I love books, writing books included. I have them all. Well, maybe not all, but I do have quite a few, and my collection constantly grows. I read them, highlight passages, make notes, and then if they are truly excellent I keep them on my “How to Write” bookshelf. These are the books I reach for when engaging in the fine art of novel writing. I never have to dust these books off because they are in constant use. Anytime I am thinking something through—whether character, plot, story—or even when I just need some writing inspiration, these are my “go to” books.
The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell
I open this one again and again for everything from writing tips to inspiration. This one is on my desk and stuck with tape flags. It’s probably (if I had to pick) my all-time favorite writing book. (See complete review here.)
Scene & Structure by Jack Bickham
Jack Bickham is a student of Dwight Swain, and he’s infinitely easier to read and understand. His examples and explanation of the differences between scene, sequel and transition are clear and excellent. If you are a writer just starting out this is one to get and read cover-to-cover.
The Writers Journey by Christopher Vogler
One of those classic books you must read. Christopher Vogler is a student of Joseph Campbell. This book talks about the mythic structure and uses well-known movies as an example. (See complete review here.)
Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maas
Some of the best advice and writing exercises around. This book will make you dig deeper and gives some great advice for ramping up your manuscript. (See complete review here.)
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Perfect for when the writing life is getting you down or making you think you are insane—which for us writers is quite often. Inspirational and a great read.
On Writing by Stephen King
In addition to being an entertaining and great read, King gives excellent, precise, on-the-nose writing advice.
Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan
This book has all you need to know about writing description. In addition to being a wonderful how-to book, the exercises teach you to think beyond surface description to write the details of your world in a meaningful way.
Fiction Writer’s Brainstormer by James V. Smith, Jr.
Page after page of brainstorming exercises with regards to elements of your story, plot, characters, scenes, titles, you name it! Not all exercises work in all instances, but there are so many and you can take off and modify them to suit your own brainstorming style. This is another one I refer to quite often.
Writer’s Digest Grammar Desk Reference (Writer’s Digest) by Gary Lutz
The best and easiest-to-use grammar and stylebook I’ve ever found. I got rid of all the others once I opened this one.
Tarot for Writers by Corrine Kenner
If you love working with tarot cards, this one is just plain fun. Also great for brainstorming and breaking out of “box” thinking.
The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson
Not really a writing book, but a fun look at personality types. Helpful when trying to focus a character. And pinpointing your own personality type is eye-opening too.
Lori, Scene and Structure is my number one all time favorite writing how-to book. I go back to it again and again and again and recommend it to every writer I know. I would add Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder to your list. It’s an excellent, clear and incredibly useful (and often funny) how-to book for writers.
Oops. Don’t know why I put Lori in that comment. Kathy! I meant Kathy!
Oh, that’s an excellent suggestion! I love “Save the Cat” and it is a great read in addition to fantastic writing advice. Consider it added :o)
Thank you for sharing, Kathy. I’ve read a few of these and am always looking for recs by ‘authorities’ such as you so I don’t waste time on how-to-write books that are less than highly regarded. Free time is hard enough to find anymore as it is.
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I love books on craft–some of my favorites are on here, but there are a host I haven’t yet read, so I am so glad to find this post. 🙂 Love Donald Maass’ Breakout Novel (but Fire in Fiction less so). The Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is also good (Browne & King), as is Description (Wood) and Save the Cat (Snyder) & Writing Screenplays that Sell (Hauge).
Thanks for adding to my reading list!
Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse
Thanks for the ideas, Angela. I’m always looking for more craft books–I love them too! I have read and added Save the Cat to my collection, but not the others yet, so will do 🙂