Looking for a gift for a writer friend, or perhaps, one for yourself? Here are five books I have found helpful in my writing this year.
Fiction Blurbs: The Best Way Forward Way by Phoebe J. Ravencraft
If you hate writing blurbs – those short pithy summaries of your story found on the back cover or online book page for your fiction or non-fiction book, you will love this book. The book starts by having you practice the skill on existing books and then helps you transfer what you learn to your own blurb. Chapter by chapter, Ravencraft breaks down the structure of a blurb into what each sentence needs to convey and then suggests the type of language you need to use to capture a reader’s interest. For example, she suggests that no sentence in a blurb have more than one comma to maintain clarity and snap.
Save the Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last Book on Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need by Jessica Brody
I am not sure this is the only book you need to write a novel, but it is a very helpful one. Using the plot structure from the original Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, Jessica Brody breaks down and analyzes the structure of ten novels each representing one of the major genres. For people who love outlining and a structural approach to plotting, the tools she provides are extremely useful. She goes over determining word count, locating the major plot points or fifteen story beats, and how to distill your story into a summary and blurb/pitch.
Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwain V. Swain
This is an oldie but a goodie. Written in 1965, Swain, who was a successful writer of genre fiction, breaks down the structure of a novel into its smallest parts, starting with the words you choose and builds to the overall structure of the novel. Most writing advice commonly offered today comes from his book. So, if you want to read writing wisdom in its original form, get this book. I particularly like his discussion of the action-reaction sequence, the role of character motivation, and the importance of having change at the beginning of a story.
Writing Deep Scene: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion & Theme Martha Alderson and Jordan Rosenfeld
I think the most important part of this book is the typology of scene types they present and their discussion of how to use them. Now I have to admit that I have written and published five novels without ever thinking about scene types. But I think my books would have been stronger if I had been more thoughtful in my selection and arrangement of some of my scenes. They also dig deep into action and emotion with excellent examples from selected novels.
Novel analysis is one of the best ways to learn what makes a novel work. However, I often find that examples are used that I am unfamiliar with. That is particularly the case in this book. What can be done and probably is of more benefit, is to apply their structural critique to a novel that resembles the one you want to write or to your own at the revision stage.
Writing for Emotional Impact: Advanced Dramatic Techniques to Attract, Engage, and Fascinate the Reader from Beginning to End by Karl Inglesias
This book covers much of the same craft techniques as the three books above. The style, however, is a little friendlier. Each technique is summarized in a few paragraphs. Instead of novel examples, movies are analyzed. My suggestion would be to read the other books in the preplanning stages for study so as to obtain deep knowledge of the techniques, and then use Inglesias for quick review during revision.
What helpful writing books have you read this year? Post below and share them with our fellow writers.
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11 thoughts on “5 Writing Craft Books You Shouldn’t Miss”
I really like “Seven Figure Fiction” too, by T. Taylor. It’s really easy to read and she talks about how universal fantasy sells books and stories. Very relatable.
Thanks for the recommendation. I put it on my 2023 to read list.
I love the whole Emotion Thesaurus line for everything from creating GMCs and the plot arc to ensuring I’ve captured reactions as I write.
Oh I do too. It’s the best for describing character motional states. I have mentioned it so much on my blog. Thank your for sharing.
I love the whole Emotion Thesaurus line of books, both to set up GMCs and outline a plot, as well as for during writing to ensure I’ve captured reactions well.
I find Stephen King’s On Writing is a great place to start. Part memoir, part how-to, it was just a perfect foundation. Steering the Craft by Ursula Le Guin was also a big one for me and that has exercises in it I found incredibly helpful.
I agree. On Writing is a must read for every write. Everything by LeGuin is wonderful. But I have never read her Steering the Craft book. Off to get it now.
My critique partner swears by Save the Cat. Great resource.
Save the Cat is great, but screenwriting focused. I think it should be read before Save the Cat Writes a Novel. But the two together make a nice package.
Thanks for the resources; I’ve read Save the Cat! but hadn’t heard of these other books until now! Though I’m far from finishing it, I’ve found The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne (and all of the free resources on his website) to be really helpful this year. The Story Grid method has given me a new way to look at story structure, scenes, and genres that really clicks with my brain!
Thank you for the recommendation. I love all these different ways to look at plotting. Each adds more nuance to my novel writing.
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