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The Best Books on Writing

Writing is, as a general rule, hard. defining yourself as a writer can be even harder. from grammar rules to publishing advice to personal narratives, these books on writing reveal in intimate detail the ins and outs of what it means to call yourself a writer.  these are some of the best books on writing with insight and wisdom that can support you at all stages of your writing process..

Dreyer's English Book Cover Picture

Dreyer’s English

By benjamin dreyer, paperback $18.00, buy from other retailers:.

The Forest for the Trees (Revised and Updated) Book Cover Picture

The Forest for the Trees (Revised and Updated)

By betsy lerner.

The Elements of Style Illustrated Book Cover Picture

The Elements of Style Illustrated

By william strunk, jr. and e. b. white.

Sin and Syntax Book Cover Picture

Sin and Syntax

By constance hale.

Naked, Drunk, and Writing Book Cover Picture

Naked, Drunk, and Writing

By adair lara, paperback $15.99.

Bird by Bird Book Cover Picture

Bird by Bird

By anne lamott, paperback $17.00.

Poemcrazy Book Cover Picture

by Susan G. Wooldridge

Paperback $16.00.

Writing Better Lyrics Book Cover Picture

Writing Better Lyrics

By pat pattison, paperback $20.99.

Walking on Water Book Cover Picture

Walking on Water

By madeleine l'engle.

Story Genius Book Cover Picture

Story Genius

By lisa cron, paperback $16.99.

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Authority Self-Publishing

35 Writing Exercises For Adults To Drastically Improve Your Writing

How do beginners practice writing ?

Here you are as an adult who’s decided to make writing an essential part of your life. 

However little practice you’ve had until now, it’s not too late to become a writer.

It’s as simple (and challenging) as showing up every day to write something .

Getting started on your daily writing can be tricky, though–especially if it’s not a habit yet. 

That’s why we’ve rounded up this collection of 35 fun writing exercises for adults. 

What Exercises Can I Do to Improve My Writing Skills? 

We’re not talking about writing prompts (which are also helpful). Writing exercises usually focus on a specific type of writing to help you develop your skills.

The list in this post offers a variety of fiction writing exercises, each dealing with one or more of the following: 

  • Sensory Description
  • Character Development
  • Emotions 
  • Poetry 

Since there’s plenty of room for overlap with these types, the list below doesn’t separate them. You can choose, though, to focus on one specific type for each exercise.

If you’re still wondering, “How do I start writing as an adult?” the answer is to do just that: start writing. We all have to start somewhere. The older you are when you begin, the more experiences you can draw from for your writing material. 

35 Writing Exercises for Adults 

What better way to get started and build a daily writing habit than with some easy writing exercises?

Look through the list below and start with the one that gets your mind immediately working on ideas. Don’t worry if those ideas quiet down the moment you begin.

Take a deep breath (or two) and write whatever comes to mind. 

1. Write up to ten emotions on as many strips of paper and put them in a container. Choose an object, and then pick out one of the pieces of paper. Write about the object from the perspective of a character feeling that emotion. Or write a journal entry for a character, expressing that emotion and explaining why they feel it. 

2. Start with a blank page and whatever is on your mind, and just write. This is a stream of consciousness exercise where you just let the thoughts pour onto the page without worrying about grammar , spelling, or technique. The point is to just get the words flowing without interruption. Choose the topic , and run with it.

3. Take one of your works in progress or a story you’ve enjoyed reading, and write from the perspective of one of its characters. It can be the protagonist, the chief antagonist, or anyone else. Get into the character’s head and write freely about the story or another character from their point of view. 

4. Choose a creative writing prompt for the day and write for a solid five minutes using whatever comes to mind. Don’t worry about how it sounds or whether you think it’s bestseller material. The point here isn’t to write something masterful; it’s to help you get used to writing without a filter. Editing is not part of this. 

5. Imagine you’ve gone back in time, and you have the opportunity to say something to your younger self. Write about how that encounter would go and what, if anything, you would say to warn them about a pivotal decision you remember making. Would you encourage them to choose differently? Or would you just be there for yourself?

6. Write a fake advertisement for a roommate, a job, a product of your own making, or whatever you want. Have fun with it. You can even advertise yourself, offering your services as a memoir writer , a food tester, an interior designer, or whatever. It doesn’t have to be something you’re good at. 

writing exercises for adults

7. Write a short blog post from the perspective of one of your story characters — or any character you choose from a TV series, a movie, or a story you’ve enjoyed reading. Write about something they’ve learned, something they want to do, or someone who’s on their mind a lot lately. 

8. Describe your ideal home office using as much sensory detail as possible. Include the color scheme, the decorating style and type of furniture, the smells from candles or fresh flowers, the taste of your favorite working beverage and/or snacks, and the tactile sensations you experience while working in that room. 

9. Pick a number between one and ten. Choose a book from your shelf and go to that number page and to that number line on the page. Use it as a prompt for a poem and take it in whatever direction you choose. Don’t worry about technique. Write the words that come as a sort of free association exercise.

10. Your character comes to you with a problem. Your job, for this exercise, is to keep asking the question, “Why?” and writing down whatever they give as their answer. If they get exasperated (and rude), you can go with that, too. Make the words fit your character. And don’t be afraid to go deep. 

11. Pretend you’re a talk show host, and your special guest is the protagonist or antagonist of a favorite story or your own work in progress. Record your conversation as a dialogue, and don’t be afraid to ask personal or challenging questions. Let your guest answer in a way that fits their character. 

12. You’ve gone to a party with a favorite story character, and they’ve had a bit too much to drink. What might they say or do when they’re less inhibited? Record a conversation you have with their drunken self or describe a scene they create while under the influence. And what are the consequences? 

13. Describe an unexpectedly romantic scene between two characters. Start with something mundane and have one of the characters say something unexpected — either from a sudden rush of emotion or because they’re distracted and not thinking about the words coming out. Write about what happens between them.

14. Write a detailed description of the room you’re in right now. What details stand out for you, and why do they matter? What would you change if you could? What can you do today or this week to make this room better for writing in? Or what do you love about this room that no other room has?

15. Your character steps through a portal into a place of your choosing. Describe it using words to set a particular mood . How does your character feel as they walk deeper into the scene? Are they afraid, curious, hungry, sad, or something else? And how does that emotion affect their perception of their surroundings? 

writing exercises for adults

16. Write a dialogue between two characters who keep misinterpreting each other’s words and nonverbal cues, thanks to their own distorted self-perception. Is one of them convinced the other finds them unattractive or annoying? Is the other trying to work up the nerve to ask them out? Add descriptions of body language. 

More Related Articles

75 Of The Best Fiction Writing Prompts For All Writers

47 Character Development Prompts To Flesh Out Your Book Characters

99 Fun Flash Fiction Writing Prompts

17. Use your phone or computer to record yourself talking about whatever is on your mind, e ither from your perspective or that of a favorite character. When you’ve done this for at least five minutes (set a timer), use the text-to-speech function to transcribe what you’ve recorded. 

18. Recall your text-to-speech exercise and pretend you’re taking down your thoughts (or your character’s thoughts) from mental dictation. Use a prompt, if it helps, and record their stream-of-consciousness thinking process without editing or filtering any of the content. Write exactly as you (or they) talk. 

19. Imagine you’ve just inherited or won a huge, life-changing sum of money, and you’re discussing it with someone close to you. What ideas do both of you have for its use? Do you disagree on how best to manage the money? Or are you both finally able to do something you’ve wanted to do — together or separately? 

20. Find the day’s Twitter #vss word prompt (140 characters or fewer) and write something using that word — a brief dialogue, a pivotal moment, a shocking advertisement, etc. Write as many as you like, and, if you have a Twitter account, share one with your followers, making sure to include #vss and other relevant tags.

21. Choose a character and write about something they’re ashamed of. How did they learn to be ashamed of it? Who in that character’s past contributed to that? And what could another character do to help them confront that shame and heal from it? What, if anything, does this character need to hear, admit, or do to overcome it?

22. If you or one of your characters becomes physically ill at the prospect of doing something or going somewhere , what’s causing this immediate onset of physical symptoms, and how exactly do they manifest? What could you or your character do to change the way you respond to this perceived threat?

23. Write a letter to yourself to read a year from now. Write as if you’ve accomplished all the things you want to do over the next 12 months. Describe how your life has changed and what you love about it. What changes have you made and undergone that you’re proud of? Where did you begin with the changes?

24. Write about a dialogue between you and an important person in your life. Add any sensory details and body language you remember. What emotions did you feel, and how did this conversation affect you? What did you realize that you expressed to the other person—or that you couldn’t put into words? 

25. Put yourself in a character’s shoes and write about the moment they realized they were in love with someone. What were they thinking and feeling in that moment? What did they do with those feelings? And how did it affect their next interaction with that person? Were they free to express what they were feeling? 

26. Find a small box and tape it securely shut. Let your imagination run loose and write about what’s in the box and why you can’t risk opening it (at least not until the time is right). Or write about what will happen when the box is opened and its contents revealed. What or whom are you protecting? 

27. Describe your perfect bedroom down to the smallest sensory detail. What do you love most about it—the colors, the bedding, the furniture, the closet, etc.? What descriptive words come to mind when you think of that space? Whom do you allow to enter that room (as long as you’re there and they knock first)? 

28. Create a timeline of important moments in a character’s life. What experiences shaped them as a person? What pivotal moments have contributed to the life they live now? What choices have they made that led them to where they are? How might you explain their biggest fears or characteristic tendencies? 

29. If you’re writing a story, describe a pivotal moment from the perspective of an outsider who witnessed that moment but is not part of the story . What do they notice that your characters do not? How do they interpret the situation since, as an outsider, they’re not privy to important background information? 

30. Take a character of your own making (or someone else’s) and put them through something that pushes their limits and deeply affects them, leaving them uncertain as to how to make sense of it. Show how it changes their perspective and their behavior from that point forward. 

31. Brainstorm a list of at least five ideas for something related to a story you’re writing: five surprising or defining facts about your main character, five things your antagonist would do to mess with your protagonist , five important details about your story’s setting, five ways your main character could get what they want, etc. 

32. Choose a book written by an author you admire and write about an important moment in your life using the voice from a particular character in that book (protagonist, villain, etc.). How would they express what they’re feeling or how they’re inclined to react? What would they do that you would not—or vice-versa?

33. Describe in detail the kind of relationship you want for yourself. Make a list of must-haves and of nice-to-have qualities in a partner. You can also pretend you’re writing a profile description for an online dating site. Or write a letter to your current or future partner about what you really want to have with them. 

34. Pick one of your characters and describe the best day of their life in detail. What made it their best day ever? When did it happen, and how? Have they tried to recreate that day more recently? And if so, how did it go? What (if anything) went wrong? Or what happened as an unintended consequence? 

35. Write down three random nouns, four adjectives, two verbs, and one adverb for a Mad Libs exercise. Now, write at least 500 words of a story that uses all ten of those words. It doesn’t have to make sense. In fact, the goofier, the better. This can be a self-contained story or the first chapter of a longer one. 

Now that you’ve looked through all 35 creative writing exercises, which ones stood out for you? And which one will you try today? The goal here is to get you so comfortable with writing it becomes second nature. 

You don’t need perfect; you just need to start somewhere. 

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Language » Writing Books

The best books on creative writing, recommended by andrew cowan.

The professor of creative writing at UEA says Joseph Conrad got it right when he said that the sitting down is all. He chooses five books to help aspiring writers.

The best books on Creative Writing - Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

The best books on Creative Writing - On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner

On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner

The best books on Creative Writing - On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

The best books on Creative Writing - The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner

The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner

The best books on Creative Writing - Worstward Ho by Samuel Beckett

Worstward Ho by Samuel Beckett

writing books for adults

1 Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

2 on becoming a novelist by john gardner, 3 on writing: a memoir of the craft by stephen king, 4 the forest for the trees by betsy lerner, 5 worstward ho by samuel beckett.

How would you describe creative writing?

Creative writing is an academic discipline. I draw a distinction between writing , which is what writers do, and creative writing. I think most people in the UK who teach creative writing have come to it via writing – they are bona fide writers who publish poems and novels and play scripts and the like, and they have found some way of supporting that vocation through having a career in academia. So in teaching aspirant writers how to write they are drawing upon their own experience of working in that medium. They are drawing upon their knowledge of what the problems are and how those problems might be tackled. It’s a practice-based form of learning and teaching.

But because it is in academia there is all this paraphernalia that has to go with it. So you get credits for attending classes. You have to do supporting modules; you have to be assessed. If you are doing an undergraduate degree you have to follow a particular curriculum and only about a quarter of that will be creative writing and the rest will be in the canon of English literature . If you are doing a PhD you have to support whatever the creative element is with a critical element. So there are these ways in which academia disciplines writing and I think of that as Creative Writing with a capital C and a capital W. All of us who teach creative writing are doing it, in a sense, to support our writing, but it is also often at the expense of our writing. We give up quite a lot of time and mental energy and also, I think, imaginative and creative energy to teach.

It is hugely rewarding, engaging with the students, but it is hugely frustrating as well, because the larger part of it is engaging with an institution. I’m sure I’m not alone in being very ambivalent about what I do!

Your first choice is Dorothea Brande’s Becoming a Writer , which for someone writing in 1934 sounds pretty forward thinking.

Because creative writing has now taken off and has become this very widespread academic discipline it is beginning to acquire its own canon of key works and key texts. This is one of the oldest of them. It’s a book that almost anyone who teaches creative writing will have read. They will probably have read it because some fundamentals are explained and I think the most important one is Brande’s sense of the creative writer being comprised of two people. One of them is the artist and the other is the critic.

Actually, Malcolm Bradbury who taught me at UEA, wrote the foreword to my edition of Becoming a Writer , and he talks about how Dorothea Brande was writing this book ‘in Freudian times’ – the 1930s in the States. And she does have this very Freudian idea of the writer as comprised of a child artist on the one hand, who is associated with spontaneity, unconscious processes, while on the other side there is the adult critic making very careful discriminations.

And did she think the adult critic hindered the child artist?

No. Her point is that the two have to work in harmony and in some way the writer has to achieve an effective balance between the two, which is often taken to mean that you allow the artist child free rein in the morning. So you just pour stuff on to the page in the morning when you are closest to the condition of sleep. The dream state for the writer is the one that is closest to the unconscious. And then in the afternoon you come back to your morning’s work with your critical head on and you consciously and objectively edit it. Lots of how-to-write books encourage writers to do it that way. It is also possible that you can just pour stuff on to the page for days on end as long as you come back to it eventually with a critical eye.

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There are two ways in which you can start to get that wrong and produce bad work. One is where you don’t allow the critic in at all. And so it is just a constant outpouring of unmediated automatic writing, which can become a kind of verbal diarrhoea. And the other side of that is where you allow the critic too much authority and the critic becomes like a bad dad who finds fault with everything and doesn’t allow the child to produce anything. And that results in a sort of self-sabotaging perfectionism, which I have suffered from. I got very blocked, and I read this book and it unblocked me.

Good! Your next book, John Gardner’s On Becoming a Novelist , is described as comfort food for the aspiring novelist.

This is another one of the classics. He was quite a successful novelist in the States, but possibly an even more successful teacher of creative writing. The short story writer and poet Raymond Carver, for instance, was one of his students. And he died young in a motorcycle accident when he was 49. There are two classic works by him. One is this book, On Becoming a Novelist , and the other is The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers . They were both put together from his teaching notes after he died.

On Becoming a Novelist  is the more succinct and, I think, is the better of the two. He talks about automatic writing and the idea, just like Dorothea Brande, of the artist being comprised of two people. But his key idea is the notion of the vivid and continuous dream. He suggests that when we read a novel we submit to the logic of that novel in the same way as we might submit to the logic of a dream – we sink into it, and clearly the events that occur could not exist outside the imagination.

What makes student writing in particular go wrong is when it draws attention to itself, either through bad writing or over-elaborate writing. He suggests that these faults in the aspirant writer alert the reader to the fact that they are reading a fiction and it is a bit like giving someone who is dreaming a nudge. It jolts them out of the dream. So he proposes that the student writer should try to create a dream state in the reader that is vivid and appeals to all the senses and is continuous. What you mustn’t do is alert the reader to the fact that they are reading a fiction.

It is a very good piece of advice for writers starting out but it is ultimately very limiting. It rules out all the great works of modernism and post-modernism, anything which is linguistically experimental. It rules out anything which draws attention to the words as words on a page. It’s a piece of advice which really applies to the writing of realist fiction, but is a very good place from which to begin.

And then people can move on.

I never would have expected the master of terror Stephen King to write a book about writing. But your next choice, On Writing , is more of an autobiography .

Yes. It is a surprise to a lot of people that this book is so widely read on university campuses and so widely recommended by teachers of writing. Students love it. It’s bracing: there’s no nonsense. He says somewhere in the foreword or preface that it is a short book because most books are filled with bullshit and he is determined not to offer bullshit but to tell it like it is.

It is autobiographical. It describes his struggle to emerge from his addictions – to alcohol and drugs – and he talks about how he managed to pull himself and his family out of poverty and the dead end into which he had taken them. He comes from a very disadvantaged background and through sheer hard work and determination he becomes this worldwide bestselling author. This is partly because of his idea of the creative muse. Most people think of this as some sprite or fairy that is usually feminine and flutters about your head offering inspiration. His idea of the muse is ‘a basement guy’, as he calls him, who is grumpy and turns up smoking a cigar. You have to be down in the basement every day clocking in to do your shift if you want to meet the basement guy.

Stephen King has this attitude that if you are going to be a writer you need to keep going and accept that quite a lot of what you produce is going to be rubbish and then you are going to revise it and keep working at it.

Do you agree with him?

Yes, I do. I think he talks an awful lot of sense. There is this question which continues to be asked of people who teach creative writing, even though it has been taught in the States for over 100 years and in the UK for over 40 years. We keep being asked, ‘Can writing be taught?’ And King says it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, but what is possible, with lots of hard work and dedication and timely help, is to make a good writer out of a merely competent one. And his book is partly intended to address that, to help competent writers to become good ones. It is inspirational because he had no sense of entitlement. He is not a bookish person and yet he becomes this figurehead.

He sounds inspirational. Your next book, Betsy Lerner’s The Forest for the Trees , looks at things from the editor’s point of view.

Yes, she was an editor at several major American publishing houses, such as Simon & Schuster. She went on to become an agent, and also did an MFA in poetry before that, so she came through the US creative writing process and understands where many writers are coming from.

The book is divided into two halves. In the second half she describes the process that goes from the completion of the author’s manuscript to submitting it to agents and editors. She explains what goes on at the agent’s offices and the publisher’s offices. She talks about the drawing up of contracts, negotiating advances and royalties. So she takes the manuscript from the author’s hands, all the way through the publishing process to its appearance in bookshops. She describes that from an insider’s point of view, which is hugely interesting.

