When you finally silence that inner critic and decide to pursue your writing dream at full speed, you’ll go through the same rite of passage required of every new author: Googling “how to write a novel.”
This milestone search will introduce you to a world of authors, bloggers, and consultants offering advice, experiences, and guidance. Whether it’s outlining techniques or crafting the perfect plot twist, these story gurus are ready to provide the tools and knowledge you “need” to take your writing to the next level.
So long as you pay the right price.
Story Gurus: a World of Ideas
While every story guru will claim they have the keys to the storytelling kingdom, they may or may not get you to the most important destination: a finished manuscript. While following a few of your favorite gurus can be helpful, you don’t need every tool and course they promote. Writing takes time and practice like any other skill—and no magical formula can make it happen any faster. Your success needed depend on the wisdom of others.
That doesn’t mean story gurus are all bad, however. In fact, there’s a lot of great advice and tools available from some of the best minds in writing. Having a few sources of inspiration and guidance can help keep you motivated and on track during your writing journey.
With that in mind, here are ten story gurus that every new writer should follow.
#1: Blake Snyder
This American screenwriter, author, consultant, and educator out of L.A. is famous for penning early 90s comedies such as Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and Blank Check. Blake Synder took his experience in the entertainment industry and created Save The Cat!, a screenwriting book that has become somewhat of a holy text among writers of all genres.
The book outlines 15 essential plot points (which he calls “beats”) that he says every great story should contain. While he sadly passed away in 2009, his work remains evergreen and is a great starting point for any new writer looking to construct their own narrative masterpiece.
#2: Robert McKee
When author, lecturer, and story consultant Robert McKee first taught his “Story Seminar” class, he had no idea it would eventually transform into an infamous three-day intensive course attended by sold-out audiences worldwide. And yet, it did.
Unlike some teachers who wax poetic about storytelling mechanics, McKee teaches a few key principles that he says can be freely applied to stories of all styles and genres. While he no longer gives his widely attended talks in person, he does offer live online lectures as of 2023. He’s also written multiple books, his most popular being Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting.
#3: John Truby
After consulting on over 1,000 scripts, it’s safe to say that John Truby knows a thing or two about storytelling. The American screenwriter, director, and screenwriting teacher is the mind behind The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller, an in-depth guide to understanding and creating stories with resonance.
In addition to that classic, Truby also recently released a new book called The Anatomy of Genres: How Story Forms Explain the Way the World Works. He also has audio classes available on his website that cover how to write stories of pretty much every genre.
#4: Jessica Brody
Also known as the woman responsible for bringing Synder’s Save The Cat! method into the world of novel writing, Jessica Brody is an American author and writing educator who has written over a dozen novels for young adults and teens.
Her book, Save The Cat! Writes A Novel, outlines the same 15 beats Synder wrote about in his original work but applies them to novel writing instead of screenwriting. It’s become one of the most popular books on story structure and is a must-read for any budding author. She also founded the Writing Mastery Academy, which teaches participants everything from improving their storytelling to selling their novels to publishers.
#5: K.M. Weiland
As a historical and speculative fiction writer who’s well-versed in creating entire worlds and complex characters from scratch, K.M. Weiland is a wealth of information. She offers a wide variety of acclaimed writing guides that cover everything from novel outlining to character arcs to scene structure through her business, Helping Writers Become Authors. Her podcast is chock full of inspiring interviews and tips, as is her free blog.
#6: Randy Ingermanson
The award-winning novelist behind the infamous Writing Fiction for Dummies, Randy Ingermanson, is a self-proclaimed storyteller, tech geek, and physicist. He’s the creator of the Snowflake Method, an innovative approach to outlining that prioritizes novel design, and runs a popular website filled with writing resources and advice called Advanced Fiction Writing.
#7: James Scott Bell
This famous crime writer does more than just bring fictional bad guys to justice—James Scott Bell is also the author behind books like Revision & Self-Editing for Publication, Plot & Structure, and Write Your Novel From the Middle, all of which are essential reads for any new writer. His LOCK—lead, objective, confrontation, knockout—method of writing is widely utilized by writers, and he continues to share his knowledge via his Knockout Fiction course.
#8: Larry Brooks
Another well-known crime fiction writer, Larry Brooks is a stickler for story structure. His books, Story Engineering and Story Physics, cover the nuts and bolts of building a successful story and offer tips on making even the most basic idea come alive. He argues that the structure of a novel is just as important as its artistry.
#9: Matt Bell
Matt Bell is both a big-name American writer and the voice behind my personal favorite novel-writing guide, Refuse to be Done. In it, he reminds us of a key writing principle we all know but quickly forget: how rewriting is just as important as the initial drafting process. His book offers tons of tactics that break down the art of revisioning and help writers get their manuscripts over the finish line.
#10: Shawn Coyne
As the editor and founder of Story Grid—a toolset and editing method that breaks down different story components to identify problems and find solutions—Shawn Coyne is the go-to guru on story analysis. His book, The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know, is a must-read for writers looking to brush up on their editing skills. He also hosts the Story Grid podcast, which features interviews with writers and editors that discuss everything from plot structure to standard literary practices.
Don’t Forget Your Destination
A word of caution before you dive into the world of writing: don’t get too caught up in all the guru-ness. It’s flashy and easy to get swept away, so remember that no process is guaranteed to work. Some tools and tips can be helpful, but no one—no matter how large their following is or how many books they’ve written—has cracked the code.
Working with a book editor can provide the kind of 1:1 guidance and support that gurus just can’t give. Whether you need help honing in on your big picture or polishing your scenes and sentences, PDHines can help you get your manuscript ready for submission. Click here to learn more about our editing services and start your journey to publication today!