A Brief List of My Personal Favorites
If you’re a novelist and looking for a good book on the craft of writing, you likely have realized after perusing the Internet that you have about a bazillion choices. So, where do you start?
Well, it may grate on some people’s beliefs, but technically, you don’t need any books on writing to be an author. If you have a good grasp of the English language and you read a lot of fiction and write fiction regularly, then you’re already pretty well set to get started. You’ll have room to grow and mature as a writer, certainly, but the more you read and write, the better you’ll be. Further, if you’re spending more time reading about how to write fiction than actually writing it or reading it, then you’re hurting your own potential as an author.
Of course, it won’t hurt for you to expand your horizons – when you have the time – by seeing what others have to say about the craft of writing novels … unless of course you feel completely overwhelmed by all the suggestions you discover and find that it’s hindering your own writing; in that case, then keep what works for you and chuck the rest, for the time being at least. Anything you can add to your arsenal will be helpful, but it should be a natural fit for you and not something that feels forced in relation to your own style as a writer.
So, all that said, here are six favorite resources of mine: three for helping you during the actual writing process, and three for the self-editing of your novel before hiring a professional editor.
On Writing Fiction: Getting the Story onto the Page
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King – The best of the best in my estimation. First part is King’s memoir, which is interesting, but once he gets into the craft of writing, he’s gold, even though some of his ideas might not fit for every author’s personality and writing style. The book is great, but the audio version is even better, as it’s read by King himself and allows you the chance to hear his own passion for what he’s sharing (audiobook available on iTunes for $19.95 as of writing this). Note: Lots of profanity, just so you know.
- Immediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course by Jerry Cleaver – Solid advice from an experienced teacher of the craft. Lots of good exercises and tips to develop and strengthen your writing muscles, especially in terms of making sure that your story is always moving the reader forward, whether you write fast-paced thrillers or slower-paced dramas. Note: Also lots of profanity in this one.
- AdvancedFictionWriting.com by Randy Ingermanson – Author of Fiction Writing for Dummies (which I haven’t check out yet) offers lots of great resources for novelists, including many that are free. Highly recommend the free “Snowflake Method” article, as well as the “Writing the Perfect Scene” article. Authors can also sign up for blog updates and Ingermanson’s e-zine.
On Wordsmithery: Refining What’s on the Page
- The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and EB White – Yes, it’s on most every writer resource list known to man, and that’s because it really is a handy little volume. Lots of good basics that novelists should always have in mind, including such winners as “Use the active voice” and “Omit needless words.”
- It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences by June Casagrande – A funny yet insightful work on how to craft solid sentences that will translate into better stories and nonfiction pieces. As the back cover says, “this lighthearted guide is perfect for anyone who’s dead serious about writing.”
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to EditYourself into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King – Pretty much the bible of self-editing for novelists. Covers some of the most common pitfalls that novelists make in early drafts of writing. Please note, though, that this is a book for after you’ve written a novel. Let your muse go wild in writing the first draft, make large-scale revisions to craft a second draft (and maybe a third), then use the principles of this book to polish and sharpen your story before you seek the services of a professional editor.
Enjoy – just not at the expense of reading fiction and writing your own novel!