But the reason I like this book is for the first half of it, which is very different. Here she offers six chapters, each of which is a character sketch of a different type of author. She has met each of them and so although she doesn’t mention names you feel she is revealing something to you about authors whose books you may have read. She describes six classic personality types. She has the ambivalent writer, the natural, the wicked child, the self-promoter, the neurotic and a chapter called ‘Touching Fire’, which is about the addictive and the mentally unstable.

It is very entertaining and informative and it is also hugely affirming. I identified myself with each one of the six types. There is a bit in each of them that sounded just like me. And I thought, well if they can get published so can I. You do often worry that you are an impostor, that you are only pretending to be a writer and that real writers are a completely different breed, but actually this book shows they can be just like you.

Your final choice is Worstward Ho by Samuel Beckett .

This is a tiny book – it is only about 40 pages and it has got these massive white margins and really large type. I haven’t counted, but I would guess it is only about two to three thousand words and it is dressed up as a novella when it is really only a short story. On the first page there is this riff: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’

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When I read this I thought I had discovered a slogan for the classroom that I could share with my students. I want to encourage them to make mistakes and not to be perfectionists, not to feel that everything they do has to be of publishable standard. The whole point of doing a course, especially a creative writing MA and attending workshops, is that you can treat the course as a sandpit. You go in there, you try things out which otherwise you wouldn’t try, and then you submit it to the scrutiny of your classmates and you get feedback. Inevitably there will be things that don’t work and your classmates will help you to identify those so that you can take it away and redraft it – you can try again. And inevitably you are going to fail again because any artistic endeavour is doomed to failure because the achievement can never match the ambition. That’s why artists keep producing their art and writers keep writing, because the thing you did last just didn’t quite satisfy you, just wasn’t quite right. And you keep going and trying to improve on that.

But why, when so much of it is about failing – failing to get published, failing to be satisfied, failing to be inspired – do writers carry on?

I have a really good quote from Joseph Conrad in which he says the sitting down is all. He spends eight hours at his desk, trying to write, failing to write, foaming at the mouth, and in the end wanting to hit his head on the wall but refraining from that for fear of alarming his wife!

It’s a familiar situation; lots of writers will have been there. For me it is a kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is something I have to keep returning to. I have to keep going back to the sentences, trying to get them right. Trying to line them up correctly. I can’t let them go. It is endlessly frustrating because they are never quite right.

You have published four books. Are you happy with them?

Reasonably happy. Once they are done and gone I can relax and feel a little bit proud of them. But at the time I just experience agonies. It takes me ages. It takes me four or five years to finish a novel partly because I always find distractions – like working in academia – something that will keep me away from the writing, which is equally as unrewarding as it is rewarding!

September 27, 2012

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Andrew Cowan

Andrew Cowan

Andrew Cowan is Professor of Creative Writing and Director of the Creative Writing programme at UEA. His first novel, Pig , won the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award, the Betty Trask Award, the Ruth Hadden Memorial Prize, the Author’s Club First Novel Award and a Scottish Council Book Award. He is also the author of the novels Common Ground , Crustaceans ,  What I Know  and  Worthless Men . His own creative writing guidebook is  The  Art  of  Writing  Fiction .

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 Toni Morrison in 1979.

Top 10 books about creative writing

From linguistics to essays by Zadie Smith and Toni Morrison, poet Anthony Anaxagorou recommends some ‘lateral’ ways in to a demanding craft

T he poet Rita Dove was once asked what makes poetry successful. She went on to illuminate three key areas: First, the heart of the writer; the things they wish to say – their politics and overarching sensibilities. Second, their tools: how they work language to organise and position words. And the third, the love a person must have for books: “To read, read, read.”

When I started mapping out How to Write It , I wanted to focus on the aspects of writing development that took in both theoretical and interpersonal aspects. No writer lives in a vacuum, their job is an endless task of paying attention.

How do I get myself an agent? What’s the best way to approach a publisher? Should I self-publish? There is never one way to assuage the concerns of those looking to make a career out of writing. Many labour tirelessly for decades on manuscripts that never make it to print. The UK on average publishes around 185,000 new titles per year, ranking us the third largest publishing market in the world, yet the number of aspiring writers is substantially greater.

Writers writing about writing can become a supercilious endeavour; I’m more interested in the process of making work and the writer’s perspectives that substantiate the framework.

There’s no single authority, anything is possible. All that’s required are some words and an idea – which makes the art of writing enticing but also difficult and daunting. The books listed below, diverse in their central arguments and genres, guide us towards more interesting and lateral ways to think about what we want to say, and ultimately, how we choose to say it.

1. The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner An intellectual meditation on the cultural function of poetry. Less idealistic than other poetry criticism, Lerner puts forward a richly layered case for the reasons writers and readers alike turn to poetry, probing into why it’s often misconceived as elitist or tedious, and asks that we reconsider the value we place on the art form today.

2. Find Your Voice by Angie Thomas One of the hardest things about creative writing is developing a voice and not compromising your vision for the sake of public appeal. Thomas offers sharp advice to those wrestling with novels or Young Adult fiction. She writes with appealing honesty, taking in everything from writer’s block to deciding what a final draft should look like. The book also comes interspersed with prompts and writing exercises alongside other tips and suggestions to help airlift writers out of the mud.

3. Linguistics: Why It Matters by Geoffrey K Pullum If language is in a constant state of flux, and rules governing sentence construction, meaning and logic are always at a point of contention, what then can conventional modes of language and linguistics tell us about ourselves, our cultures and our relationship to the material world? Pullum addresses a number of philosophical questions through the scientific study of human languages – their grammars, clauses and limitations. An approachable, fascinating resource for those interested in the mechanics of words.

4. Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle The collected lectures of poet and professor Mary Ruefle present us with an erudite inquiry into some of the major aspects of a writer’s mind and craft. Ruefle possesses an uncanny ability to excavate broad and complex subjects with such unforced and original lucidity that you come away feeling as if you’ve acquired an entirely new perspective from only a few pages. Themes range from sentimentality in poetry, to fear, beginnings and – a topic she returns to throughout the book – wonder. “A poem is a finished work of the mind, it is not the work of a finished mind.”

Zadie Smith.

5. Feel Free by Zadie Smith These astute and topical essays dating from 2010 to 2017 demonstrate Smith’s forensic ability to navigate and unpack everything from Brexit to Justin Bieber. Dissecting high philosophical works then bringing the focus back on to her own practice as a fiction writer, her essay The I Who Is Not Me sees Smith extrapolate on how autobiography shapes novel writing, and elucidates her approach to thinking around British society’s tenuous and often binary perspectives on race, class and ethnicity.

6. Threads by Sandeep Parmar, Nisha Ramayya and Bhanu Kapil Who occupies the “I” in poetry? When poets write, are they personally embodying their speakers or are they intended to be emblematic of something larger and more complex? Is the “I” assumed to be immutable or is it more porous? These are the questions posited in Threads, which illuminates the function of the lyric “I” in relation to whiteness, maleness and Britishness. Its short but acute essays interrogate whiteness’s hegemony in literature and language, revealing how writers from outside the dominant paradigm are often made to reckon with the positions and perspectives they write from.

7. Mouth Full of Blood by Toni Morrison An urgent set of essays and lectures from the late Nobel prize winner that collates her most discerning musings around citizenship, race and art, as well as offering invaluable insight into the craft of writing. She reflects on revisions made to her most famous novel, Beloved, while also reflecting on the ways vernaculars can shape new stories. One of my favourite aphorisms written by Morrison sits on my desk and declares: “As writers, what we do is remember. And to remember this world is to create it.”

8. On Poetry by Jonathan Davidson Poetry can be thought of as something arduous or an exercise in analysis, existing either within small artistic enclaves or secondary school classrooms. One of the many strengths of Davidson’s writing is how he makes poetry feel intimate and personal, neither dry or remote. His approach to thinking around ways that certain poems affect us is well measured without being exclusive. A timely and resourceful book for writers interested in how poems go on to live with us throughout our lives.

9. Essays by Lydia Davis From flash fiction to stories, Davis is recognised as one of the preeminent writers of short-form fiction. In these essays, spanning several decades, she tracks much of her writing process and her relationship to experimentalism, form and the ways language can work when pushed to its outer limits. How we read into lines is something Davis returns to, as is the idea of risk and brevity within micro-fiction.

10. Essayism by Brian Dillon Dillon summarises the essay as an “experiment in attention”. This dynamic and robust consideration of the form sheds light on how and why certain essays have changed the cultural and political landscape, from the end of the Middle Ages to the present time. A sharp and curious disquisition on one of the more popular yet challenging writing enterprises.

How to Write It by Anthony Anaxagorou is published by Merky Books. To order a copy, go to .

  • Creative writing
  • Toni Morrison
  • Zadie Smith
  • Lydia Davis

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Home » Blog » 140 Creative Writing Prompts For Adults

140 Creative Writing Prompts For Adults

writing books for adults


Learning how to become a better writer includes knowing how to come up with a solid idea. With so many elements to consider when starting your novel, the plot itself may begin to slip away from you. Use these creative writing prompts for adults to get you started on the right path to a successful story and suffer from writer’s block for the last time. .

This list of writing prompts for adults can be taken and used in any way you want. Details can be changed and characters can be added or removed.

They are meant to be a fun way to get your creativity flowing and your next story developing. For even more writing ideas, check out the  writing prompt generator . Here, you will find 500+ prompts of all kinds that will give you some ideas.  Take control of that blank page and create something awesome. 

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Dramatic Writing Prompts for Adults

Nothing beats some good old-fashioned drama once in a while. You can turn these writing prompts into a dramatic love story , an exciting short story, or morph them into a different genre. How you use them is up to you.

For a novel that is specifically romance, we have created an exclusive list of exciting and genre-bending romance writing prompts .

  • A young boy discovers that he is the only adopted child among his four siblings. Feeling confused and betrayed, he runs away to find his birth parents. After two months on the road, he runs out of money and still hasn’t found them. Does he go home? Or does he continue his quest?
  • Two couples are fueding and haven’t spoken in years. It is discovered that their two children have become best friends at school, and they want a playdate. Will this increase tension between them or lead to reconciliation?
  • Identical twins are attending the same college. They switch places and take each other’s classes depending on strengths and weaknesses. They’ve gotten away with it for two years until their observant professor of a father is transferred to the school they attend.
  • Two childhood best friends stopped talking after a huge fight in high school. Five years later, they find themselves sitting next to each other on the same 16-hour international flight.
  • Write about a passionate romance that crosses religions.
  • He’s only been in office for a year. He is already being tempted by a corrupt group of criminals who want him to sabotage a series of public safety projects in exchange for funding his entire reelection campaign.
  • Your main character is being offered a promotion from the high school principal to the district director. Sadly, she knows her replacement will cut funding to all of the art programs. How does she manage the situation?
  • A high profile general learns that the opposing army will surrender if he hands himself over. Will he prioritize his own safety, or sacrifice himself for his country?
  • Write about a successful businesswoman who has built herself from the ground up. The business is suddenly threatened by the son of a rich local contractor who started a similar business out of boredom.
  • A successful lawyer knows that his client is guilty of the murder for which he has been charged. He is a good liar and could easily win the case. The case is getting constant media coverage and would guarantee him making partner at his firm.
  • Your main character has lived a sheltered, isolated life. When their delusional and overbearing father dies. They are thrown into the real world and unsure of how to cope.
  • The doorbell rings and your character answers it – finding nothing but an envelope with nothing on it. They open it and follow the instructions to attend a secret underground event. Afterward, they become a part of a huge resistance that the rest of the world knows nothing about.
  • After a family member’s funeral, you arrive home to a stranger on your doorstep claiming the person is not really dead. The funeral was open-casket.
  • It is your character’s wedding day. While the vows are being said, someone from the crowd yells “I object!”
  • A huge storm has stopped traffic. Your character is stuck in the car with someone for an unknown amount of time. The person chooses this moment to confess their undying love. The feeling is not mutual.
  • Your character finds an old, disposable camera on the ground. Feeling, they get the photos developed. What they see tells an unsettling story.
  • Two old friends are reminiscing on a prominent and life-changing event. They have very different memories from that day.
  • Your main character is a world-traveling nature photographer. She stumbles upon a small tribe of indigenous people who have found the cure for all cancer in a small local plant.
  • A young man has been homeschooled all his life and is ready to start college. An attack on his small home town has him being drafted into the army. He is away from home for the first time ever and terrified. However, he becomes a key strategist due to his unique perspective and undiscovered scientific talents.
  • A middle-aged man is tired of his career in a corporate office. He takes all his vacation and sick days at once for an excursion in the Appalachian Mountains. Everything is fine until a blizzard hits.
  • A shy and reserved web designer thinks she has found the man of her dreams online. She is actually being catfished by a competing company who wants to get information from her.
  • A man and women work for two neighboring, rival fast food companies. They always take their lunch breaks together on the bench right in the middle of the two.
  • An ongoing murder investigation takes an unexpected turn when it is discovered that a prolific group of corrupted police officers were behind the whole thing.
  • A television star is renowned and respected for his “method” acting. He only interviews or appears on TV in character. But, this is because he doesn’t have a personality outside of his three most famous characters.
  • A professional gymnast is under fire for her supposed use of performance-enhancing steroids. She leaked the story herself to draw attention away from the fact that she is the leader of a high-profile drug ring.
  • An older couple on the brink of retirement keeps their life savings in the pages of the books in their home. They are just about to start looking for a retirement home to live in when a fire destroys their house and their cash.

Tips for Writing Drama

  • Drama is usually character driven , so make use of both your round and flat characters .
  • Introduce the conflict right away and keep it prominent. A drama will thrive off conflict.
  • Don’t let the resolution come easily.
  • Don’t be afraid to kill characters and write difficult situations.
  • Always show, don’t tell.

Supernatural Writing Prompts for Adults

Supernatural stories are popular. The world is in love with vampires. Write something interesting and unique enough, you might be writing their next favorite book. Use these supernatural story starters for your basic premise. 

  • On her 16th birthday, your main character miraculously survives a deadly car crash without a scratch. Later that week, she watches as a small scratch heals and disappears right before her eyes. Where did this new power come from and what will she do with it?
  • There is an elite society of high education that wants to test a new drug. They give it to highly gifted students, and it allows them to stay awake for 48 hours and record everything they see, heard, and feel in that time. Unfortunately, some unexpected side effects set in two weeks later.
  • A middle-aged man is the only one in his famous and high-profile family without a superpower. The local police rely on his super-powered family to help them catch and fight crime. However, the powers are failing them during a specific investigation. Your protagonists “normal” perspective might just save the day.
  • Your main character suffers a terrible concussion. After recovering, they cannot control the vivid nightmares about the accident. However, they can also take images from their mind and project them into the real world. Doctors think they are crazy and keep them heavily sedated.
  • Write about a world where technology has given animals the ability to speak.

Tips for Writing Supernatural Stories

  • Setting the story in the real world will make your supernatural species more believable.
  • Create the origins of your species and supernatural characters.
  • Create the physical limitations for your species and beings.
  • Avoid the cliches of the genre.
  • Understand your reasons for using supernatural creatures. You shouldn’t be writing them in simply due to their popularity.

Thriller Writing Prompts for Adults

Thrillers can come in many forms and can be incorporated with many genres. Regardless of the details though, they are always meant to excite. Suspense and tension are crucial – it’s always more fun when you don’t know. Writing a good thriller requires a strong set of writing skills. These prompts will give you a good base. If you think you need to improve, try some writing exercises.

If your thriller can get hearts racing, you’ve done a good job.

  • The body of your main character’s best friend is dumped on their doorstep. They make it their mission to find out who is responsible, even if it means crossing some lines and breaking some laws.
  • A murderer is on the loose in your character’s hometown. For 10 weeks they have killed one person on the same day at the same time. Your main character is the next victim. They are abducted exactly three days before the planned kill time.
  • Strange things start happening around town. Your main character decides to find out for themselves what is going on. They do learn the truth, but now they aren’t allowed to leave.
  • Your character suffers from a condition that causes seemingly random blackouts for varying amounts of time. The only thing they ever remember before these episodes is a yellow car with a dent on the side. One day, that car is parked outside their house. This time, there is no blackout.
  • Your main character and their friends take an unsolicited mini-vacation to an off-limits island off the coast of their seaside town. Shortly after arrival, they discover the islands inhabitants and the reason why it was off limits.
  • Your protagonist is in intensive therapy due to extremely vivid nightmares detailing someone’s gruesome death. Many have said it’s just their twisted imagination, but this new therapist seems to think it’s much more than that.
  • You are legally allowed to kill someone one time in your life. You must fill out a series of paperwork, and your intended victim will be given notice of your plan.
  • A brilliant serial killer has been getting away with murder for decades. His only weakness is his acute inability to tell a lie. He is finally caught and tried for all murders. Write about how he still manages to walk free, with no charges laid.
  • Your character is a host at a restaurant. A couple comes in and says they have a reservation. You look it up in the system and find that the reservation was booked 40 years ago.

Tips for Writing a Thriller

  • Have a story that suits a thriller. This usually involves the protagonist falling victim to someone else and being caught in impossible situations.
  • Different points of view can add a lot of value to a thriller. It gives several perspectives and allows the reader into the heads of many characters.
  • Put action as close to the beginning as possible.
  • Don’t be afraid to make your characters miserable.

Thriller Book Writing Template

Squibler has a book writing template that was created specifically for writing a thriller:

thriller novel template

It will walk you through each section of a typical thriller. It includes the basics of a thriller structure, without stifling your creativity. The guidelines are easy to understand, but loose enough that you can insert the details of your story with ease.

Horror Writing Prompts for Adults

The horror genre has always had a cult-like following. Several fictional killers have become household names. Some horror fans will spend their whole lives chasing the adrenaline that comes with a good scare.

If you’re learning how to become a better writer in order to scare your readers, these writing prompts will get you started. A book writing template may be helpful in creating a true horror as setting the stage properly is crucial.

  • It’s Halloween night and a group of rowdy teenagers break into an infamously haunted house in their town. They soon discover it is not the ghosts they have to fear, but the madman who lives upstairs is poisoning them with hallucinogenic gas.
  • There is a disease outbreak at a school. It appears at first to be chicken pox but it is actually a virus that is causing violent outbreaks in the children who begin to terrorize the town.
  • Your main character attends a meditation retreat. It turns out to be a recruiting process for an extremist cult that convinces members to commit dangerous acts of terror. Your protagonist is the only one in the room who is immune.
  • So overcome by his nightmares, your main character attacks anyone who comes near him. He cannot distinguish between loved ones and the monsters in his head.
  • A young man has to dive 300 feet into the ocean to rescue his girlfriend caught in a broken submarine. He must cross through a genetically modified shark breeding ground.
  • An old time capsule is about to be opened and the whole town is present for the celebration. When opened, the only thing found inside is a detached human hand with a threatening note in the grasp. The note is written in your character’s handwriting but dated 50 years before they were even born.

Master horror writer Stephen King reveals some of his thought process: “So where do the ideas—the salable ideas—come from? They come from my nightmares. Not the night-time variety, as a rule, but the ones that hide just beyond the doorway that separates the conscious from the unconscious.”

