The Ultimate Guide to Becoming an Idea Machine by James Altucher

42. Victoria Schwab’s Advice About Keeping a Writing Calendar

43. Jeff Goins Three Bucket System

44. FRED (Folder For Reaching the End of your Draft)

45. The WRITER Framework

46. Ryan Holiday’s Index Card Commonplace Book

47. Austin Kleon on Keeping a Logbook

48. Chris Fox’s 5-Step Method for Writing Faster

Fox has a book called 5000 Words an Hour that is slightly insane. I don’t know that writing that fast is necessary or even a great idea for everyone. But, I tried his method and it helped me to write more efficiently. (I got to about 2000 words an hour, which is plenty fast for me.) The post below has his 5-step method and a link where you can get his book for free.

49. Use a Notebook to Track Your Reading

50. Remember the only two things that really matter.

Learning to Write

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51. Go to a Conference

52. Join Ninja Writers

53. Check Out DIY MFA

54. Read Writer’s Digest

55. Read Great Books

56. Take a Writing Class from Stanford

57. Take a Free Online Writing Class

58. Cultivate These 25 Habits

59. Join a Writer’s Group

60. Watch TV Like a Writer

Publishing

61. Learn to Write a Query Letter

62. Read Jane Friedman’s Blog (Especially if You Want to Go Traditional)

63. Read Joanna Penn’s Blog (Especially if You Want to Go Indie)

65. Query Tracker

This is the resource I’ve used for every submission I’ve ever done. It’s helped me land an agent. Three times.

66. The Absolute Write Water Cooler

Absolute Write’s forums have tons of information about just about every literary agent and publisher there is. Full of great info and a good place to meet other writers.

67. Publisher’s Weekly

68. 99 Design

99 Design is a good resource for hiring a cover designer, if you’re planning to indie publish. I’ve used it and was very happy with the results, even though I still haven’t really given indie publishing a full shot.

69. Kindlepreneur’s Free Amazon Ads Class

This is one of the best resources for learning how Amazon ads work that I know of. Definitely worth the time. And it’s free!

70. Publisher’s Lunch

There’s a free limited version. If you have a book on submission, it might be worth paying the $25 a month for the full version for a while.

Reading

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71. Twenty-Five Famous Authors’ Favorite Books

72. Six Tips for Reading Like a Writer

73. Interesting Analysis of Books Great Writers Love

74. Goodreads

75. Kindle Unlimited

76. Five Reasons to Keep Track of Every Single Book You Read

77. How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren

78. Consider an Ambitious Reading Challenge

79. Join an Online Book Club

80. Find an In Person Book Club

Books for Writers

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These ten books, along with the others already listed in this post, are my picks for an essential writer’s library.

81. On Writing by Stephen King

82. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury

83. Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin

84. Story Genius by Lisa Cron

85. The Creative Habit by Twila Tharp

86. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

87. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

88. Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

89. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

90. The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

Movies about Writers

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Finally, the most fun for last. These are my ten favorite movies about writers and writing, in no particular order.

91. Can You Ever Forgive Me

Melissa McCarthy is masterful in the captivating account — based on a true story — of a down-and-out writer who resorts to lies, deceit and outright crime to get back on top.

92. Stand by Me

Four young friends find the remains of a missing teenager in this first-rate adaptation of Stephen King’s The Body. Starring Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, Kiefer Sutherland and Richard Dreyfuss. Directed by Rob Reiner.

93. The Whole Wide World

A Texas schoolteacher falls in love with pulp writer Robert H. Howard during the 1930s. The two couldn’t be more opposite, sharing almost nothing but their uniquely passionate romance. Based on the acclaimed autobiography by Novalyn Price Ellis.

94. The Wife

The interwoven story of a couple’s youthful passion and ambition with a portrait of a marriage, thirty-plus years later-a lifetime’s shared compromises, secrets, betrayals, and mutual love.

95. Finding Forrester

From Academy Award-nominated director Gus Van Sant and starring Academy Award-winning actor Sean Connery, comes a drama about a unique relationship between an eccentric, reclusive novelist and a young, amazingl

96. Freedom Writers

Hilary Swank stars in this story about a teacher in a racially divided school who gives her students what they’ve always needed — a voice.

97. Misery

Based on the novel by Stephen King. Successful romantic novelist, Paul Sheldon, who just had his life saved by his №1 fan…now lives to regret it. When Ann Wilkes discovers that her favorite character, Misery Chastain, has been killed off in his latest novel she’ll do anything to make sure he brings her back to life. Now Paul Sheldon must write as if his life depended on it…because it does.

98. Julie and Julia

A culinary legend provides a frustrated office worker with a new recipe for life in Julie & Julia, the true stories of how Julia Child’s (Meryl Streep) life and cookbook inspired fledgling writer Julie Powell (Amy Adams) to whip up 524 recipes in 365 days.

99. Almost Famous

A high-school boy is given the chance to write a story for Rolling Stone Magazine about an up-and-coming rock band as he accompanies it on their concert tour.

100. Sunset Boulevard

Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond, an ageing silent film queen, and William Holden as the writer who is held in thrall by her madness, created two of the screen’s most memorable characters in Sunset Boulevard.


Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She is an out-of-place Nevadan living in Northwestern PA with her husband, three superstar kids, two dementia patients, a good friend, Alfred the cat, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation and the upcoming novel The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer.

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The Write Brain

Posts about productivity, business, and systems for right-brained creatives. Ideas aren’t enough. We actually have to do the things!

Shaunta Grimes

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Learn. Write. Repeat. Visit me at ninjawriters.org (My posts may contain affiliate links!)

The Write Brain

Posts about productivity, business, and systems for right-brained creatives. Ideas aren’t enough. We actually have to do the things!