I know, I know. If we read books about writing it takes time away from actually doing our favorite thing—writing! Some folks say “just write and you will get better”. Well, no. If we just write with no foundation, we write crap. I know because I did it, and I thought my crap was fantastic. Thankfully my writing has improved by leaps and bounds. The secret? Reading books about writing and then actually putting what I learned into practice.
If you are reading this and just panicked about your draft, don’t worry. Self-editing is part of the writing process, and after reading about writing, it will come more natural.
People also say that reading anything improves writing. It certainly does. Reading leaves an impression on our minds not only about grammar and vocabulary, but about writing styles. Not all styles are timeless. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t read for fun. I’m saying we should learn what to take with a grain of salt as we devour books. Hemingway and King can probably get away with a lot more broken rules than can a newbie like me, and some writing styles I grew up with are no longer popular.
Wouldn’t it be great if an experienced person read thousands of novels and shared all the knowledge he or she gleaned?
People do. They write books about it.
Stuck on plot? Not sure if an outline is for you? Can’t seem to make your characters get from point A to point B? Read about writing. It’s faster than trying to decipher 100 successful books.
We can get concentrated knowledge gleaned from years of experience if we read books about writing.
As I finally wrap up my second edit, I have time to read a few of these books before jumping back into more edits and critiques.
Here are some books I’ve found helpful and some I want to read
“Five Minutes to Success: Master the Craft of Writing” by D. W. Vogel, Jeri Fay Maynard
This book has a great overview of the entire novel writing process. It has small, bite-sized portions with five-minute exercises. I wish I had read it when the first itch for storytelling begged to be scratched. I would probably be a year ahead of where I am now.
“How Stories Really Work: Exploring the Physics of Fiction” by Grant P. Hudson
This author dissects several great works of fiction and uses them as examples to show what elements and patterns make a great story, and the different story classifications. This is how I am able to see what sort of story I have or want to have. It also helps flesh out my characters according to their roles
“Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing: Revised Edition” by Libbie Hawker
This is written for people who write by the seat of their pants but want to try plotting. I figure plotting will help me make book two and three much faster, and help me get more organized so I don’t miss stuff. Time will tell if it worked!
There are two types of sellers: those who write and then market, and those that write to their market. The latter has already produced something the intended audience wants and therefore will sell more books. This book is about how to write to your intended audience’s tastes (write to market).
“On Writing” by Stephen King
This is a fun mix of his life growing up and tips he’s gathered from his writing experience. It’s got humor plenty of sass, and a kick in the pants no-nonsense approach.
“Elements of Style” by Strunk and White
This book gives readers the rules of the writing road. I figure I should know them and how/why they work before I think about breaking them. It’s like a style guide for books. Successful businesses have style guides that control their brand, which increases credibility. Books do too.
“Plot Gardening” by Chris Fox
This one boasts:
“-The basics of story structure, and how it is used
-How and why worldbuilding is important, and how to do your own worldbuilding
-The components of great characters, and how you can bring yours to life
-How to create a living outline that will change and adapt as your characters come to life”
“Mastering the Craft of Writing: How to Write With Clarity, Emphasis, and Style” by Stephen Wilbers
“Write with economy: Eliminate wordiness, use strong verbs to drive your sentences, and don’t trust modifiers. Write with emphasis: Use punctuation for effect, structure sentences and paragraphs for coherency and flow, and employ repetition to make your point. Write with distinction: Use your imagination to create the unexpected, add a light-hearted touch to your writing, and go beyond clarity to eloquence and grace. With exercises, entertaining asides, and a wealth of useful information, Mastering the Craft of Writing is an invaluable resource for any writer. Once you master these techniques, you’ll want to use them in everything you write.”
“Making it in Historical Fiction” By Libby Halker
I recommend this to anyone thinking about HF writing, or already in progress. It gives some industry tidbits that I found pretty revealing, and it helps point out what readers expect from their historical fiction.
“Emotion Thesaurus” By Puglisi and Ackerman
Before drafting to editing, this book helps make compelling characters that people care about, without falling back on typical actions or stating emotions.
“Show Don’t Tell” By Sandra Gerth
I’d read this book 50 times. Beginning writers usually fall into the telling trap that makes their work not so great. But there is a time to tell, after all, and this book makes it clear on when to show and when to tell, and how to fix the spots that need fixing.
“The Everything Guide to Writing Your First Novel” By Hallie Ephron
If you ever need a step by step guide on how to overcome typical problems with writing, researching, getting editors, etc., this is a great place to start.
That’s my list for now. I hope to get some of these under my belt before the next edit on my manuscript. What are your go-to books on writing? What’s on your reading list?