Horror doesn’t always have to be fantastical and dreamy in nature. Sometimes horror exists in the real world, within people.

Tips for Writing Horror

  • Don’t be afraid to give that gruesome, bloody description.
  • Aim to create extreme emotions.
  • Make sure the readers care about your characters. This will make their horrible situations more impactful.
  • Consider what scares you the most. Keep this in mind when writing.
  • Set the stakes high.
  • Some comic relief or brief periods of peace are okay – necessary even. It can help build suspense.

Crime and Mystery Writing Prompts for Adults

Stories of crime and mystery have been told for ages. There are some classic crime dramas that will never get old. Many non-fiction books have been written on this topic as well. 

Creating a proper mystery takes time and much planning. When done correctly though, it makes for a most memorable story.

  • Your main character discovers another women’s clothes tucked in the back of her boyfriends closet. She plans an elaborate fishing trip to get him far away for a weekend so she can teach him a lesson.
  • A new serial killer is on the loose, killing one person every other day within 500 feet of a museum. There must be a connection and a reason, but how will they catch him when he keeps destroying the cameras and escaping?
  • A young officer is three years sober and committed to getting back on track. That is until he is called to the scene of a high-profile drug bust and is in charge of collecting evidence. Can he control himself around so many drugs?
  • Abandoned cars start randomly appearing throughout the city. No license plates and nothing inside. That is until one is found to contain several dismembered human limbs.
  • Your character has been receiving nasty, lifelike drawings in the mail. They ignore them at first, thinking it is some kids being silly. Until the drawings start coming to life. Since they have the drawings, they know what is going to happen next, and in what order.
  • Your main character and her husband awake one night in the early hours of the morning, both recalling a horrific dream from the night before. They soon learn the dream to be true as they discover a fresh, painful brand in between each of their shoulder blades.
  • Your character never wakes up feeling rested, no matter how long they sleep for. Medication doesn’t help. They decide to film themselves one night. The next morning they watch as they get out of bed around midnight, smirk at the camera, and wave before disappearing out the door for hours.
  • Your protagonist is a member of a small religious group. When a precious artifact goes missing, the head elder’s daughter is blamed for it. Your character knows she couldn’t be responsible because the two of them were romantically involved at the time of the theft. Such activities are strictly forbidden and the daughter would rather go down for the theft than admit to breaking that law.
  • There is a serial killer going after the children of rich and notable families in the area. Your main character is the child of one such family and is terrified every waking moment. Tired of living in fear, they decide to figure out who the killer is and stop them  
  • Your character gets a DNA test, just for fun. After getting the results and doing some more research, they discover that members of their ancestry from all over the world were once all gathered in the same place. The reason is unknown.
  • Your character receives a strange voicemail from an unknown number. The voicemail ends up changing the course of their entire life.
  • Your character is in an accident and loses the memory of the last year of their life. There are so many things that don’t make sense. They must retrace their steps to find answers.
  • The entire town has started sleepwalking, together, every night.  
  • Your character has a short but friendly encounter with a stranger in an elevator. The next day, they are all over TV as the victim of a brutal murder.
  • Your character is redecorating and takes down a painting. They notice something strange engraved on the back of the frame.
  • Your character goes to their usual coffee shop and orders “the usual.” The Barista smiles, nods, and slides something entirely different across the counter. She has never made a mistake before.
  • Your character opens a random book at the library when the cover page falls out. It says “if you are reading this, you have been chosen.”
  • When looking through some old family photos – going back generations – your character notices a cat in almost every photo. The very same colorful spotted cat with a single docked ear that is sitting on their lap.
  • When paying for their groceries, your main character mentions to the clerk that there is a mess in aisle 11. The clerk is confused and explains that there is no aisle 11.

Tips for Writing Crime and Mystery

  • This is a genre where a book writing template can come in handy. The plots are often so complex, it can be overwhelming to keep it all straight.
  • Draw inspiration from real-life crimes. This will make your story believable.
  • Also, draw your inspiration from real-life people and give them realistic motives behind their crimes. Crime and mystery are rarely set in a fantasy world, so being realistic is important.
  • Know how the mystery is solved before you start writing.
  • Include a few cliffhangers – usually at the end of a chapter.

Science Fiction Writing Prompts for Adults

Science fiction is similar to fantasy in that you can make up a lot of stuff, which is a fun way to write.

This is a versatile genre that can be molded into anything you want.

Sometimes, it is rooted in truth with elements of real scientific and technological advances. Other times, there are many assumptions made about the future of science, and lots of make-believe takes place.

  • A spaceship that can surpass the speed of light is allowing a few humans on board to escape our solar system and it’s dying sun. How does the world decide who gets to survive?
  • A shy, introverted tech guy develops a virus that can control human desires, impulses, and choices.
  • A pet store becomes overrun with kittens and sells them off at a low price. However, these cats are actually an alien hybrid that can body jump. It begins causing the owners of these cats to commit suicide within 24 hours of adoption.
  • A live TV broadcast from the White House experiences some technical difficulties. They end up broadcasting a top-secret meeting about a pending alien invasion.
  • Science has developed a brain scanning software that can read thoughts. Before they can decide what to do with it, someone has hacked the system and stolen it.
  • Your character wakes up on a spaceship with no memory.
  • The world has developed a genetic system that engineers everyone for a specific job in the community. Your character hates what they were created to do. This never happens.
  • The world has finally reached a state of all-encompassing peace thanks to a technical system that keeps things regulated. Your character is in charge of keeping the system running. When they discover exactly how the system is kept running, they consider abandoning their post and never turning back.
  • Your character accidentally traps themselves in an alternate universe that hasn’t discovered electricity or technology yet.

Tips for Writing Science Fiction

  • Make your story complex, but don’t rush it. Let your audience process information before adding more.
  • Keep the language simple and easy to understand even if the world isn’t. The majority of your readers will not be scientists or tech experts.
  • Be consistent in terms of the universe. Physical laws, social classes, etc. Know your own world.

Dystopian Writing Prompts for Adults

Dystopian stories are growing in popularity. The genres itself is growing and evolving all the time as people figure out what works and what entertains.

Dystopian is a fun genre to read and experience, but writing it can be just as enjoyable. Having fun while learning how to become a better writer is of utmost importance.

Be careful you’re not writing Dystopia just because it sells well. Make sure you have a real story to tell and that it’s one you believe in.

  • A newly married couple become pregnant with twins. Due to growing overpopulation, they are told they must make a choice when the babies are born. Only one will live. Rather than submit to this, they plan their escape across the border.
  • An amateur teen scientist accidentally discovers an impending alien attack set to destroy earth within a month. He becomes the unwilling leader of the evacuation and defense coalition.
  • A hacker discovers that the new iPhone can be remotely detonated. Many corrupt political leaders are assassinated in this way on the same day. The world breaks into chaos.
  • World War III has come and gone. Governments are a thing of the past and money is useless. Survival is the objective. Your main character also has a medical condition to keep under control.
  • A horrible outbreak of disease devastated the wildlife population 100 years ago. A scientist has recently created a virus that will strengthen the immune systems of the remaining animals. It works too well, and the animals are starting to overtake the human population.
  • After mental illness devastates a generation, scientists create an airborne substance that balances the levels of all people on the earth. Your character is one of the few who is immune.
  • Rampant wildfires are taking over the surface of the earth. Your character is part of a group who is trying to find a rumored ocean deep settlement. The settlement doesn’t really exist.
  • Nature extremists have taken over the government. Any and all activities that are harmful to the land or plants are forbidden and outlawed.
  • Natural farming is a thing of the past. All food is manufactured artificially and distributed. There is no flavor and it’s the same thing every day. Your character takes a stress-relieving trip to the mountains. Here they find the remnants of some real plants, with a few berries on them.

Tips for Writing Dystopian Fiction

  • Know what the message of the story is. What is the main character trying to achieve?
  • A dystopian society is usually one that has taken the current problems of the world and projected them into the future.
  • Dystopian realities are never good ones – make sure you have enough doom, gloom, and darkness for your readers to understand the state of the world.

Historical Writing Prompts for Adults

Historical fiction can be whimsical and charming. It can be dark and spooky. It can be funny and ridiculous. Stories of history span many genres.

Historical fiction can be a combination of educational and entertaining. It tests a writer’s research skills as well as knowledge. The better depiction you can create of your desired time period, the more effective your story will be.

Learning to research is crucial to know how to become a better writer.

  • From a first-person perspective, write about the showdown between a criminal and a lion in the Roman Colesseum.
  • Abraham Lincoln is famous for his top hat. Where did the top hat come from? Who was the president without it? Write a story about the infamous top hat and its life.
  • The Berlin wall has crashed to the ground and its love at first sight for one lucky couple – whose parents aren’t so impressed.
  • Your character is a talented composer whose direct competition is Beethoven.
  • Write about a dinner party where three famous historical figures are in attendance.
  • Your best friend has invented the very first time-travel machine.
  • Write about a well-known war, but give it a different outcome.
  • Write a happy ending for Dracula.
  • Your character’s husband of ten years has just confessed that he has traveled through time from the fourteenth century. He decided to stay because he fell in love with her.
  • Write about the thoughts of someone who is secretly watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel.
  • Your character is the only one who knows who really killed JFK. It wasn’t Oswald.
  • Your character is working under William Shakespeare as his apprentice.
  • Write about a pair of detectives who solve their cases by traveling back and forth in time.
  • Write about the experience of someone who has just learned of the Titanic’s sinking. They had a loved one on board.
  • Choose a major historical event. Write from the perspective of a witness.
  • Your character wants to travel across the land. No forms of transportation have been invented yet.
  • Write about someone who worked at one of the first printing presses during the printing revolution of the 15th century.

Tips for Writing Historical Fiction

  • Do your research! Inaccuracies or incorrect facts about the time you are writing in will break trust with your readers and decrease your credibility.
  • Choose a specific time period and location. “Early twentieth century” is too broad.
  • In addition to setting and facts, characters need to match the time period. This includes dress, behavior, and language.
  • Small details will matter.
  • Balance the historical facts with the drama and fictional elements.

Humorous Creative Writing Prompts for Adults

Another genre that is especially fun to write as well as read, is a comedy. Nothing beats throwing your head back in full laughter.

The goal here is to make people laugh as much as possible while still balancing a good story and believable characters.

  • Substitute teachers are tired of not being taken seriously. They come together and form a secret society, with plans to revolt.
  • An Elvis impersonator is so good that many start to believe Elvis has actually come back to life. Soon, he has been recruited to lead a superstitious Elvis-loving cult.
  • Three friends are out on the town for a night. Write about the most ridiculous series of events you can think of.
  • Life has gotten tough and your character is considering moving back in with their parents. Before they are able to make a decision, their parents show up at their door asking if they can move in.
  • Your character wakes up one day and everything they say rhymes. They can’t control it.
  • The climate is changing and your main character’s city gets snow for the first time in their entire life. She and her friends are recruited for clean up.
  • Your main character has never had a real job before. They are starting a job at the biggest, busiest store in town on the busiest day of the year.
  • Your character is set up on a blind date with their sworn enemy.
  • Every morning you have a package delivered that contains an item you end up needing that day.
  • Struggling with writer’s block, an author decides to sit at a local train station for information. They get some good material.
  • Your characters are holding a high-stakes rock-paper-scissors tournament.
  • Your main character gets backstage at a concert. What happens back there is much more interesting than the show.
  • Your protagonist decides to buy an old school bus and travel across the country. Being single without any close friends, they post an ad asking if anyone wants to join. The end up having their pick of travel partners.
  • Write a story about a low-profile, insignificant but long-unsolved crime is finally cracked.
  • Your character is a serial killer who kills anyone who hitchhikes along the mountain they live on. One day, they pick up a hitchhiker who kills whoever picks him up.
  • The world’s greatest detective finally meets his match: A criminal so stupid and so careless that the detective can’t ever predict what he is going to do next.

Tips for Writing Comedy

  • Test the humor on others. You might find something hilarious, but if no one else is going to laugh, it will be useless to include.
  • Observe comedy. Your ability to write it will hinge on your experience with it. Watch, read, listen, and speak comedy.
  • Have fun with it. Comedy is fun. If you’re not laughing at yourself along the way, you’ll never get through to the end.

Fantasy Writing Prompts for Adults

Fantasy is one of the most popular genres of the time. It’s growing every day because of its creative and immersive nature. People love to preoccupy themselves with something magical.

Being transported into another world for a little while – that’s what fantasy can do

  • In a world of advanced technological and magical advancements, one group keeps their practice of ancient spells a secret. One day, they are discovered and it leads to a fight. What is more powerful – old magic, or new technology?
  • A large, protected national forest is secretly home to werewolves. One summer there is an especially bad flea epidemic, and the werewolves are greatly affected. The fleas from the werewolves infect the town water supply and start turning everyone into werewolves. The only ones not affected are children under 13.
  • The world is overrun with vampires and humans are dying out. Different races and factions of vampires are beginning to go to war over the limited supply of human blood.
  • Your character finds a strange looking egg in the forest. Thinking it will make a great decoration, they take it home. What hatches from that egg surpasses their wildest imagination.
  • A city has spent centuries living in peace with the water-dwellers who reside in their lakes. Suddenly, the water dwellers declare war and no one knows why.
  • Your character has always been able to alter their appearance. They hide unattractive features. Suddenly, their powers stop working and their true appearance is revealed.
  • Your main character has a fascination with untouched societies – such as hidden tribes in the Amazon. She sets out to study them as a living. One day she accidentally allows herself to be seen by one of the members. What this person does is beyond what your character ever thought to be real.
  • The earth itself is dying and all life on the planet is dying with it.
  • Some people in the world have magic, others don’t. No one knows why. Your main character has magic, but his best friend doesn’t. The friend is exceptionally jealous and is growing more and more desperate to make the magic his.

Tips for Writing Fantasy

  • Focus on being unique
  • Don’t neglect worldbuilding . Inconsistencies will be obvious to readers. This is where a book writing software like Squibler can come in handy. It helps you stay organized and efficient.
  • Create unique names.
  • Don’t be afraid to make the journey long and the outcome unexpected.

Fantasy Novel Writing Template

Fantasy is one of the most complicated genres due to the necessity of building a brand new world. Squibler’s fantasy writing template will help you through this daunting process:

fantasy novel writing template

This template offers guidelines and suggestions for building your world as well as structuring and creating your storyline. It’s helpful but loose enough to allow your creativity to keep flowing.

Dialogue Inspired Writing Prompts

Sometimes, all it takes is a small exchange or a witty one-liner to get your brain working. Take these words and start something new. Or, insert them into an existing project and see what happens.

  • “As she stepped onto the train, I fought every urge to jump on after her.”
  • “He was expensive. Please be more considerate of my money the next time I hire an assassin to kill you.”
  • “You say that like it was a struggle.”
  • “I’m your conscience. That is literally my one job.”
  • “Well, I wish you didn’t love me. I guess no one is getting what they want today.”
  • “I guess it didn’t take.”
  • “I was bored so I blew up my house.”
  • “I taught you how to pick locks, and THAT is how you’re choosing to use the skill?”
  • “They thought I would forget everything. I remember even more than when they started.”
  • “Yes. But I don’t care.”
  • “I killed my mother. Are you really questioning what I can do to you right now?”

Write Your Next Masterpiece With These Creative Writing Prompts for Adults

Whether you have a book writing templat e all filled out or you are starting from scratch, these writing prompts will get your imagination going and make your writing time more productive.

Beat the writer’s block, get your groove back, or just be inspired.  Figure out how to love writing again. Whatever you’re looking for, hopefully, these ideas have helped form the story you need to tell.

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The 20+ Best Books on Creative Writing

If you’ve ever wondered, “How do I write a book?”, “How do I write a short story?”, or “How do I write a poem?” you’re not alone. I’m halfway done my MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts , and I ask myself these questions a lot, too, though I’m noticing that by now I feel more comfortable with the answers that fit my personal craft. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a Master’s of Fine Arts in Writing candidate, or even a college graduate, in order to soak up the great Wisdom of Words, as I like to call it. Another word for it is craft . That’s because there are so many great books out there on writing craft. In this post, I’ll guide you through 20+ of the most essential books on creative writing. These essential books for writers will teach you what you need to know to write riveting stories and emotionally resonant books—and to sell them.

I just also want to put in a quick plug for my post with the word count of 175 favorite novels . This resource is helpful for any writer.

writing books for adults

Now, with that done… Let’s get to it!

What Made the List of Essential Books for Writers—and What Didn’t

So what made the list? And what didn’t?

Unique to this list, these are all books that I have personally used in my journey as a creative and commercial writer.

That journey started when I was 15 and extended through majoring in English and Creative Writing as an undergrad at UPenn through becoming a freelance writer in 2014, starting this book blog, pursuing my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts , and publishing some fiction and nonfiction books myself . My point here is not to boast, just to explain that these books have all helped me better understand and apply the craft, discipline, and business of writing over the course of more than half my life as I’ve walked the path to become a full-time writer. Your mileage my vary , but each of these books have contributed to my growth as a writer in some way. I’m not endorsing books I’ve never read or reviewed. This list comes from my heart (and pen!).

Most of these books are geared towards fiction writers, not poetry or nonfiction writers

It’s true that I’m only one human and can only write so much in one post. Originally, I wanted this list to be more than 25 books on writing. Yes, 25 books! But it’s just not possible to manage that in a single post. What I’ll do is publish a follow-up article with even more books for writers. Stay tuned!

The most commonly recommended books on writing are left out.

Why? Because they’re everywhere! I’m aiming for under-the-radar books on writing, ones that aren’t highlighted often enough. You’ll notice that many of these books are self-published because I wanted to give voice to indie authors.

But I did want to include a brief write-up of these books… and, well, you’ve probably heard of them, but here are 7 of the most recommended books on writing:

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron – With her guided practice on how to rejuvenate your art over the course of 16 weeks, Cameron has fashioned an enduring classic about living and breathing your craft (for artists as well as writers). This book is perhaps best known for popularizing the morning pages method.

The Art of Fiction by John Gardner – If you want to better understand how fiction works, John Gardner will be your guide in this timeless book.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – A beloved writing book on process, craft, and overcoming stumbling blocks (both existential and material).

On Writing by Stephen King – A must-read hybrid memoir-craft book on the writer mythos and reality for every writer.

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose – A core writing book that teaches you how to read with a writer’s eye and unlock the ability to recognize and analyze craft for yourself.

Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin – Many writers consider this to be their bible on craft and storytelling.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg – A favorite of many writers, this book takes an almost spiritual approach to the art, craft, and experience of writing.

I’m aiming for under-the-radar books on writing on my list.

These books are all in print.

Over the years, I’ve picked up several awesome books on creative writing from used bookstores. Oh, how I wish I could recommend these! But many of them are out of print. The books on this list are all available new either as eBooks, hardcovers, or paperbacks. I guess this is the right time for my Affiliate Link disclaimer:

This article contains affiliate links, which means I might get a small portion of your purchase. For more on my affiliate link policy, check out my official Affiliate Link Disclaimer .

