The Five Best Editing Books For New Writers

Aug 14, 2023 | Editing

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As a writer, I absolutely love reading books about writing. I can spend hours on end reading (and very often re-reading) books that better help me understand the craft and challenges of writing a good story. More complicated, however, are finding books about the delicate craft of editing. It makes sense though, seeing how the act of re-writing is often seen as much more difficult than putting pen to paper and getting the story down. If you’re working on re-writing your book and are looking for a guide, these are, in my mind, the best editing books you can read.

Before delving in, a bit of a caveat. A lot of the best books about writing explore a successful mindset. How you, as an author, can explore the process and craft of writing in a way that improves your results on the page. 

The same can be said of the best editing books. Looking closely at your book’s first draft and knowing the best path to rewriting it takes a focused mindset. It takes a deep understanding of the craft of telling a story and these books, in my mind, offer that to you.

Without further preface, here is my list of the five best editing books you can buy. 

A List Of The Best Editing Books

“Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence” by Lisa Cron

I loved reading this book. As something of an amateur science nerd, I got a thrill out of this book, which offers a view of the human brain, essentially, “on story”. Neuroscience can essentially verify what happens in our minds when we’re engaged with writing, reading, or listening to a story. For some this might feel like a long way around, it is every author’s ambition to affect their reader’s mind function. Here’s how. Literally. 


“Story Engineering: Mastering the Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing” by Larry Brooks

Larry Brooks is a master at talking about story craft. The author of numerous fiction books, and books on writing, this particular volume deals with those core competencies for successful writing. What does your story need to do to make an impression on a reader? Read Brooks’ techniques and put your fiction to the test. This one is absolutely necessary if you’re looking at the first draft of your manuscript and wondering how to take it to the next level.


“Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore” by Elizabeth Lyon

Good writing, they say, comes from re-writing. No one writes a perfect first draft. The books you read have been re-written over and over again, a process that for many young authors is as frustrating as it is mysterious. It took a lot just to write the book. Now you have to re-write it? Among the best editing books on the market, Lyon takes you on a tour through your manuscript and shows you how to amp up their effect on the reader.


“The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile” by Noah Lukeman

Careers are made and broken in those first five pages. If your manuscript’s opening passes the test, you’ve got a chance to get your agent or editor’s attention. If it doesn’t, your book gets tossed into the slushpile, a place where books simply don’t come back from. Lukeman is masterful at showing readers how to win a reader over in those first five pages. 


the best editing books, erick mertz writing

“The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults” by Cheryl Klein

Young adult fiction is hot. I mean really hot. If you’re going to try to break into that highly competitive market, you need to read this book, which focuses particularly on development. Editing your book isn’t just a pain in the neck step you’re supposed to do. It is actually a painstaking process devoted to developing the elements in the story – character, story arcs and series conventions. I count this among the best editing books because it embraces the process.


The Best Editing Books… A Bonus Recommendation

“Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” by Renni Browne and Dave King

OK, OK, I said five books. I added this sixth book, call it a bonus, because Browne and King specifically tackle the process of self-editing. This is when an author goes through their book themselves – no editor, no beta readers – and figures out what the book needs. This is not a highly recommended endeavor for new authors, or even more experienced ones either, but if you’re looking at cost cutting, or streamlining your process, this is the one of the best editing books for self-editing. 


Where To Look For The Future Best Editing Books

As I described earlier in this blog, quality writing (and especially re-writing) comes from a strong baseline of fundamental skills and abilities. An author, whatever their experience, needs to deeply understand a host of concepts, and possess a bevy of skills, in order to write the kind of fiction (or nonfiction) that grabs hold of a reader’s attention and really brings them in. 

There are hundreds of books about the craft of rewriting out there, many of which are small, self-published volumes, offered by successful authors. While these authors may not have the same luminary, recognizable brand as the authors I offered here, they offer something unique: a personal connection between you, the student, and teacher.

Do you like a particular author? Check out their website and see if they offer services like editing, consultation, or books on the craft. I highly recommend investing your education energy in learning methods from authors you enjoy reading. That way you can see for yourself the results of their craft.  

If you’re looking for more about rewriting your story, beyond these books, I recommend developing the skill through practice. Feeling inspiration and writing a story is one skill, something most writers have early on in the process, but honing that story is