If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo, you’ve probably discovered by now that finding a balance between writing and life can be challenging. Most writers have other things going on in their lives — school, families, jobs, and so on — and don’t have the resources to write full-time with no other responsibilities, whether that’s what we want or not. A writer can be any kind of person with any kind of life, which is one of the things that makes it so great to be a reader — there is a story for everyone. And sometimes the stories we want are exactly that: stories of what it is like to be a writer.
There are memoirs and biographies, of course, and published journals and letters. But sometimes I am in the mood for fiction. What writerly lives have real writers created in their imaginations? I have assembled this list of eight novels about writers and the writing life. Some of the titles focus first and foremost on the writing, while others are about other aspects of the lives of people who just happen to be writers. Some are contemporary, some are not; there’s romance, young adult, literary, and middle grade titles about multiple types of writers. Enjoy!
8 Books About Writers and the Writing Life
Beach Read by Emily Henry
Romance novelist January and literary fiction author Augustus are former college rivals and current neighbors, and they both have problems. Grief, trauma, and writer’s block are getting in their way. They challenge each other to swap genres, and find out a lot about each other in the process. Also there is banging and feelings. It’s the perfect book for anyone looking for a mix of the highs and very lows of real life.
Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami
This book is told from the perspectives of Natsuko, a 30-year-old aspiring writer, and Midoriko, her 12-year-old niece who is journaling about her inner thoughts about adolescence. I am still reading this one, but reviews suggest that the second half is from a younger Natsuko’s perspective and is a meditation on whether she wants to pursue motherhood without a partner — or at all. It’s contemplative and very funny.
The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee
Set in the late 1800s, this is a charming YA novel about Jo Kuan, lady’s maid by day and “Dear Sweetie” by night. She writes an advice column for the gentile ladies of Atlanta, doing her best to help fix society’s ills. When she pushes back on race and gender roles, angry readers try to find out who Miss Sweetie is. Then Jo receives an anonymous letter that could lead to the identity of her birth parents, and she has a lot of decisions to make.
Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
Okay, so most writers probably don’t have to juggle single parenthood, writer’s block, and being mistaken for a contract killer — let alone finding themself with an actual dead body. But I guess you might, and this book is a great read whether you find it instructive or not. I particularly love how real it is about the challenges of mothering small children and trying to get literally anything else done.
Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant
Sixteen-year-old Tessa Johnson just got into a prestigious creative writing program, and she has a problem: no ideas. Her best friend Caroline suggests that Tessa needs a real-life romance to inspire her, and gives her a list to complete in order to win over Nico, the boy of her dreams — who unfortunately already has a girlfriend. Tessa is determined, but what if it turns out this isn’t the love story she wants?
Hazel’s Theory of Evolution by Lisa Jenn Bigelow
In this touching middle grade novel, Hazel has to change schools and cope with her feelings about a potential younger sibling when one of her moms gets pregnant after two miscarriages. Hazel’s best friend is still at her old school and they’re growing apart. She gets teased for living on a farm, and struggles with not being interested in romance. She copes with all of it (in part) by journaling, which is an important kind of writing that can fit into anyone’s life.
Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade
April and Marcus both write fan fiction for their favorite TV series, and share it with each other under their anonymous screen names on an internet forum. But what April doesn’t know is that her online friend Book!AeneasWouldNever is actually Marcus, who plays Aeneas on the series. Who she is currently fake dating after an unfortunate incident on Twitter. Fanfic writers are real writers, and this book shows some of the ups and downs that can happen when fiction meets reality.
Topaz by Beverly Jenkins
Kate Love is a Black journalist in the 1800s investigating a a railroad stock swindler. When she gets in trouble, she is rescued by Dix Wildhorse, a Black Seminole Marshal sent by her father, who has promised her in marriage to pay his gambling debts. This historical romance novel has it all — Kate is ambitious and independent, Dix is capable and kind, and Miss Bev pulls no punches in presenting a vibrant love story in a realistic (historical) setting.
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