You’ll notice a lot of the books focus on the business of writing.

Too often, money is a subject that writers won’t talk about. I want to be upfront about the business of writing and making a living as a writer (or not ) with these books. It’s my goal to get every writer, even poets!, to look at writing not just from a craft perspective, but from a commercial POV, too.

And now on to the books!

Part i: the best books on writing craft, the anatomy of story by john truby.

writing books for adults

For you if: You want to develop an instinctive skill at understanding the contours of storytelling .

All I want to do as a writer, my MO, is tell good stories well. It took me so long to understand that what really matters to me is good storytelling. That’s it—that’s the essence of what we do as writers… tell good stories well. And in The Anatomy of Story , legendary screenwriting teacher John Truby takes you through story theory. This book is packed with movie references to illustrate the core beat points in story, and many of these example films are actually literary adaptations, making this a crossover craft book for fiction writers and screenwriters alike.

How to read it: Purchase The Anatomy of Story on Amazon and add it on Goodreads

The art of memoir by mary karr.

writing books for adults

For you if: You’re writing a memoir book or personal essays .

Nobody is a better person to teach memoir writing than Mary Karr, whose memoirs The Liar’s Club and Lit are considered classics of the genre. In The Art of Memoir , Karr delivers a master class on memoir writing, adapted from her experience as a writer and a professor in Syracuse’s prestigious MFA program. What I love about this book as an aspiring memoirist is Karr’s approach, which blends practical, actionable advice with more bigger-picture concepts on things like truth vs. fact in memoir storytelling. Like I said in the intro to this list, I didn’t include many nonfiction and poetry books on this list, but I knew I had to make an exception for The Art of Memoir .

How to read it: Purchase The Art of Memoir on Amazon and add it on Goodreads

The emotional craft of fiction by donald maass.

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For you if: Plot isn’t your problem, it’s character .

From literary agent Donald Maass, The Emotional Craft of Fiction gives you the skill set you need to master emotionally engaging fiction. Maass’s technique is to show you how readers get pulled into the most resonant, engaging, and unforgettable stories: by going through an emotional journey nimbly crafted by the author. The Emotional Craft of Fiction is a must-have work of craft to balance more plot-driven craft books.

How to read it: Purchase the The Emotional Craft of Fiction on Amazon and add it on Goodreads

How to Write Using the Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson

writing books for adults

For you if: You need a quick-and-dirty plotting technique that’s easy to memorize .

I first heard of the “Snowflake Method” in the National Novel Writing Month forums (which, by the way, are excellent places for finding writing craft worksheets, book recommendations, and online resources). In How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method , the Snowflake Method is introduced by its creator. This quick yet thorough plotting and outlining structure is humble and easy to master. If you don’t have time to read a bunch of books on outlining and the hundreds of pages that would require, check out How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method for a quick, 235-page read.

How to read it: Purchase How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method on Amazon and add it on Goodreads

Meander, spiral, explode: design and pattern in narrative by jane alison.

writing books for adults

For you if: You want to do a deep dive understanding of the core theory of story, a.k.a. narrative.

A most unconventional writing craft book, Meander, Spiral, Explode offers a theory of narrative (story) as recognizable patterns. According to author Jane Alison, there are three main narrative narratives in writing: meandering, spiraling, and exploding. This cerebral book (chock full of examples!) is equal parts seminar on literary theory as it is craft, and it will make you see and understand storytelling better than maybe any book on this list.

How to read it: Purchase Meander, Spiral, Explode on Amazon and add it on Goodreads

The modern library writer’s workshop by stephen koch.

writing books for adults

For you if: You’re wondering what it means to be the writer you want to become .

This is one of the earliest creative writing books I ever bought and it remains among the best I’ve read. Why? Reading The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop echoes the kind of mind-body-spirit approach you need to take to writing. The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop doesn’t teach you the nuts and bolts of writing as much as it teaches you how to envision the machine. Koch zooms out to big picture stuff as much as zeroes in on the little details. This is an outstanding book about getting into the mindset of being a writer, not just in a commercial sense, but as your passion and identity. It’s as close as you’ll get to the feel of an MFA in Fiction education.

How to read it: Purchase The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop on Amazon and add it on Goodreads

Romancing the beat by gwen hayes.

writing books for adults

For you if: You write or edit the romance genre and want a trusted plotting strategy to craft the perfect love story .

If you’re writing romance, you have to get Gwen Hayes’s Romancing the Beat . This book breaks down the plot points or “beats” you want to hit when you’re crafting your romance novel. When I worked as a romance novel outliner (yes, a real job), our team used Romancing the Beat as its bible; every outline was structured around Hayes’s formula. For romance writers (like myself) I cannot endorse it any higher.

How to read it: Purchase Romancing the Beat on Amazon and add it on Goodreads

Save the cat writes a novel by jessica brody.

writing books for adults

For you if: You have big ideas for a plot but need to work on the smaller moments that propel stories .

Jessica Brody’s Save the Cat! Writes a Novel adapts Blake Snyder’s bestselling screenwriting book Save the Cat! into story craft for writing novels. Brody reworks the Save the Cat! methodology in actionable, point-by-point stages of story that are each explained with countless relevant examples. If you want to focus your efforts on plot, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel is an excellent place to go to start learning the ins and outs of what makes a good story.

How to read it: Purchase Save the Cat! Writes a Novel on Amazon and add it on Goodreads

Story genius by lisa cron.

writing books for adults

For you if: You’re a pantser and are terrified at outlining yet also realize you might have a “plot problem .”

More than any other book, Lisa Cron’s Story Genius will get you where you need to go for writing amazing stories. Story Genius helps you look at plotting differently, starting from a point of characterization in which our protagonists have a clearly defined need and misbelief that play off each other and move the story forward from an emotional interior and action exterior standpoint. For many of my fellow MFA students—and myself— Story Genius is the missing link book for marrying plot and character so you innately understand the contours of good story.

How to read it: Purchase Story Genius on Amazon and add it on Goodreads

Wonderbook: the illustrated guide to creating imaginative fiction by jeff vandermeer.

writing books for adults

For you if: You’re writing in a speculative fiction genre—like science fiction, fantasy, or horror—or are trying to better understand those genres.

Jeff VanderMeer’s Wonderbook is a dazzling gem of a book and a can’t-miss-it writing book for sci-fi, fantasy, and horror writers. This book will teach you all the skills you need to craft speculative fiction, like world-building, with micro-lessons and close-reads of excellent works in these genres. Wonderbook is also one to linger over, with lavish illustrations and every inch and corner crammed with craft talk for writing imaginative fiction (sometimes called speculative fiction). And who better to guide you through this than Jeff VanderMeer, author of the popular Southern Reach Trilogy, which kicks off with Annihilation , which was adapted into a feature film.

How to read it: Purchase Wonderbook on Amazon and add it on Goodreads

Writing picture books by ann whitford paul.

writing books for adults

For you if: You’re looking to write picture books and/or understand how they work .

This book is the only one you need to learn how to write and sell picture books. As an MFA student studying children’s literature, I’ve consulted with this book several times as I’ve dipped my toes into writing picture books, a form I considered scary and intimidating until reading this book. Writing Picture Books should be on the shelf of any writer of children’s literature. a.k.a. “kid lit.”

How to read it: Purchase Writing Picture Books on Amazon and add it on Goodreads

Writing with emotion, conflict, and tension by cheryl st. john.

writing books for adults

For you if: You need to work on the conflict, tension, and suspense that keep readers turning pages and your story going forward .

Mmm, conflict. As I said earlier, it’s the element of fiction writing that makes a story interesting and a key aspect of characterization that is underrated. In Writing with Emotion, Tension, and Conflict , bestselling romance author Cheryl St. John offers a masterclass on the delicate dance between incorporating conflict, the emotions it inspires in characters, and the tension that results from those two factors.

How to read it: Purchase Writing with Emotion, Tension, and Conflict on Amazon and add it on Goodreads

Part ii: the best books on the productivity, mfas, and the business of writing, 2k to 10k: writing faster, writing better, and writing more of what you love by rachel aaron.

writing books for adults

For you if: You struggle to find the time to write and always seem to be a chapter or two behind schedule .

If you’re struggling to find time of your own to write with competing obligations (family, work, whatever) making that hard, you need Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k . This book will get you in shape to go from writing just a few words an hour to, eventually, 10,000 words a day. Yes, you read that right. 10,000 words a day. At that rate, you can complete so many more projects and publish more. Writers simply cannot afford to waste time if they want to keep up the kind of production that leads to perpetual publication. Trust me, Aaron’s method works. It has for me. I’m on my way to 10k in the future, currently at like 4 or 5k a day for me at the moment.

How to read it: Purchase 2k to 10k on Amazon and add it on Goodreads

The 3 a.m. epiphany by brian kitele.

writing books for adults

For you if: You’re going through writer’s block, have been away from writing for a while, or just want to loosen up and try something new .

Every writer must own an an exercise or prompt book. Why? Because regularly practicing your writing by going outside your current works-in-progress (or writer’s block) will free you up, help you plant the seeds for new ideas, and defrost your creative blocks. And the best book writing exercise book I know is The 3 A.M. Epiphany by Brian Kiteley, an MFA professor who uses prompts like these with his grad students. You’ll find that this book (and its sequel, The 4 A.M. Breakthrough ) go beyond cutesy exercises and forces you to push outside your comfort zone and learn something from the writing you find there.

How to read it: Purchase The 3 A.M. Epiphany on Amazon and add it on Goodreads

The 4-hour workweek by timothy ferriss.

writing books for adults

For you if: You think being a writer means you have to be poor .

The 4-Hour Workweek changed my life. Although not strictly about writing in the traditional sense, The 4-Hour Workweek does an excellent job teaching you about how passive income can offer you freedom. I first heard about The 4-Hour Workweek when I was getting into tarot in 2013. On Biddy Tarot , founder Brigit (author of some of the best books on tarot ) related how she read this book, learned how to create passive income, and quit her corporate job to read tarot full time. As a person with a total and permanent disability, this spoke to me because it offered a way out of the 9-to-5 “active” income that I thought was the only way. I picked up Ferriss’s book and learned that there’s more than one option, and that passive income is a viable way for me to make money even when I’m too sick to work. I saw this come true last year when I was in the hospital. When I got out, I checked my stats and learned I’d made money off my blog and books even while I was hospitalized and couldn’t do any “active” work. I almost cried.; I’ve been working on my passive income game since 2013, and I saw a return on that time investment when I needed it most.

That’s why I’m recommending The 4-Hour Workweek to writers. So much of our trade is producing passive income products. Yes, your books are products! And for many writers, this means rewiring your brain to stop looking at writing strictly as an art that will leave you impoverished for life and start approaching writing as a business that can earn you a real living through passive income. No book will help you break out of that mindset better than The 4-Hour Workweek and its actionable steps, proven method, and numerous examples of people who have followed the strategy and are living the lifestyle they’ve always dreamed of but never thought was possible.

How to read it: Purchase The 4-Hour Workweek on Amazon and add it on Goodreads

Before and After the Book Deal: A Writer’s Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book by Courtney Maum

writing books for adults

For you if: You’re serious about making a living as a writer and publishing with a Big 5 or major indie publisher .

Courtney Maum’s Before and After the Book Deal addresses exactly what its title suggests: what happens after you sell your first book. This book is for ambitious writers intent on submission who know they want to write and want to avoid common pitfalls while negotiating terms and life after your debut. As many published authors would tell you, the debut is one thing, but following that book up with a sustainable, successful career is another trick entirely. Fortunately, we have Maum’s book, packed with to-the-moment details and advice.

How to read it: Purchase Before and After the Book Deal on Amazon and add it on Goodreads

Diy mfa: write with focus, read with purpose, build your community by gabriela pereira.

writing books for adults

For you if: You’re stressed out wondering if you really need an MFA .

The MFA is under this header “business of writing” because it is absolutely an economic choice you make. And, look, I’m biased. I’m getting an MFA. But back when I was grappling with whether or not it was worth it—the debt, the time, the stress—I consulted with DIY MFA , an exceptional guide to learning how to enrich your writing craft, career, and community outside the structures of an MFA program. I’ve also more than once visited the companion site, , to find a kind of never-ending rabbit hole of new and timeless content on the writing life. On and in the corresponding book, you’ll find a lively hub for author interviews, writing craft shop talk, reading lists, and business of writing articles.

How to read it: Purchase DIY MFA on Amazon and add it on Goodreads

Mfa vs. nyc by chad harbach.

writing books for adults

For you if: You’re wondering how far an MFA really gets you—and you’re ready to learn the realities of the publishing world .

About a thousand years ago (well, in 2007), I spent the fall of my sophomore year of college as a “Fiction Submissions and Advertising Intern” for the literary magazine n+1 , which was co-founded by Chad Harbach, who you might know from his buzzy novel, The Art of Fielding . In MFA vs NYC , Harbach offers his perspective as both an MFA graduate and someone deeply enmeshed in the New York City publishing industry. This thought-provoking look at these two arenas that launch writers will pull the wool up from your eyes about how publishing really works . It’s not just Harbach’s voice you get in here, though. The book, slim but mighty, includes perspectives from the likes of George Saunders and David Foster Wallace in the MFA camp and Emily Gould and Keith Gessen speaking to NYC’s writing culture.

How to read it: Purchase MFA vs. NYC on Amazon and add it on Goodreads

Scratch: writers, money, and the art of making a living – edited by manjula martin.

writing books for adults

For you if: a) You’re worried about how to balance writing with making a living; b) You’re not worried about how to balance writing with making a living .

Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living is alternately one of the most underrated and essential books on writing out there. This collection of personal essays and interviews all revolve around the taboo theme of how writers make their living, and it’s not always—indeed, rarely—through writing alone. Some of the many contributing authors include Cheryl Strayed ( Wild ), Alexander Chee ( How to Write an Autobiographical Novel ), Jennifer Weiner ( Mrs. Everything ), Austin Kleon ( Steal Like an Artist ), and many others. Recently a young woman asked me for career advice on being a professional freelance writer, and I made sure to recommend Scratch as an eye-opening and candid read that is both motivating and candid.

How to read it: Purchase Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living on Amazon and add it on Goodreads

Write to market: deliver a book that sells by chris fox.

writing books for adults

For you if: You don’t know why your books aren’t selling—and you want to start turning a profit by getting a real publishing strategy

So you don’t have to be an indie author to internalize the invaluable wisdom you’ll find here in Write to Market . I first heard about Write to Market when I first joined the 20Booksto50K writing group on Facebook , a massive, supportive, motivating community of mostly indie authors. Everyone kept talking about Write to Market . I read the book in a day and found the way I looked at publishing change. Essentially, what Chris Fox does in Write to Market is help you learn to identify what are viable publishing niches. Following his method, I’ve since published several successful and #1 bestselling books in the quotations genre on Amazon . Without Fox’s book, I’m not sure I would have gotten there on my own.

How to read it: Purchase Write to Market on Amazon and add it on Goodreads

And that’s a wrap what are some of your favorite writing books, share this:, you might be interested in.

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Sarah S. Davis is the founder of Broke by Books, a blog about her journey as a schizoaffective disorder bipolar type writer and reader. Sarah's writing about books has appeared on Book Riot, Electric Literature, Kirkus Reviews, BookRags, PsychCentral, and more. She has a BA in English from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Library and Information Science from Clarion University, and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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Melissa Baron

Melissa is the author of TWICE IN A LIFETIME from Alcove Press and represented by Laura Cameron at Transatlantic Agency. She lives in Chicago and works as a technical writer to pay the bills. She is a former English major, and has never met a semicolon she didn’t accidentally abuse in some fashion. In her spare time, she explores Chicago, writes a lot, and hangs out with her fiancé and two cats. You can find her on Instagram and TikTok @melissabaronwrites.

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We book lovers read so much, and so widely, that we’ve seen it all. The good, the bad, the so-bad-it’s-good, the meh, the life changing. And we’ve all been exposed to countless writing styles. Some exceptionally beautiful books, however, rise above the rest…not just because it was well-written or it spoke to us or it felt like home, but because the writing knocked our socks off.

50 Must-Read Books with Gorgeous Writing

These are the novels that end up with a thousand gorgeous lines scattered across social media, first lines scribbled in notebooks, underlined and reread over and over again because you didn’t want to forget it (and you read it out loud, too, because how is this sentence so perfect? ). Whole books of quotable, gorgeous material that are a joy to read because of the author’s use of language.

This is a list of books with gorgeous writing from beginning to end. Lush, descriptive, poignant language that paints a beautiful picture of the story you chose. Pick up one of these beauties, and know that you’re in for a treat you’ll savor for weeks to come after reading.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

“Janie Crawford left her hometown to get married, and comes back alone after a two year absence. Her story spans 40 years of her life and how Janie sought love in four relationships that shaped her. This is a novel about relationships, culture, politics, and tradition, through the eyes of a African-American woman growing up in the early 1900s, and it is gorgeously told.”

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

“A man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered Lettie Hempstock. As he sits by the pond (that she’d claimed was an ocean), the unremembered past floods back. And it is too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.”

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

“Seven-year-old twins Estha and Rahel see their world shaken irrevocably by the arrival of their beautiful young cousin, Sophie. It is an event that  leads to an illicit liaison and tragedies accidental and intentional, exposing “big things [that] lurk unsaid” in a country drifting dangerously toward unrest.” The writing in this novel is so incredible, the story so moving and heartbreaking, that this one’s a must.

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

“Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what giants or wicked witches are to European culture: the villain of countless stories which have been passed on through story and text for generations. Young Marya Morevna transforms from a clever peasant girl to Koschei’s beautiful bride, to his eventual undoing. Along the way there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power.”

Her Body And Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

“A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. These short stories bend genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.”

Beloved by Toni Morrison

“Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.”

Honorable mention: Everything else Toni Morrison has written.

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

“A sudden and powerful romance blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliffside mansion on the Italian Riviera. Each is unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, when, during the restless summer weeks, unrelenting currents of obsession, fascination, and desire intensify their passion and test the charged ground between them. Recklessly, the two verge toward the one thing both fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy.”

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

“It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die. At nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a choice. So she enters the competition—the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.”

Honorable mention: The Raven Boys series

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

“Having survived a profoundly dysfunctional upbringing only to find herself hospitalized and facing a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II disorder; Terese Marie Mailhot is given a notebook and begins to write her way out of trauma. The result is this memoir, a memorial for Mailhot’s mother, a social worker and activist who had a thing for prisoners; a story of reconciliation with her father―an abusive drunk and a brilliant artist―who was murdered under mysterious circumstances; and an elegy on how difficult it is to love someone while dragging the long shadows of shame.”

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

“Four seekers arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.”

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

“Set in the 1950s Paris of American expatriates, liaisons, and violence, a young man finds himself caught between desire and conventional morality. With a sharp, probing imagination, this classic narrative delves into the mystery of loving and creates a moving, highly controversial story of death and passion that reveals the unspoken complexities of the human heart.”

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

“Seraphina is a half-dragon, descended from a dragon mother who took human form and a father who has no particular fondness for Seraphina’s kind. Not that anyone else does either. Hers is a world where dragons and humans live and work side by side—but below the surface, tensions and hostilities are on the rise. When a member of the royal family is brutally murdered, she’s suddenly thrust into the spotlight, drawn into the investigation alongside the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian. As the two uncover a sinister plot to destroy the wavering peace of the kingdom, Seraphina’s struggle to protect her secret becomes increasingly difficult…and its discovery could mean her very life.”

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

“Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low. And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.”

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

“Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel. In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.”

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

“Allende’s debut novel brings to life the triumphs and tragedies of three generations of the Trueba family. The patriarch Esteban is a volatile, proud man whose voracious pursuit of political power is tempered only by his love for his delicate wife, Clara, a woman with a mystical connection to the spirit world. When their daughter Blanca embarks on a forbidden love affair in defiance of her implacable father, the result is an unexpected gift to Esteban: his adored granddaughter Alba, a beautiful and strong-willed child who will lead her family and her country into a revolutionary future.”

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

“Miller’s novel is a thrilling, profoundly moving, and utterly unique retelling of the legend of Achilles and the Trojan War. A tale of gods, kings, immortal fame, and the human heart, it brilliantly reimagines Homer’s enduring masterwork, The Iliad . An action-packed adventure, an epic love story, and a marvelously conceived and executed page-turner.”

Honorable mention: Circe

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa

“Grief-stricken after his mother’s death and three years of wandering the world, Victor is longing for a family and a sense of purpose. He believes he’s found both when he returns home to Seattle only to be swept up in a massive protest. With young, biracial Victor on one side of the barricades and his estranged father—the white chief of police—on the opposite, the day descends into chaos, capturing in its confusion the activists, police, bystanders, and citizens from all around the world who’d arrived that day brimming with hope. By the day’s end, they have all committed acts they never thought possible.”

The Wrath & the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

“Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch…she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend. She discovers that the murderous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. Shazi is determined to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.”

Whiskey & Ribbons by Leesa Cross-Smith

“Evi—a classically-trained ballerina—was nine months pregnant when her husband Eamon was killed in the line of duty on a steamy morning in July. Now, it is winter, and Eamon’s adopted brother Dalton has moved in to help her raise six-month-old Noah. This is told in three intertwining, melodic voices: Evi in present day, as she’s snowed in with Dalton during a freak blizzard; Eamon before his murder, as he prepares for impending fatherhood and grapples with the danger of his profession; and Dalton, as he struggles to make sense of his life next to Eamon’s, and as he decides to track down the biological father he’s never known.”

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

“Set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.”

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

“Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.”

The Gods of Tango by Carolina De Robertis

“Arriving in Buenos Aires in 1913, with only a suitcase and her father’s cherished violin to her name, seventeen-year-old Leda is shocked to find that the husband she has travelled across an ocean to reach is dead. Unable to return home, alone, and on the brink of destitution, she finds herself seduced by the tango, the dance that underscores every aspect of life in her new city.”

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

“The monster in Conor’s backyard is not the one he’s been expecting—the one from the nightmare he’s had every night since his mother started her treatments. This monster is ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd—whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself—Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.”

White Oleander by Janet Fitch

“White Oleander tells the unforgettable story of Ingrid, a brilliant poet imprisoned for murder, and her daughter, Astrid, whose odyssey through a series of Los Angeles foster homes—each its own universe, with its own laws, its own dangers, its own hard lessons to be learned-becomes a redeeming and surprising journey of self-discovery.”

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

“A collection of linked short stories by American novelist Tim O’Brien, about a platoon of American soldiers fighting on the ground in the Vietnam War, and the things they carried with them depending on their priorities, their superstitions, their dreams, and the things they hold closest to their hearts.”

Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars by Kai Cheng Thom

“This is the sort-of true coming-of-age story of a young Asian trans girl, pathological liar, and kung-fu expert who runs away from her parents’ abusive home in a rainy city called Gloom. Striking off on her own, she finds her true family in a group of larger-than-life trans femmes who live in a mysterious pleasure district known only as the Street of Miracles. Under the wings of this fierce and fabulous flock, the protagonist blossoms into the woman she has always dreamed of being, with a little help from the unscrupulous Doctor Crocodile. When one of their number is brutally murdered, she joins her sisters in forming a vigilante gang to fight back against the transphobes, violent johns, and cops that stalk the Street of Miracles.”

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

“Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee. Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free.”

Moonbath by Yanick Lahens

“After she is found washed up on shore, Cétoute Olmène Thérèse, bloody and bruised, recalls the circumstances that led her there. Her voice weaves hauntingly in and out of the narrative, as her story intertwines with those of three generations of women in her family, beginning with Olmène, her grandmother. Olmène, barely sixteen, catches the eye of the cruel and powerful Tertulien Mésidor, despite the generations-long feud between their families which cast her ancestors into poverty. As the family struggles through political and economic turmoil, the narrative shifts between the voices of four women, their lives interwoven with magic and fraught equally with hope and despair, leading to Cétoute’s ultimate, tragic fate.”

The Devourers by Indra Das

“On a cool evening in Kolkata, India, beneath a full moon, as the whirling rhythms of traveling musicians fill the night, college professor Alok encounters a mysterious stranger with a bizarre confession and an extraordinary story. Tantalized by the man’s unfinished tale, Alok will do anything to hear its completion. So Alok agrees, at the stranger’s behest, to transcribe a collection of battered notebooks, weathered parchments, and once-living skins.”

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

“The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of “the Brotherhood”, and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.”

The Life Before Her Eyes by Laura Kasischke

“Diana stands before the mirror preening with her best friend, Maureen. Suddenly, a classmate enters holding a gun, and Diana sees her life dance before her eyes. In a moment the future she was just imagining—a doting wife and mother at the age of forty—is sealed by a horrific decision she is forced to make. In prose infused with the dramatically feminine sensuality of spring, we experience seventeen-year-old Diana’s uncertain steps into womanhood.”

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

“To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.”

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

“The circus arrives without warning. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. Behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.”

Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin

“One night in winter, Peter Lake—orphan and master-mechanic—attempts to rob a fortress-like mansion on the Upper West Side. Though he thinks the house is empty, the daughter of the house is home. Thus begins the love between Peter Lake, a middle-aged Irish burglar, and Beverly Penn, a young girl, who is dying. Peter Lake, a simple, uneducated man, because of a love that, at first he does not fully understand, is driven to stop time and bring back the dead.”

The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing  by Mira Jacob

“Celebrated brain surgeon Thomas Eapen has been sitting on his porch, talking to dead relatives. At least that is the story his wife, Kamala, prone to exaggeration, tells their daughter, Amina, a photographer living in Seattle. Reluctantly Amina returns home and finds a situation that is far more complicated than her mother let on, with roots in a trip the family, including Amina’s rebellious brother Akhil, took to India twenty years earlier. Amina soon realizes that the only way she can help her father is by coming to terms with her family’s painful past. In doing so, she must reckon with the ghosts that haunt all of the Eapens.”

The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh

“Opening in Calcutta in the 1960s, this novel follows two families—one English, one Bengali—as their lives intertwine in tragic and comic ways. The narrator, Indian born and English educated, traces events back and forth in time, from the outbreak of World War II to the late twentieth century, through years of Bengali partition and violence, observing the ways in which political events invade private lives.”

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

“Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird. In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naive to the twisted motives of others.”

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

“Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.”

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

“Abandoned by her mother on Jellicoe Road when she was eleven, Taylor Markham, now seventeen, is finally being confronted with her past. But as the reluctant leader of her boarding school dorm, there isn’t a lot of time for introspection. And while Hannah, the closest adult Taylor has to family, has disappeared, Jonah Griggs, the boy who might be the key to unlocking the secrets for Taylor’s past, is back in town, moody stares and all.”

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

“The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old, he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the form of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.”

A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dina Nayeri

“Growing up in a small rice-farming village in 1980s Iran, eleven-year-old Saba Hafezi and her twin sister, Mahtab, are captivated by America.  So when her mother and sister disappear, leaving Saba and her father alone in Iran, Saba is certain that they have moved to America without her. But her parents have taught her that “all fate is written in the blood,” and that twins will live the same life, even if separated by land and sea. As she grows up in the warmth and community of her local village, falls in and out of love, and struggles with the limited possibilities in post-revolutionary Iran, Saba envisions that there is another way for her story to unfold.”

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

“It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still. Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.”

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

“This novel focuses on the theme of self-acceptance, family morals, and the possibly-deadly consequences of one’s mistakes. It is centered on the wealthy, seemingly perfect Sinclair family, who spend every summer gathered on their private island. However, not every summer is the same—when something happens to Cadence during the summer of her fifteenth year, the four “Liars” re-emerge two years later to prompt Cadence to remember the incident.”

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

“A story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it—from garden seeds to Scripture—is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.”

A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb

“In the class of the high school English teacher she has been haunting, Helen feels them: for the first time in 130 years, human eyes are looking at her. They belong to a boy, and Helen—terrified, but intrigued—is drawn to him. The fact that he is in a body and she is not presents this unlikely couple with their first challenge. But as the lovers struggle to find a way to be together, they begin to discover the secrets of their former lives and of the young people they come to possess.”

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Writing Great Books for Young Adults: Everything You Need to Know, from Crafting the Idea to Getting Published

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Regina Brooks

Writing Great Books for Young Adults: Everything You Need to Know, from Crafting the Idea to Getting Published Paperback – October 7, 2014

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  • Editorial Reviews

Break into the Bestselling Young Adult Market with this Indispensable Guide!

Whether you're just getting started or are on the hunt for an agent or publisher, Writing Great Books for Young Adults is your complete insider source on how to succeed in the flourishing world of YA fiction and nonfiction. In this updated and revised edition, veteran literary agent ReginaL. Brooks offers invaluable advice for YA writers on everything from shaping your novel to crafting the perfect pitch for your book.

Learn How To:

  • Develop an authentic, engaging voice and writing style
  • Construct dynamic plots that will resonate with readers
  • Avoid common pitfalls related to tone and point of view
  • Navigate the emerging genres of YA nonfiction and New Adult
  • Create an exceptional query letter and proposal that will grab the attention of agents and publishers

You'll also discover how successful film adaptations like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games have broadened the market for your book. Filled with tips and advice from agents, editors, and popular YA authors, Writing Great Books for Young Adults is your ticket to an incredible YA career!

"Brooks offers writers who are serious about attracting teen readers solid guidance through the creation process of writing YA fiction."― Library Journal

About the Author

Regina L. Brooks is the founder of Serendipity Literary and has been developing books for over a decade. She has been highlighted in several national and international magazines and periodicals, including Writers and Poets, Essence Magazine, Writer's Digest Magazine, and Sister2Sister. She lives in New York City, New York.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


"Welcome to the world of Young Adult Fiction."

Those are the words I use to kick off the workshops I conduct at various writers conferences held throughout the United States and abroad. But they're not just words. If you want to write YA fiction, you've got to be willing to step into a whole new world.

This book is designed to help you enter that new world. Here you'll find detailed descriptions of how to avoid the traps many potential YA authors fall into, as well as tips on how to create the next YA bestseller.


Of course there are universal standards for writing prose for any audience. To a large extent, however, elements of YA fiction, especially the tone and the narrator's perspective, differ markedly and require a whole new set of rules.

This notion of YA's otherworldliness doesn't seem to be a concept understood by most people who want to write for teens, at least judging from the manuscripts that cross my desk. I hear similar comments from colleagues in the YA world. Most of these pros wouldn't be surprised to hear that among the stacks of manuscripts I receive, 90 percent of the writers seem confused about what YA fiction is.

It's not surprising that people are confused, given that something as basic as a list of bestselling YA titles is commonly found on the same page as picture books for toddlers, complete with lift-the-flap and pop-up features. The illusion of YA as solely an extension of traditional children's books may also explain why many novices who try their hand at writing for teens rely on memories of what they enjoyed reading in adolescence. Depending on the individual's age and experiences, that might mean nineteenth-century Louisa May Alcott's Little Women; J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, published in 1951; S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders, 1967; or Judy Blume's Forever, 1975. Highly commendable classics all, with messages that continue to resonate with youth, but they don't necessarily represent what YA editors are looking for now.

So what is YA fiction, exactly? Most publishing industry insiders consider YA fiction to be fiction written for readers from about the age of twelve to eighteen, featuring characters in that same age range. Keep in mind, however, that these age boundaries are somewhat flexible. While YA can often be a coming-of-age story, not every coming-of-age story is YA. If the character is an adult reflecting on his youth, that's not a YA novel.

As a literary agent representing writers of different genres, one of my jobs includes presenting my clients' manuscripts to editors who decide whether they will purchase them for their publishing houses. Editors develop areas of expertise, such as food, science, business, and religion. I have long noted that certain personalities gravitate toward YA publishing, and that they have sensibilities and interests that are strikingly different from editors who work in other genres.

Just as teens like to push the envelope, YA editors, who generally have easygoing personalities, are more open to taking risks. They are often willing to try fresh approaches and formats. It is this dynamism that makes them more experimental than button-down. Mirroring their readership in another regard, YA editors exhibit high levels of curiosity. Most significantly, in addition to wanting to inform and entertain, they care about getting young people to read, and seem determined to publish books that address adolescent vulnerabilities and engage in the problems of the day.

None of this is meant to suggest that they should be nominated for sainthood. Like anyone else in business, editors must keep their eyes focused on the bottom line. Because that requirement doesn't seem to diminish YA editors' sense of purpose, it enhances the illusion that they inhabit a separate world.

The tremendous creative and commercial success of YA lit is improving opportunities for writers and readers, giving the genre the respect it deserves. Rick Margolis, executive editor of the School Library Journal, which he describes as "the largest reviewer of children's books in the country," points out that he does a lot of reading and believes YA books are now among the best genres being published across the board.

Agreeing with Margolis, Carol Fitzgerald, Book Report Network founder, whose company launched in 1997, explains, "YA books are shorter than most of those written for adults. That requires authors to write with wit and precision." She says proof of their exceptional quality is in the fact that many YA books are winning awards traditionally won by adult fiction.

Among the increasing numbers of YA authors cited for excellence is M. T. Anderson, winner of the 2006 National Book Award for The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation. An exemplar of how writers can cut their own swaths through the YA world, Anderson employed multiple viewpoints as well as letters, newspaper clippings, and scientific papers to tell the story of Octavian, a black youth raised as a Revolutionary-era slave.

Anderson's story is one of many YA entries that will be discussed here in a chapter-by-chapter feature, "Anatomy Lessons," which includes advice and encouragement from award-winning authors. Another ongoing feature in this book is "Advice from Publishers Row," encapsulating wisdom from top YA editors. My intention is to give you the sense that you have a panel of experts standing at the ready to guide you through the writing process. One more chapter-by-chapter feature, "Author Working," will help get your creative juices flowing.

A lot of people in the publishing industry believe that confusion about what constitutes YA lit is heightened by the success of some titles known in the industry as "crossovers." Publishing houses generate additional revenue from some books by marketing them to both adult and YA readers, thus crossing over from one audience to another. Francesca Lia Block's cult novel, Weetzie Bat, written in 1989, is considered the original crossover, continuing to attract readers from fifteen to thirty-five. Two of the most commercially successful crossovers are Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and Yann Martel's Life of Pi. Both were published in 2002 and have sold over two million copies each. Those books were adult books that crossed over into the YA market, but there are others that start out as YA and then cross over to an adult audience; for example, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series and Cecily von Ziegesar's Gossip Girl series. The first became a feature film and the second a popular television series. All these crossovers have led to the creation of a new genre, New Adult, which is the focus of Chapter 13 .

Author of the crossover series Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling has said she had no particular age group in mind when she started Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone; however, she did know she was writing for children. The first Harry Potter novel was eventually published in 1998 by Scholastic, the world's largest publisher and distributor of juvenile books. The company targeted Harry Potter to children nine to eleven. What happened, of course, made publishing history, with Rowling's work garnering millions of fans worldwide, both older and younger, including a substantial segment of teens. Later, two separate editions of Harry Potter were released, identical in text but with the cover artwork on one edition aimed at children and the other at adults.

Rowling's young wizard also cast magic on the YA world, changing the way the industry viewed the genre. Harry Potter's $29.99 selling price reminded publishers that young people were not only willing to shell out big bucks to read but that they also had the means to do so. In 2006 in the United States alone, teens had $94.7 billion a year to spend, a figure that increases about $1 billion a year, according to Jupiter Research.

Rowling's success led to her books being turned into movies aimed squarely at teens, and again they attracted a much broader audience. The Harry Potter film series is on track to become the top-grossing franchise in movie history. The success of a book can often inspire producers to look at YA books specifically for the purpose of making movies aimed at teens. Some examples of book-to-film include Twilight by Stephenie Meyer; Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine; Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen by Dyan Sheldon; I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan; Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares; The Fault in Our Stars by John Green; The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins; The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey; The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; Divergent by Veronica Roth; and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

As I'm sure you've noticed, the market for YA film adaptations is huge; ten adaptations alone were made in 2013. These cinematic successes mean that YA books are reaching broader audiences than ever before―parents, film executives, and other adults. The numbers bear this idea out. According to New York magazine, the two biggest audiences for YA fiction are readers ages eighteen to twenty-nine, who buy 35 percent of all YA purchases, and readers ages thirty to forty-four, who buy 27 percent of all YA purchases. Similarly, these success of these film adaptations make the YA market look lucrative, spurring authors to write for it. The end result is that YA is a multimedia genre that transcends the page.

While many YA novels have crossed over into the adult market, that should not be the goal of your YA manuscript. Instead, focus on writing the best-written book you possibly can. Crossover audiences follow the best-written book, so producing an outstanding manuscript should always be your aim.


As my friend and editor Kat Brzozowski tells budding writers, "A lot of YA books do edgier stuff now. Teenagers' lives now aren't the same as they were twenty years ago."

Over the decades, teens have been changed by a combination of what some describe as less parenting and more media. The nation's wake-up call came in April 1999 when two boys went on a shooting rampage at Columbine High School outside Denver. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed twelve classmates and a teacher, and wounded twenty-four others, before committing suicide. The massacre provoked a national debate about cliques and bullying.

Shortly after Columbine, Carol Fitzgerald, founder of the Book Report Network, spoke to a gathering of publishing executives. "I told them that compared to what's really going on in the lives of young people, the books that were being published read like pabulum. I reminded them that they owed more to young people and to their teachers and parents, and I asked them to give teens books that matter in their lives."

A lot of publishing executives must have had similar thoughts. A proliferation of titles followed that immersed readers in the real world. During the eighties and nineties, YA authors had tackled subjects such as premarital sex, homosexuality, and AIDS. But many books published in the new millennium delved into risqué subjects such as incest, drag queens, oral sex, self-mutilation, and date rape. Edgier and trendier, they are not your mother's storybooks, and maybe that's just the point, suggests Mark McVeigh, a senior editor at Dutton. He says, "The lives of kids today are barely recognizable from the childhoods anybody over thirty led in the way they approach sex, drugs, alcohol, parental attention or the lack thereof."

Keep in mind that teenagers live in the same world as you do. They don't live sixty years ago, they don't "go steady" anymore, and being asked to the upcoming sock hop is hardly the greatest of their concerns. One of the most important things you can do―in fact, one of the standards by which your novel will succeed or fail with its readers―is to accurately reflect the world and how today's teenagers perceive it.


I assume that you picked up this book because you have something you want to communicate to today's teen readers. My goal is to help you understand and avoid the challenges and pitfalls of writing for today's YA audience.

Experience tells me that working through this book will not only help you produce a better manuscript but will also allow you to look at your own world with fresh eyes. That has certainly been the case for me. I started out with a degree in aerospace engineering from Ohio State University and as an avid reader was attracted to a career that lasted more than a decade in senior positions at major publishing houses like John Wiley & Sons and McGraw-Hill. While I still feel equally at home in the mathematical world of engineering as in the literary world, I have been able to creatively mine my technical background in helping writers hone their craft. Engineering trained me to identify areas of strength as well as structural weakness, and because that's what editors do, I have learned to think like an editor in evaluating manuscripts.

Because I'm in a profession that allows me to represent authors I deeply respect, I derive a great deal of pleasure from championing their work. An agent is an author's first line of defense. But we learn right away that in the business of writing, not everyone loves the same books. Sometimes it takes a while until a manuscript lands in the hands of just the right editor.

Keep that in mind as you learn from this book, developing your manuscript and polishing it like a gem before you hand it over to those who will judge it. My advice is that when possible, learn from criticism, but don't let it weigh you down. (I work with one writer who records any nasty criticism she receives on paper towels, which she then burns.)

It may help you to know that the author of one of the most famous YA books of our time was described by a critic as "not having a special perception or feeling which would lift the book above the curiosity level." The Diary of a Young Girl, first published in 1947, was written by Anne Frank, a gifted Jewish teenager who detailed her life in hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam before she died of typhus in a prison camp. Later, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt spoke for many of Frank's fans, describing the diary as "one of the wisest and most moving commentaries on war and its impact on human beings." Readers seemed to agree. The diary has sold more than twenty-five million copies.

Perhaps this story will help you remember that critics, much like the adolescents whom I hope will populate the pages of your new world, are only human. Also keep in mind that while every ear may not be sympathetic, most criticism is intended to help you create the best possible book you can. With that in mind, I hope you will grasp the tools contained in this book to produce your own Catcher in the Rye, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, or Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I, for one, look forward to reading―if not representing―them.

  • Print length 224 pages
  • Language English
  • Publisher Sourcebooks
  • Publication date October 7, 2014
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 0.56 x 8.5 inches
  • ISBN-10 1402293526
  • ISBN-13 978-1402293528
  • See all details

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  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Sourcebooks; 2nd edition (October 7, 2014)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 224 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1402293526
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1402293528
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 10.3 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.5 x 0.56 x 8.5 inches
  • #299 in Words, Language & Grammar Reference
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About the author

writing books for adults

Regina Brooks

Regina Brooks is the founder and president of Serendipity Literary

Agency LLC, based in Brooklyn, New York. Her agency represents a diverse

base of award-winning clients in adult and young adult fiction,

nonfiction, and children's literature, including: three-time National

Book Award finalist, Newberry Honor Winner and the Coretta Scott King

Honor and the Michael Printz Honor Award-winning author Marilyn Nelson;

winner of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award, Al

Roker's Book Club for Kids author Sundee Frazier; Junior Guild Award,

Stonewall Award, and LAMBDA award winner Bil Wright. Brooks is a former

Editor at John Wiley and Sons and McGraw-Hill. She is the

author of the children's book, Never Finished! Never Done! (Scholastic),



Martin's Press). She has been highlighted in global media and tv outlets

including ABC News, CW, Forbes, Poets and Writers, Publishers Weekly,

The Writer, Media Bistro, Essence, Ebony, Writer's Digest and the

Huffington Post. She is also the owner of, a tea

company of master blended teas developed for creative minds. She is on

the board of Grubb Street. Serendipity is interested in new and emerging

"This book will empower you to write and finish your first book and all your 'next' books." Jeff Herman, The Jeff Herman Agency

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This directory of creative writing courses will help you find the right class for you. Simply filter by genre, price, and location to find the writing class that best fits your needs.

Best of luck! If you run a writing course and would like to get in touch with us about your class, contact us here .


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However, creative writing classes aren’t one size fit all. If you’re planning to join an adult creative writing class in particular, you’ll want to make sure that it matches what you’re seeking to learn about the genre.

So make sure to consider the following questions when you’re researching adult writing courses:

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  • How long is the course, and where is it taught?
  • How much does the adult writing course cost? Does it fit into your budget?

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ESL Activities

ESL Games, Activities, Lesson Plans, Jobs & More

in Listening · Reading · Speaking · Writing

ESL Books for Adults: English Conversation, Business, Writing

Are you looking for some of the best ESL books for adults? Then you’re certainly in the right place. We’re going to give you the rundown on the best conversational English textbooks, along with our top choice for business English  as well as writing classes. Keep on reading!

Best ESL Textbooks for Adults

Before we get into all the details about each of these top choices for ESL books for young adults or adults, here’s a sneak peek:

  • Four Corners
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  • Side by Side
  • Great Writing


Best ESL Book for adults

#1: World Link

As far as 4-skills ESL textbooks for adults go, World Link certainly belongs at the top of any list. It has relevant, engaging topics that are applicable for students in most, if not all countries. The grammar and vocabulary are very well laid out and best of all, there is a wide range of interesting and engaging activities.

Then combine these things with a nice workbook that’s ideal for homework, along with a teacher’s resource book and it’s clear you have a winner. Find out more about this ESL book for adults to see if it’s right for your TEFL classes.

  • From National Geographic
  • Designed for young adults
  • Second edition is updated and enhanced
  • Warm-up video for each unit
  • Online homework option
  • Animated grammar tutorials online make this is a nice independent study option as well
  • 4 levels (intro, 1, 2, 3) from beginner to advanced

Customer Reviews

“One of the best ESL books for young adults in my opinion. It’s very easy to teach from and doesn’t require a ton of time or effort to make supplementary materials for it. The activities and exercises, for the most part, are quite interesting and students are engaged throughout the class.”

“Love all the extra features that this book has like an intro video and online portal for the students. Awesome ESL textbook. My university in South Korea has been using it for freshman English for two years now and most instructors are very happy with it.”

Final Verdict

If you’re looking for a book that’s easy to teach from and that has a ton of educational value, then consider World Link. It’s a solid choice for a communicative style of teaching and although it does lack a little bit in the reading and writing activities as opposed to speaking and listening ones, this is a very minor complaint.

Want to take a closer look at it? Check out the series for yourself on Amazon to learn more:


#2: Four Corners

If you’re looking for an all-round 4-skills, communicative textbook for adults, then you really can’t go wrong with 4 Corners. It’s come out in recent years and is super solid on the speaking , listening , and conversation activities , while focusing less on reading and writing. Read on to find out more about it!

  • From Cambridge Press
  • 4-skills focused
  • Designed for adults and young adults
  • Strong focus on functional language
  • 12 units per coursebook
  • “Keep talking” activities help students build fluency
  • Additional print and online practice opportunities for students
  • 4 Levels (1, 2, 3, 4)
  • Placement test

“I use this series to teach English at my Church and have to say that it’s amazing. Really easy to teach from it and my students seem to really enjoy the topics and activities. The additional practice opportunities for the students are great too for those who want to really improve their skills.”

“Excellent ESL textbook for young adults that really hits the listening and speaking in a big way. I’ve been using it for a year now and would love to keep using it for another one!”

Final Verdict on these ESL Books for Adults

Overall, Four Corners is a high-quality, well-thought-out ESL book for adults that almost any teacher will be happy using. If you’re indecisive about which book to go for, then I can’t recommend this one enough for you!

Do you want to learn more about it to find out if it’s right for your TEFL classes? Click below to check it out on Amazon:

#3: Smart Choice

Another top option for a 4-skills ESL textbook that’s heavy on the communicative activities is Smart Choice. In particular, we like this one because of how easy it is to teach from without using any supplementary activities or having to skip over sections or entire chapters.

  • Third edition
  • From Oxford University Press
  • Covers all 4-skills
  • 4 levels (starter, 1, 2, 3)
  • Balances challenge with support
  • Helps students achieve fluency through games and activities
  • Online games and activities that are optimized for Smartphones
  • Online practice and written workbook options

“Love all the extras that come with this book that provide so many opportunities for my students to practice English outside of class.”

“Not that I’m super lazy, but I do love how easy it to teach with this book. The grammar and vocabulary are laid out nicely so that I don’t need to prepare extra PowerPoints and the activities and exercises are also quite good. I find that I can use every single thing in this textbook, unlike some other ones I’ve used in this past.”

If you don’t like spending a lot of time on lesson planning, then Smart Choice might be your #1 pick. It’s so well-organized that you can almost just open up the book a couple of minutes before class and then “teach” it. Not that you should ever do this, but in case of emergency? Not to worry.

Sounds like exactly what you need to make your ESL/EFL classes even better? You can pick up this textbook for yourself on Amazon:

#4: Touchstone, One of the Best ESL Books for Adults

If you teach English to beginners, then you’ll seriously want to consider picking up Touchstone. Of all the textbooks, this series perhaps does the best job of covering basically everything in a comprehensive kind of way.

And, it also does a fabulous job of recycling grammar and vocabulary so that students don’t forget what they previously learned. Compare this to other ESL textbooks that may mention something once and never again and the difference is readily apparent.

  • Cambridge University Press
  • 2nd edition
  • Natural language in authentic contexts
  • Helps build speaking fluency with explicit instruction on this
  • Designed for 100% to 100% online, or anything in between
  • Corpus informed by extensive research
  • Inductive learning for grammar
  • Common error section

“Really like the second edition of Touchstone, much better than the first actually. It’s ideal because students can use it either in class or entirely online. It makes it super easy to assign homework and cover all the material in a semester.”

“It’s obvious that this ESL textbook is based in real research as it’s well thought out. My favorite thing is the research informed vocabulary choices that are designed to teach students the words that people actually use. It’s a nice feature that I wish other ESL books had.”

If you’re looking for an ESL book for adults that takes students from almost absolute beginner to more advanced, then consider this 6-level series that does just that. It’s comprehensive and detailed and makes a nice option for programs or universities where students take multiple English courses.

Do you want to find out more details about one of the best ESL books for beginners? Check it out on Amazon:

#5: New Interchange

New Interchange is a very solid ESL textbook series from Jack Richards, one of the best in the business in terms of making it easy to learn from and easy to teach from textbooks. It’s designed for adults and young adults and in my experience, the topics are relevant and interesting and the book is filled with page after page of very solid teaching materials.

  • Designed for English for international communication
  • North American English
  • A website with a ton of supplementary activities and practice opportunities for students
  • Ties into the TOEIC test
  • 16 units, each of which takes approximately 90 minutes

“In my opinion, it’s the best conversational English textbook available today. Love that the new edition is up to date and there’s so much support online for both myself and the students.”

“Awesome English coursebook that my university has been using for the past couple of years with great success. I’ve seen students really improve their skills in a big way and sure, it’s partly due to my teaching but honestly, I just follow this great textbook!”

Do you want to pick up one of the most solid ESL books for adults? Students like it and learn well from it. Teachers like it too because it doesn’t require a lot of prep time or supplementary materials. What’s not to love? Find out more details here:

#6: Market Leader (For Business English)

If you want to teach Business English, one of the best (and in my opinion, ONLY) option is Market Leader. It’s a clear cut above the rest in terms of what students need to function in English in the business world. Keep reading to find out more about why it’s so good!

Features of these ESL Books for Adults

  • Published by Pearson
  • 3rd edition
  • Five levels (elementary, pre-intermediate, intermediate, upper-intermediate, advanced)
  • Authentic texts from the Financial Times
  • Provides essential business vocabulary
  • Helps students with business skills like negotiation, emails, small talk, meetings, interviews, etc.
  • Includes helpful phrases that can be used during role-plays (or real life)
  • Self-study opportunities

Business English Vocabulary Builder: Idioms, Phrases, and Expressions in American English (English...

  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Bolen, Jackie (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 128 Pages - 11/25/2020 (Publication Date)

“I teach business students in South Korea and have found that this book is really helpful for that. I used to just print articles and other resources off the Internet for my classes but since switching to a way more organized system like this, I’ve seen some great results. My students now have a ton of confidence to do things like write an email or negotiate a deal in English.”

“Students really seem to enjoy the topics and other things in this book. As a teacher, it’s quite easy to use because there are no “throwaway” pages and you can basically teach just about everything from this book.”

Do you want to pick up the best ESL book for business English? Head over to Amazon to check for the best prices right here:

#7: Side by Side

Another option for a 4-skills ESL book series is Side by Side. It’s a decent choice and could work well if you’re forced to choose something from Pearson. However, for my money? I’d take World Link, Smart Choice, Touchstone, or Four Corners over this one. They just feel newer and more relevant which makes them far easier to teach from without lots of additional work or materials.

  • Pearson publishing
  • 4-skills series
  • 4 levels from beginner to intermediate
  • Additional activities for students on the Pearson website

“My university has been using this series for a couple of years now and it’s not bad. I do like the newer editions much better than the old ones.”

“Decent ESL textbook but honestly, the cartoon-like pictures? The other textbooks have real pictures that make them far more engaging and interesting for the students.”

Final Verdict of these ESL Books for Adults

As far as ESL books for adults go, this is a decent choice. However, there are certainly better 4-skills ESL textbooks out there including the ones at the top of this list.

Do you want to find out more information about this series? Check it out for yourself over on Amazon by clicking the button below:

#8: The Great Writing Series

If you’re looking for an ESL book series that takes students from sentences and paragraphs to essays and research, then you’ll seriously want to consider the Great Writing Series. Honestly, it’s the best textbook series to teach writing skills to English learners.

It’s like the ultimate combination of product and process approaches to teaching writing and the best part? Students’ skills really improve in a big way after a semester or two of working through these books.

  • Published by Cengage
  • 5 levels (sentences to research and everything in between)
  • Engaging National Geographic images
  • Nice combination of examples texts to emulate and then opportunities for practice
  • Practical suggestions for homework exercises
  • Ideal for group work in class

User Reviews

“So far, so good. I’ve been using this book at my university in Japan to teach students how to write essays. It’s the best ESL writing book I’ve come across and can’t really recommend it enough.”

“Love how organized and well designed this whole series is. If you’re a student, you could honestly start at the sentence level and get into essays and paragraphs and not be bored by the end of it.”

Get Yours Today

If you teach writing to English learners, then you will certainly need to check out this book. I can’t really emphasize this enough! Your prep time will be cut significantly as there as just so many solid things in the book from which to teach. However, most importantly, students’ writing skills will really improve in a big, big way.

Do you want to find out more? Check out the book on Amazon by clicking below:

Help Me! I’m Required to Use a Terrible ESL Textbook

Are you working with an ESL or EFL textbook that is less than stellar? It’s not ideal and you can hopefully avoid that by using one of the best ESL books for adults. However, there are certainly ways that you can overcome this and still have a really good course. Keep on reading to find out how.

A Terrible ESL Textbook: Here’s How it Happens

I’m sure we’ve all been there. We’re given a terrible ESL textbook that most fittingly belongs in the trash. It certainly doesn’t belong in the hands of our students, who’ve done nothing to deserve this fate, nor does it belong in the hands of the teacher, who has plenty of better things to do with their time than make something terrible work.

It usually is the result of administrators designing courses, which isn’t so terrible, unless they’ve never actually set foot in the classroom before. They’re at a total loss but are often scared to admit this and ask for help in choosing a textbook from the teachers.

The best case scenario is that you can choose your own. However, in the ESL teaching world, it doesn’t often work like this.

49 ESL Conversation Games & Activities: For Teachers of Teenagers and Adults Who Want to Have Better...

  • 146 Pages - 06/18/2020 (Publication Date)

A Terrible ESL Textbook: Here’s What to Do

Don’t use it. That’s the best option of course! And, you can sometimes avoid this is you’re able to make your own syllabi and design the course curriculum.

Unfortunately, I know, that’s usually not an option in most cases. (“The parents have already paid for the book”) That’s okay and there are certain things you can do.

You can visibly use parts of each chapter and supplement it with more useful materials. Look critically at each lesson for something salvageable: theme, vocabulary, grammar, etc. Take what you can use and find or create related materials to actually teach them. If the dialogues are riddled with errors, create your own as a model, and have students make and perform dialogues.

If the activities are too easy or difficult, modify them accordingly. As long as your students are opening their books each class and writing something in them sometimes, you are “using the book.”

Nobody Will Notice, Trust Me

I’ve been given a lot of garbage to work with, but I’ve never been taken to task for adding to it. As long as I followed the expected time frame and taught the vocabulary and grammar presented, no one ever noticed that’s all I was using the book for.

As with so many things, appearances count. It is enough just to look like you are using the required textbook. And of course, at least try to do one or two token things from the textbook each class. After all, the students have paid money for the book and made the effort to bring it to class so they’re usually unhappy if they don’t need it.

Need More Tips and Tricks for the ESL Classroom?

This advice about making a terrible ESL textbook work is from the book: ESL Classroom Management Tips and Tricks-For Teachers of Students Ages 6-12 .  It’s available on Amazon in both print and digital formats and it’s going to make your teaching life easier, guaranteed.

If you read this book and don’t pick up at least 3 tips and tricks to make your classroom run more smoothly and effectively, get in touch with me and I’ll refund your money.

—>Buy ESL Classroom Management on Amazon Today<—

ESL Classroom Management

The book is available in both print and digital formats. You can keep a copy on your office bookshelf as a handy reference guide. Or, take a copy with you for some learning on the go.

What about ESL Conversation Questions?

If you’re looking for some conversation questions for your classes, then look no further than this book of ESL conversation questions . They can be easily used to supplement something from one of the textbooks mentioned above, or they could work as a standalone lesson for private tutoring, free-talking or conversation classes. Check out the book for yourself on Amazon:

1005 ESL Conversation Questions: For English Teachers of Teenagers and Adults Who Want to Have...

  • 86 Pages - 07/02/2020 (Publication Date)

ESL Books for Adults FAQs

There are a number of common questions that people have about ESL textbooks for adults. Here are the answers to some of the most popular ones.

How to choose a good ESL textbook?

There are a few simple steps when choosing a good ESL textbook. The first step it to get to know your students, including their levels and specific needs. Secondly, get familiar with the publishers of ESL books and their websites so you have a general idea of what’s out there. Finally, select the ESL textbook that most closely matches the needs and level of your students.

What is the best English textbook?

The best English textbook really depends on the needs of the students. However, some good, 4-skills English textbooks for ESL/EFL are 4 Corners, Smart Choice, World Link, and Touchstone. For writing, consider the Great Writing Series and for business English, Market Leader.

How do I teach English textbooks?

To teach from English textbooks, focus on what the main, essential element of the unit is. Maybe it’s to introduce the simple past to focus on some aspect of vocabulary acquisition. Then, think simple and teach key vocabulary and grammar. Come up with some supplementary activities if necessary and of course, focus on the specific needs of your students whether that’s improving speaking confidence or reading comprehension abilities, etc.

What should I consider when choosing an ESL textbook for adults?

Consider factors such as the learners’ proficiency level, specific language goals, cultural relevance, teaching methodology, topic coverage, and supplementary resources. Assess the textbook’s alignment with your teaching style and learners’ needs.

What are some popular ESL textbook series for adults?

Some popular ESL textbook series for adults include “Side by Side,” “English File,” “Touchstone,” “New English File,” “NorthStar,” “Focus on Grammar,” “Oxford English Grammar Course,” and “American English File.”

Can I use more than one textbook in my adult ESL classes?

Yes, you can supplement your primary textbook with additional materials or use multiple textbooks to cater to different aspects of language learning, such as grammar, conversation, vocabulary, or specific language skills.

How can I make the most of an ESL textbook for adults?

Familiarize yourself with the textbook’s structure, lesson flow, and supplementary resources. Adapt and supplement the materials based on your learners’ needs and interests. Use the textbook as a guide but incorporate additional activities, real-life examples, and authentic materials to enhance engagement and relevance.

Can I modify or adapt the activities in an ESL textbook for adults?

Yes, you can modify or adapt activities in the textbook to suit your learners’ proficiency level, cultural context, or specific learning goals. Tailor the activities to make them more engaging, interactive, or relevant to your students.

How can I supplement an ESL textbook for adults with authentic materials?

Supplement the textbook with authentic materials like newspaper articles, magazine excerpts, podcasts, videos, or real-life conversations. These materials provide exposure to authentic language use and real-world contexts.

Can I use online resources alongside an ESL textbook for adults?

Yes, incorporating online resources, such as interactive exercises, videos, audio clips, or online forums, can enhance the learning experience and provide additional practice opportunities for adult ESL learners.

How can I assess my adult ESL learners’ progress with a textbook?

Utilize the assessment tools and exercises provided in the textbook. Additionally, design your own assessments, including quizzes, speaking tasks, writing assignments, and listening exercises, to gauge learners’ progress and proficiency.

Advanced English Conversation Dialogues: Speak English Like a Native Speaker with Common Idioms and...

  • 66 Pages - 11/06/2020 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Have your say about the Best ESL Books for Adults

What’s your top pick for an ESL textbook for adults ? Is it one of the options from this list or do you have your eye on another one? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.

Also be sure to give this article a share on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. I’ll help other busy teachers, like yourself, find this useful resource.


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Last update on 2022-07-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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About Jackie

Jackie Bolen has been teaching English for more than 15 years to students in South Korea and Canada. She's taught all ages, levels and kinds of TEFL classes. She holds an MA degree, along with the Celta and Delta English teaching certifications.

Jackie is the author of more than 60 books for English teachers and English learners, including Business English Vocabulary Builder and 39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities for Teenagers and Adults . She loves to share her ESL games, activities, teaching tips, and more with other teachers throughout the world.

You can find her on social media at: YouTube Facebook Pinterest TikTok LinkedIn Instagram

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The Ultimate Guide To Writing YA Fiction [2022]

September 28, 2020 12 min read Character Fiction Guide Mackenzie Belcastro Publishing Tips YA Young Adult 5 Comments

writing books for adults

This is a comprehensive guide to writing young adult (YA) fiction, designed to help you form your thoughts into a shape that will hook your readers and keep them flipping the page!

In today’s guide you’ll learn:

  • What YA fiction is
  • How to make your readers care about your story.
  • The role of character progression and growth.
  • How to write authentically for young adults, even if you aren’t one.
  • The 1 ingredient your story’s ending MUST have.

In short: if you have a story that’s bursting to get out into the world, you’ll love this guide. 

Unlike other guides to writing YA, we’ll be using detailed examples at each step. 

 About the Author

writing books for adults

Mackenzie Belcastro is a freelance writer and the author of the low-fantasy, YA novel The Play House. 

About So You Want to Write

Affectionately acronym’d SYWW, we are a member-led, professional development community of writers established in January 2017. 

We partner with literary agents, editors, and published authors to create great content & workshops, and offer coaching that helps writers improve their craft and publish.

Chapter 1: The basics

While many of you may be seasoned writers, well-versed in the publishing world’s lingo, we also know that some of you are bound to be brand new to this world. If you’re part of the first camp, feel free to skip ahead. 

If you’re in the second group—you’ve stumbled on this guide because you have a stellar story bouncing around in your head, but no idea if you’re even writing YA—don’t fret. You’re not alone. So many writers started where you are, in total darkness when it comes to industry terminology. Stick with us here as we pull you out, and get you crystal clear on what YA fiction means.

What The Heck Is Young Adult Fiction?

YA fiction is a category of fiction written for and about teens between the ages of 12 and 17. When compared to adult fiction, it’s quicker-paced and more plot-driven. 

Young readers tend to have a short attention span. They crave immediacy. Keep this in mind with every word you lay down on the page. There’s no room for lofty contemplation here. Save any waxing and waning for your adult, literary novel. 

Tip : writing in the present tense will feed that sense of urgency teens are hungry for.

As a rule of thumb, a YA book excludes any insight that a typical teen would not yet have. This is to maintain the integrity of the character. 

Imagine if Leigh Bardugo wrote in  Shadow And Bone  that Alina Starkov had the wisdom of a senior citizen. It wouldn't make sense, given Alina is a teenager. (Unless, of course, this was a part of her story, and she was, for example, aging backward, à la Benjamin Button .)

So, what about those novels written from the perspective of an adult protagonist reflecting back on his/her youth? Those are considered adult fiction. 

Take Stephen King’s novella The Body , for example. This is a story about a group of 12-year-old boys that set out to find a dead body. It is told through the lens of Gordie, one of the central characters, all grown up. Reflecting back on this adventure, Gordie breaks the storyline here and there to insert thoughts from his adult perspective. 

While this is appreciated by an older reader, it wouldn’t fly with a teen. Think about it. Teens do not read novels to be verbally slapped on the wrist by a “wise narrator.” They read to understand their friends, their frenemies, and, most of all, themselves. They’re looking to become empowered in their personal stories through story. 

YA writers take note: your goal should be to empower teen readers, not patronize them.  

Now that we know what YA fiction is, let’s get clear on…

Why The Label Matters

In a nutshell: sales. 

When your book goes to market, your publisher will need to be able to define your audience clearly. This is so they can go on to target it effectively, and sell your books!

Many writers say they "don't care" about sales, that they're only concerned with the art, and that if their books are meant to find an audience, they will.

And while that may be the case for you (how could I say otherwise?), most writers, when they face the music, do care about sales. If not because they want to be the next Victoria Aveyard, then because they want their stories to reach as many readers as possible. 

This can be scary to admit, because as long as you put it out there that you want your book to sell well, therein lies the possibility of failing to accomplish said goal.

But fear should never prevent you from going after what you want. 

Plus, who says you'll fail?

Labelling your book appropriately will help ensure the opposite effect: your book's success.

Yes, there are adults that read YA, and teens that read adult fiction. But those will be the outliers—the readers that are coming to your book through recommendation, not targeted marketing. 

In order to get your book into the hands of the readers that will most appreciate your story, it needs to be labelled appropriately.    

A Note On Word Count

On average, YA fiction lies somewhere between 47,000 and 80,000 words. The only genres where it’s considered “acceptable” by most to write past 80K are science fiction and fantasy, because of the world-building required. 

Writing above 100K is a risk, especially for debut authors. Unless you have a large platform that can be leveraged to help you sell your book, or social proof through Wattpad that your story is a page-turner, prospective publishers are going to be weary of investing in your book. 

This isn’t because they’re bad people. It’s because publishers are the ones shelling out for each page printed. The lower your page count, the less of an upfront investment it is for them. Remember, you want to make your book an easy sell. So, steer clear of whoppers. 

At least, until you build your cult following. 

And on that note…

Chapter 2: How to make your readers care about your story

For readers to be invested in your story, they need to be able to see themselves in your characters. Books with characters that are too perfect or too flat are usually abandoned. 

They don’t resonate. Teens are experiencing all sorts of difficulties in their day to day lives—from bullying, to gossip, to drugs, to assault, to deep depression, isolation, and so on. They don’t want overly polished plots and people. They want the messy, real deal.

Think of  A Court of Thorns and Roses .  Sarah J. Maas's main character Feyre is far from the polished, prototypical female lead. She is tough. And not just tough in the heroic sense. Tough, too, in the I-have-a-dark-side-so-you-better-not-mess-with-me kind of way. Us readers are exposed to her underbelly. And we are drawn to it, because we see ourselves reflected in it. We're not perfect, and neither is Feyre. We love her for this. 

Avoid Stereotypes

The first step in creating characters that your readers can relate to is in the details. Dig well past stereotypes until you find traits and backstories that take your characters into the grey zone.

Here’s what that means.

Rather than paint your antagonist into a two-dimensional black hole (think: an out-and-out psychopath), give your antagonist some redeeming, even likeable qualities.

Like, for example, as  Sarah J. Maas did with her character  Manon Blackbeak in her novel   Throne of Glass . Manon is, at the outset, ruthless, killing men to drink their blood. But, over time, readers come to see she has a rather tender heart—exposed when she risks everything to save  Elide, Asterin, the Thirteen, and Dorian . 

On the flip side, when it comes to your protagonist, you'll want to give him or her deeper flaws. These will have your reader questioning their own support for your protagonist.

Look to Caroline Kepnes. She does this well in the book You . Readers are at once sympathetic to Joe Goldberg and disgusted by his behaviour. They can't figure out if they're on his side, or not. Confusion aside, it's virtually guaranteed, when you do this, your readers will be intrigued. And glued to the page.

Quit Protecting Your Characters

If your characters still aren’t connecting to your readers, you may be “protecting” them. That is, you may be keeping them from getting too hurt. This is a problem because what that translates to is you are creating lives too shiny for readers and their gritty reality to identify with. This causes a disconnect, which leads to a lack of interest for readers.

Guilty of this? Don’t kick yourself. You’re in good company. Early drafts of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian were, well, boring. Characters were indifferent when they should’ve been angry, and overly generous when they should’ve been selfish.

So, how did McCarthy write the lean nightmare that we know and love today? He stopped steering his characters away from the dark alley. He let them stumble and feel pain.

Follow his lead. Take your characters to a place that scares you. You probably already have something coming to mind right now as you read this. Don’t you?

Focus On Emotional Truth

Teens want to read stories that show them they aren’t alone, but this doesn’t mean they need to lead the exact same lives as the characters in your story. They just need to see their struggles in the characters. 

Look at Mateo Torrez in Adam Silvera's  They Both Die At The End , for example . Many of us can relate to  his having  anxiety, and his resultant decision to spend the majority of his time in the blogosphere.

And, I'd venture to bet, we can all , especially in the day and age of the Pandemic, relate to Mateo's parallel feeling: that the online world isn't enough, and that he needs to socialize in the real world, in spite of his anxiety.

So, while we may not all receive calls from  Death-Cast telling us we're going to die today (let's keep our fingers crossed on that one, anyway), we can relate to Mateo's feelings, his emotional truth. 

Or, look at Harry Potter . Most of us can relate to Harry. Even if we’ll never be involved in a duel with Lord Voldemort, we can still understand his pain. We’ve all lost people we’ve loved and have, at some point or another, felt like a misfit.

Take note: most teens struggle with identity. They’re asking, either consciously or subconsciously, all the time, “Who am I?” “Who should I be?” “How should I behave?”

If this doesn’t resonate with you, think about what does. What are some pain points you’re familiar with? You’ll be powerful when you can zero in on these.

Don’t be afraid if they’re “heavy.” Embrace challenging subject matter. As long as you’re not trying to be “edgy” or create cheap shock value, you should be well received. Come from a place of honesty. If your mind is drawing a blank on your past struggles, stay tuned for a number of techniques you can use.

In sum, the key to making sure your readers care about your story lies in exposing the full spectrum of your characters’ emotional truth, and allowing them, like any good parent, to fall down, get hurt, and then get back up again. 

Authors come off as authentic and likeable to YA readers when they accurately capture their readers’ range of thoughts, feelings, and experiences in their day to day lives.  

Chapter 3: The role of character progression & growth

Personal growth is a big part of what differentiates YA and adult stories. Why? Think back to when you were a teen. For most, this was a period of exponential growth because life was a minefield of firsts. 

Throughout your book, your protagonist should be growing up, actively transforming in front of the reader. As he or she learns, grows and changes, because of the events experienced in your book, your reader should be gaining insight, too.

How do you highlight this growth in your plot? Create complications and then use these as opportunities to facilitate your protagonist’s learning. If you need ideas, think about where tension came from when you were young. Common culprits are identity, but also relationships and change.

A fight with a friend, for example, can be insightful for your character—especially if it’s caused because your character blew a comment out of proportion, and is forced to reflect on why he or she did that. This can unroot a suppressed pain point your protagonist now has to confront.

Or, you could have a character that meets another character that mirrors back what they've been unwilling to look at in themselves. For instance, maybe your main character is queer but has been hiding from this truth. Having said character meet an out and proud queer character will encourage your character to, perhaps unconsciously at first, begin to discover this hidden aspect of self. 

Another example is your character being forced to change schools. Moving away from friends is a trigger for many teens who tend to use this as an opportunity to “start fresh”— to consider how they want to show up in their “new life” and reflect on who they want to be.

Scenes like these are powerful for your readers. They show how a collection of moments like those plotted in your storyline make an impact, shape us into the people we become.

With that eye opening, readers are encouraged to look inwards, at themselves, at what the plot points of their unique lives look like, and who they’ve become as a result. This is a large part of the power of story.

Don’t forget to be concise with your character’s reflections. Remember that YA is meant to be plot-driven. To ensure you’re keeping your story from getting too fatty, ask yourself of every scene:

  • What does this bring to the overall story?
  • Is this conversation/reflection necessary for the development of my characters?
  • How can my characters develop here? What are they learning?

Chapter 4: How to write authentically for young adults (even if you aren’t one)

As mentioned earlier, a YA novel cannot be told from the point of view of a wise, full blown adult. It has to be told from the point of view of a teen(s) to maintain integrity. 

If it's been a long time since you've been a teenager yourself, read on. The following is what the authors of the best YA books nail, which keeps their fanbase intrigued, loyal, and growing.

Embrace Your Inner Drama Queen

Most teens exaggerate. A lot. Like, one thousand times a day. Teens live in a heightened state of emotion, and exaggeration showcases that, compounded by their tendency to blurt things out before first thinking and putting them into perspective.

Say Adios To The Grammar Police

Dialogue not only can run, be cut short prematurely, or repeat senselessly in YA—they actually should . Teens aren’t precious with their grammar. Reflect that.

Be mindful of adjusting to your target. If you’re writing for younger teens, shorter, more declarative sentences work best, split up into many small paragraphs. For the older set, complex sentences and longer paragraphs are fair game.

Embrace Immaturity

We mentioned it once, but we’ll say it again. Avoid infusing any adult wisdom/analysis into your YA novel. Though typically self-absorbed, teens aren’t often too self-aware, nor do they consider why others may be acting the way they are. Portray them honestly. 

For example, your character would likely have an emotional reaction to her friend ignoring her. She’d get angry or feel hurt. She would not thoughtfully ponder what may be wrong in her friend’s life causing her to behave this way. 

If you’re feeling unsure of your portrayal of your characters, get in touch with your young, awkward, vulnerable self. The one that felt unsure, insecure, and/or naively invincible. If you can find a memory that cracked you open and made you see the world in a new light, dig into it. Write from this place. Let this experience show up in your work.

If you have them, unearth old diaries and read your entries. If you don’t, try people-watching. Studying teens out and about can help you remember what it’s like to be one of them. At the very least, take notes and put them to use.

Choose Simple Words

Lots of authors resort to slang to connect with their readers. Don’t. Slang dates books. Instead, use simple words. Ask yourself if a person the age of your characters would really talk in the way you’ve just written, and if a reader who’s your protagonist’s age would be able to understand. 

Chapter 5: The 1 ingredient your story’s ending MUST have

Ah, the kernel of hope . 

While no teen today wants to read a book with a boring, fairytale ending, optimism must exist in your book’s close. For instance, while your main character may not sky rocket from an anti-social leper to being the most popular kid in school, you’ll want to give him/her a friend or two by the end. 

Consider the popular School For Good And Evil series. It opens portraying Agatha as grumpy, friendless, and insecure. Over time though, we see the humour in her grumpiness. We see her find a friend in Sophie. And, slowly, we witness her gain self-confidence, too.

Another example is found in Thirteen Reasons Why . The story ends with Clay being unable to save the protagonist from ending her life. Although we feel his intense regret for not having tried harder to help her, there is a silver lining.

On the novel’s final page, Clay encounters another classmate that he is worried about. Unlike before, he doesn’t let the chance to help slip by. Motivated by Hannah’s story and his hope for a better outcome, he seizes the moment, and saves a life.

This optimism is crucial because your readers are impressionable. As an author, you’re a figure of indirect authority in their lives. It is your duty to give them a reason to wake up tomorrow, to know that although things get difficult, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

Chapter 6: Final Words

We hope you found this guide insightful and actionable. Now, it’s time to gather your notes and take a well-deserved break. 

After that, don’t hesitate. Take what you’ve learned here and apply it to your story. If you need more direct help with your particular book, we’re here to support you. 

Here’s how we at So You Want to Write? can assist:

  • Enrol yourself in one of our intensive  coaching programs 
  • Take a  workshop , or 
  • Arrange a  1-on-1 meeting with one of our literary experts

Or, if you’re just in need of regular motivation and helpful tips, you can start simply by joining our  email list .

Either way, we hope to hear from you soon.

5 Responses

Tom Brooks

May 09, 2022

I’m new. Very new. I’ve only begun to write what I hope will become a shed out YA series. I am writing from several characters points of view and want to use one of the main characters father as one of them. He isn’t very well spoken or a genius or anything and I wanted kids read something from an adults perspective and learn why we may do the things we do. Is this wrong?

Anna Black

January 19, 2022

Can an entire chapter of 6.5 pages have only narrative or should there be dialogue in each and every chapter of a YA novel? There’s lots of action, it’s just described in narrative. There’s a tiny scene of dialogue at the very end. Is that okay or should I rewrite it to have way more dialogue? Thanks.

So You Want To Write

So You Want To Write

January 06, 2021

Thanks for your questions. In response…

1. The reason people say 1st person, present tense is “best” comes down to the fact that most of the time this creates greater immediacy, which young readers (esp. these days with the shortening of attention span) typically prefer. 

That said, some prefer third person, past tense for the richness this style can lend. We see this more in the European markets, especially with readers who grew up on classics.

So, it isn’t cut and dry. It does depend ultimately on your market. Go with your gut, and with your editor/beta readers/agent’s feedback.

2. Yes, this is acceptable. There are lots of YA books that do multiple POVs, including the School For Good And Evil series, Six of Crows, Eleanor and Park, A Step Toward Falling, An Ember In The Ashes, etc.

Some things to ask yourself: Why am I writing in multiple POV? Does the story necessitate this? If so, all good.

If not, ask: Why have I structured my story in this way? Am I too scared to dive into the one character’s POV? Why?

Jim Lee

January 05, 2021

Thank you for the helpful advice. I have two published novels and one finished but not yet published novel, all in different genres. I am working on the third draft of my first YA novel. I have two questions: (1) I have been told that typically a YA novel is first person and present tense. Does that mean my MS with third person and past tense is less marketable? (2) My YA protagonist is a fifteen-year-old girl with the dominant point of view, but the story is told from several points of view. Is this acceptable in the YA marketplace? Jim Lee

Laurayne Bryon

Laurayne Bryon

October 26, 2020

I was on the fence about whether my trilogy was YA fiction. After reading this wonderful guide, I know I’m closer to the mark of YA fiction than I thought. Thanks so much for this. It is a light in dark places.

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Number Dyslexia

Top 7 Handwriting Books For Adults

Please Note : This post may contain  affiliate links. Please read my disclosure  (link)  for more info.

The handwriting requirement for grown-ups may be different from kids. Adults often need good penmanship to look professional in written communication and also to make a lasting impression on readers.  For this reason, some adults may feel like improving their handwriting to make their presentation skills better. Fortunately, handwriting resources like books are available for adults too. 

While apps may be handy to learn new tips and tricks, handwriting books assist to practice in real life. The choices provided in this article give out good practice sessions for neat handwriting and also ease your book decision.

Factors to consider while choosing a handwriting book 

Handwriting books can be opted by people of varying age groups. Now, if adults are looking for an appropriate handwriting book, there are some unique factors that they can consider:

  • Is the workbook informative? Adults often like books that offer multiple benefits. Handwriting books that are creative and offer additional value can be preferred. For example, a writing practice book in our suggestions gives out various science-related insights as they practice. 
  • Should not be too comprehensive. Most adults often know what the fundamentals of handwriting are. Accordingly, these books should have shorter word-based practice and longer sentence-based practice exercises. 
  • Books covering multiple styles can be preferable. As adults have better-grasping abilities they can learn two styles one after another or together. So, an individual can choose a book with multiple styles like cursive and manuscript.
  • Carriable size is important. Adults may like to carry these workbooks to places like the office to facilitate unhampered practice. To facilitate them, the books should be of the proper shape to get hold of and be fairly weighing. Also, these should easily fit in bags and briefcases. 
  • Handwriting books for adults should facilitate self-practice . As most adults like learning at their comfort time schedules, books that ensure complete guidelines are preferable. This way, each and every step of the learners get on the right path. 

Books for improving handwriting skills in adults

1. the lost art of handwriting workbook.

The Lost Art of Handwriting Workbook: Practice Sheets to Improve Your Penmanship

Pages of beautifully-designed letters, sayings, and phrases may be used to perfect your handwriting in The Lost Art of Handwriting. This workbook comes as a mix of directions, words, and also lines of text. This makes sure that learning is a sequential event for adults.

As the individual practices with this workbook, they can implicitly make them learn the proportions of good handwriting. Addressing the same, the maker claims it will be helpful later in writing cards, artworks, and many other areas too. Breaking down the book into small snippets of exercises, one can employ this book for daily practice.

2. Cursive Handwriting Workbook for Adults

Cursive Handwriting Workbook for Adults: Learn Cursive Writing for Adults (Adult Cursive Handwriting Workbook)

This is a short and effective workbook that comes with around 110 pages. Right from the first page, it makes sure the practice is fitting for adults- by keeping these in certain standards. This implies that words and phrases of daily use along with some peculiar options are also available. Other crucial features of this book include the detailed exercises of fundamentals of handwriting like Forming, joining, and writing letters thereby building solid mastery of sentences. 

The book is broken into four sections. It begins with each letter, then moves on to letter combinations, with lots of room for practice on each page. Later, there’s a chapter on writing words, followed by a chapter on rehearsing phrases. This book makes the complete handwriting journey smoother.

3. Cursive handwriting workbook for Adults By hipidoo

Cursive handwriting workbook for Adults: Learn to write in Cursive, Improve your writing skills & practice penmanship for adults (Master Print and Cursive Writing Penmanship for Adults)

This book develops an awareness of how to appropriately construct and link each cursive letter. The learner can start with bigger letters to get a better knowledge of letter shapes and curves. Later they are gradually taken to smaller letters. There are plenty of inspiring affirmations and quotations to trace and practice, and continuing the same can help in bringing about beautiful handwriting. This book is chock-full of helpful hints, specific hand motions, and styles for everyone.

The learner starts their journey by tracing cursive letters. Later, they learn how to connect multiple words. They also learn to write numbers, words, and affirmations-thereby completing the basics of handwriting.

4. Print and Cursive Handwriting Workbook

Print and Cursive Handwriting Workbook: 35 Lessons to Improve Your Penmanship

This book can be treated as a complete beginner book for adults as it teaches how to handle words with care while writing on paper. This book is one of the few choices that marks the importance of writing in the world of emails. 

Covering print and cursive handwriting styles, the learners are guided with clear instructions making their journey easy. This book points out three areas where it can be helpful: making the learner practically ready for writing, getting a step above in writing, and also creating scope to check for weaknesses and address them.

5. Print Handwriting Workbook for Adults By Ellie Roberts

Print Handwriting Workbook for Adults: Advanced Print Handwriting Worksheets with Intriguing Science Facts for a Meaningful Practice

The unique factor about this book is that it covers words and phrases related to science topics like anatomy, astrology, and engineering. This way it adds a new flavor to the adult-centric handwriting book. Indulging in exercises will not only address handwriting but also enlighten the learner with relevant information about today’s world. Another factor that makes it adult-centric is the smaller font- which means the individual can have a broader scope of practice.

The theme of the book is simple and serene. Just like any other handwriting book, users can learn, trace it and then duplicate it. Since the text practice is done in print font, the users can be exposed to plain text formatting in handwriting in an engaging way.

6. Improve Your Handwriting

Improve Your Handwriting (Teach Yourself)

This book comes up with a set of on-paper activities that makes it a good choice for mature learners. The exercises and sheets ensure that the users can easily self-diagnose their defects and improve their handwriting.

The book delves into the history and philosophy of handwriting, as well as how it should be practical in terms of speed and readability. Standing out from other exercise books, it is somewhat creative. To help you personalize your writing, the book explains how strokes, letters, and connectors function so you may modify the design without losing your handwriting. These same concepts may be used to improve the ergonomics and readability of your present handwriting. 

7. How I imagine my Handwriting By Belly Ortiz

How I imagine my Handwriting: Better Handwriting Practice Workbook for Adults: Learn to write and improve your handwriting skills.

Improving handwriting is a need for most adults. For struggling writers, it is a must. What this book ensures is good handwriting in less time. With just 100 pages of exercise, it encompasses easy, and engaging sessions that make learners stick to the essence of handwriting practice. 

To make the learning organized, this workbook is divided into five parts. Starting from simple shapes of writing, to phrases of lines practice, the adult can traverse a journey of sequential learning. For daily exercise and short-term practice, this book can be a good choice. 

Handwriting skills can be learned at any age. With regular practice, these attributes get polished over time.  Overall, slow down, pay attention, and experiment with different handwriting styles, as well as different pen types and paper combinations, to discover the one that works best for you. These books can be employed effortlessly for daily practice. Ponder over the features of each book and see which of these are the best fit for you.

Manpreet Singh

An engineer, Maths expert, Online Tutor and animal rights activist. In more than 5+ years of my online teaching experience, I closely worked with many students struggling with dyscalculia and dyslexia. With the years passing, I learned that not much effort being put into the awareness of this learning disorder. Students with dyscalculia often misunderstood for having  just a simple math fear. This is still an underresearched and understudied subject. I am also the founder of  Smartynote -‘The notepad app for dyslexia’, 

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Evening Standard

Best fantasy books for adults: Top novels to read from Impossible Creatures to Jonathan Strange

A s fully grown adults who pay taxes and shop for our own groceries, heading into the fantasy section of our local bookshop can feel like a thankless task. Instead of thick volumes of leather-bound literature, we’re met with poorly designed covers featuring anthropomorphic fantastical creatures romantically intertwined with one another.

Since the Twilight craze of the early 2000s, the realm of fantasy writing has been monopolised by pseudo-erotica. While we’re certainly not judging the rise of fantastical love stories featuring elves, ghouls, vampires and werewolves (and have been known to indulge in a few ourselves from time to time) – some of us also crave the brilliant stories and masterful world-building of the novels that we read as children.

From Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings to Neil Gaiman’s Stardust , finding the same fabled magic and parabolic lessons in today’s fantasy literature isn’t easy.

This is especially the case if you don’t know where to look, as you’ll likely find yourself accidentally browsing the YA fiction section and awkwardly coming home with a surprisingly smutty series. Yet contrary to popular belief, the community of fantasy lovers stretches far beyond the realms of teenage bloodsuckers and Tolkienites.

After sultry vampires in the early 2000s came dystopian fiction throughout the 2010s, but more recently we’ve seen a resurgence in the classic fantasy novels beloved by both adults and children alike. Now more than ever, it seems as though grown-ups at all stages in life are craving the escape offered by the fantasy genre.

Fantasy novels have also been known to bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood in beautiful ways, offering different meanings when read, or re-read at different stages of life. For instance, literary classics such as Le Petit Prince, Alice in Wonderland, Narnia , and Coraline which were read to us as children can offer invaluable insight into the virtues and lessons that we should carry with us as we tackle each new year of life.

Universal truths subtly delivered through a wonderful sense of escapism? Sign us up. From age-old classics to new-wave fantasy novels, we’ve rounded up some of the best of all time. Keep scrolling to escape the monotony of daily life and enter into the realm of mystery.

Impossible Creatures by Katherine Rundel

A masterful builder of fantasy realms, Rundel’s brand-new novel has already been earmarked by reviewers as a classic in the making. Though technically a children’s book, just like many other age-old classics, Impossible Creatures has received rave reviews from adults since its release.

Whether read with children or independently, fans of the first of Rundel’s trilogy will be introduced to the cluster of magical islands known as Archipelago, where mythological creatures have roamed free and undiscovered for centuries. As the magical barrier which protects these creatures begins to wear thin, the young Christopher and Mal must work together to solve the mystery of the Archipelago and save both the human and mythical worlds in one fell swoop.

Buy now £14.99, Foyles

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

You may have already come across the wave of promotions for the latest film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ iconic dystopian series. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes serves as a prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy and offers insight into the early life of Panem’s tyrannical leader, President Snow.

This fantastic novel delves into the history of the Hunger Games and the civil war to which the annual death matches were offered as a preventative solution. Collins also weaves through experiences and challenges Coriolanus Snow faced from early childhood and beyond which slowly turned him into the monstrous rose-touting being we know him to be by the time Katniss Everdeen enters the infamous arena.

Buy now £8.99, Foyles

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Before we explain the wonders of Susanna Clarke’s hefty debut novel, we highly suggest diving into the critically acclaimed Piranesi. More of a Novella, the 272-page book will familiarise you with Clarke’s masterful, almost surrealist style and get you excited about retroactively discovering her earlier works.

Now that we’ve got that out the way, Neil Gaiman himself declared Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell to be “unquestionably the finest English novel of the fantastic written in the last seventy years”. The 782-page novel isn’t exactly a light read, but it’s one that won’t leave your consciousness for years to come. The story follows the adventures of two 19th-century magicians who find themselves in fierce and decidedly dangerous competition with one another. Think: Christopher Nolan’s Prestige but if it were written by Charles Dickens.

Buy now £10.99, Amazon

Babel by R.F. Kuang

If you’ve ever found yourself enraptured by the mythological concept of the Library of Alexandria, then R.F. Kuang’s Babel is for you. The capital of all knowledge and progress in the world is an alternate, mythical re-imagining of Oxford, England. At its centre lies the Royal Institute of Translation (nicknamed Babel), and our orphaned protagonist Robin Swift can think of no better location to spend his days. Following themes of the power of language and imperialism, Swift quickly discovers he must do all he can to battle the systemic injustice brought about by the world's most prestigious institutions.

Buy now £14.07, Amazon

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

While Pullman’s beloved trilogy has since been brought to the silver screen, we highly recommend delving into the original masterfully crafted fantasy world before watching the acclaimed adaptation. Hailed as a modern classic, His Dark Materials follows the journey of an orphan called Lyra who inhabits a magical realm where science, theology and the preternatural overlap in wondrous ways. Throughout the trilogy, we follow Lyra on her hunt for a missing friend as she uncovers a dark conspiracy which plagues both her world and countless others.

Buy now £14.99, Amazon

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Yet another beloved fantasy novel which has been adapted for the silver screen, Gaiman’s Stardust remains a classic piece of escapist literature for adults and children alike. When speaking of his inspiration for Stardust , Gaiman stated “I wanted to write a story that would feel, to the reader, like something he or she had always known.” Indeed, the mythology which Gaiman builds feels like the type shared between childhood friends at the bottom of imagined fairy gardens.

Protagonist Tristan Thorn falls in love with a local girl called Victoria Forester and, in an attempt to win her love, vows to bring her a star from the night sky. Crossing over his town’s ancient border, Thorn finds himself in the Faerie realm – a dangerous land which is unfit for an ignorant human. We follow along as Thorn attempts to keep his promise to Forester in this devourable read.

Buy now £9.99, Waterstones

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

Vampires, ghouls and werewolves have truly never been more appealing - and we don’t mean in the romantic sense. In the Black Leopard, Red Wolf trilogy, Marlon James breathes new life into the otherwise tired fantasy tropes by drawing on African history, mythology and his own unfathomable imagination. One of Time’s 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time, James’ story follows a mercenary who is hired to find a missing child, as he travels through the thirteen kingdoms with a band of dangerous companions – including a witch and a shape-shifting leopard.

Buy now £21.14, Amazon

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

A ferociously passionate fantasy tale which follows an enemies-to-lovers trope taking place within the mythical lands of Prythian, where faeries and humans live in violent opposition.

Whether you’ve come across A Court of Thorns and Roses via social media platforms such as TikTok, or are simply in the market for a new erotic fantasy series to devour, you’re in the right place. The first of Sarah J Maas’ five-book series, A Court of Thorns and Roses follows the plight of a huntress named Feyre who kills a wolf in an act of survival to feed her family. However, the wolf that Feyre killed was not what it appeared, and her violent act had untold consequences for the young huntress and her people.

For her actions, Feyre is kidnapped and taken away from her family. While held captive by the masked Tamlin, Feyre’s feelings become complex – turning from hatred to lust, as the two lovers attempt to navigate the bloody consequences of their relationship and fight to break an ancient curse.

Buy now £7.00, Amazon

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Adult creative writing classes encourage learning beyond the university


When Emily Cataneo and Arshia Simkin graduated from their Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing  program in 2019 , they realized there weren't many opportunities outside of a university setting to improve creative writing.   

From there,  Redbud Writing Project , the Triangle’s only adult creative writing school , was born.

Founded by Cataneo and Simkin in 2019, the project works to provide writing classes and opportunities for adults regardless of  restrictions on time, money or resources. 

"There was a huge appetite for an offering like this in the community and so, almost five years later, here we are," Cataneo said . 

The organization is headquartered  in Raleigh and offers classes at satellite locations in Chapel Hill, Durham, Pittsboro and Carrboro, i ncluding at Golden Fig Books and Flyleaf Books .  

According to  Simkin, the organization attempts to make courses fun and engaging, while maintaining rigorous, college-level content in order to push students to write their best work.

Redbud is committed to the principles of compassion , empathy and candor, according to their website. The classes strive to inspire and create a safe space to share written work, while providing honest feedback.

“I think that people come to our classes and feel excited about writing but it's also important that they get feedback on ways to make their writing even better and suggestions and ideas for how to continue to progress,” Cataneo said.

Fiction teacher Matthew Buckley Smith   said he provides specific feedback that acts less like advice and more like guided questions in order to point his students in the right direction. 

Kaye Usry, a student at Redbud, began her journey with the organization in 2019 after seeking feedback on a personal project. Since then, she has taken various classes, including the "Writing the Novel" course, and has written a full novel.

Usry  said  students have the chance to workshop their peers’ work throughout the courses, which both improves the class’ creative writing and strengthens the course community.

“The classes are only six sessions, but I've made some really good friends through those classes, because it's such an intimate thing to share your writing with someone else and to make comments on someone else's writing," she said . "Because it's such a personal thing, even if you're not writing about yourself.”

Along with giving feedback on written works, teachers will assign readings that expose students to different voices, styles and moods, Usry said.

“In the class I took, we read " Never Let Me Go " by Kazuo Ishiguro, and we read an Elena Ferrante novel as well,” Usry said . “I didn't know about either of those authors and I've since come to love both of them.”

According to Simkin, Redbud makes every possible effort to incorporate scholarships and free community-based classes at partner organizations, including the Durham Center for Senior Life . These classes serve historically underrepresented groups in the creative writing field, such as BIPOC writers, domestic violence survivors, low income seniors and those who wish to share personal stories of reproductive injustice.

“We partnered with Planned Parenthood to do a class where people could learn how to write the issues affecting them around reproductive care,” Simkin said.

The project offers six-week courses , which vary in subject based on when they're taught. In the past, topics included sci-fi writing, poetry, feminist works, horror  and parenthood. Three of this month's classes, "Fiction I," "Writing the Body" and "Writing the Novel" are currently full.  

Cataneo said the courses are designed to be pieced together into the equivalent of an MFA. 

Redbud has become a place where like-minded writers with a common interest can form interpersonal connections, something which was particularly appealing for students in the years since the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.  

“Today, four out of six [students] said that they worked remotely and part of the reason they were signing up was to meet people,” Smith said . “So they tend to be pretty sweet and open people.”

Many of the teachers have seen the bonds formed through Redbud extend beyond the classroom, Cataneo said. Last year, she ran into former students hanging out when she was at a coffee shop.

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"Some people have creative writing groups themselves, and those groups have been meeting continuously for years," she said . "In some ways those friendships naturally form, but we also have specific, more official ways that we work to create community, too."

They host readings at the end of the six-week sessions where students can socialize, share their work and have a glass of wine to celebrate their accomplishments in the course.


@dthlifestyle | @dthlifestyle

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