Last January I wrote an article called “10 Helpful Writing Blogs for Every Type of Writer“. I am following that up in regards to writing books. I know there are so many books out there for writers that it can be impossible sometimes to pick the best one. I hope you enjoy this list and find it useful in your writing career. Note: This list is in no particular order as they are all amazing!
Characters & Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing) by Orson Scott Card – Orson Scott Card presents practical, in-depth instruction on how fiction writers can make the best choices in creating characters and handling viewpoint. The author shows how to put original yet realistic people into fiction.
About the Author: Orson Scott Card is the bestselling author best known for the classic Ender’s Game, Ender’s Shadow and other novels in the Ender universe. Most recently, he was awarded the 2008 Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in Young Adult literature, from the American Library Association. Card has written sixty-one books, assorted plays, comics, and essays and newspaper columns. His work has won multiple awards, including back-to-back wins of the Hugo and the Nebula Awards-the only author to have done so in consecutive years. His titles have also landed on ‘best of’ lists and been adopted by cities, universities and libraries for reading programs. The Ender novels have inspired a Marvel Comics series, a forthcoming video game from Chair Entertainment, and pre-production on a film version. A highly anticipated The Authorized Ender Companion, written by Jake Black, is also forthcoming. Card offers writing workshops from time to time and occasionally teaches writing and literature at universities. Orson Scott Card currently lives with his family in Greensboro, NC.
How To Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card – You’ve always dreamed of writing science fiction and fantasy tales that pull readers into extraordinary new worlds and fantastic conflicts. Best-selling author Orson Scott Card shows you how it’s done, distilling years of writing experience and publishing success into concise, no-nonsense advice. You’ll learn how to:
- utilize story elements that define the science fiction and fantasy genres
- build, populate, and dramatize a credible, inviting world your readers will want to explore
- develop the “rules” of time, space and magic that affect your world and its inhabitants
- construct a compelling story by developing ideas, characters, and events that keep readers turning pages
- find the markets for speculative fiction, reach them, and get published
- submit queries, write cover letters, find an agent, and live the life of a writer
The boundaries of your imagination are infinite. Explore them with Orson Scott Card and create fiction that casts a spell over agents, publishers, and readers from every world.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King – On Writing is both a textbook for writers and a memoir of Stephen’s life and will, thus, appeal even to those who are not aspiring writers. If you’ve always wondered what led Steve to become a writer and how he came to be the success he is today, this will answer those questions.
About the author: Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. Among his most recent are the Dark Tower novels, Cell, From a Buick 8, Everything’s Eventual, Hearts in Atlantis, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and Bag of Bones. His acclaimed nonfiction book, On Writing, was also a bestseller. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.
Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass – Whether you’re a commercial storyteller or a literary novelist, whether your goal is to write a best-selling novel or captivate readers with a satisfying, beautifully written story, the key to success is the same: high-impact fiction. Writing 21st Century Fiction will help you write a novel for today’s readers and market, filled with rich characters, compelling plots, and resonant themes. Author and literary agent Donald Maass shows you how to:
- Create fiction that transcends genre, conjures characters who look and feel more “real” than real people, and shows readers the work around them in new ways.
- Infuse every page with an electric current of emotional appeal and micro-tension.
- Harness the power of parallels, symbols, metaphors, and more to illuminate your novel in a lasting way.
- Develop a personalized method of writing that works for you.
With an arsenal of thought-provoking prompts and questions, plus plenty of examples from best-selling titles, Writing 21st Century Fiction will strip away your preconceived notions about writing in today’s world and give you the essential tools you need to create fiction that will leave both readers and critics in awe.
About the author: Donald Maass heads the Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York City, which represents more than 150 novelists and sells more than 150 novels every year to publishers in America and overseas. He is a past president of the Association of Authors Representatives, Inc., and is the author of several books of interest to fiction writers, including Writing the Breakout Novel, The Fire in Fiction, and The Breakout Novelist (all from Writer’s Digest Books).
The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi – One of the biggest problem areas for writers is conveying a character’s emotions to the reader in a unique, compelling way. This book comes to the rescue by highlighting 75 emotions and listing the possible body language cues, thoughts, and visceral responses for each. Using its easy-to-navigate list format, readers can draw inspiration from character cues that range in intensity to match any emotional moment. The Emotion Thesaurus also tackles common emotion-related writing problems and provides methods to overcome them. This writing tool encourages writers to show, not tell emotion and is a creative brainstorming resource for any fiction project.
The Positive Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi – It’s a writer’s job to create compelling characters who can withstand life’s fallout without giving up. But building authentic, memorable heroes is no easy task. To forge realistic characters, we must hobble them with flaws that set them back while giving them positive attributes to help them achieve their goals. So how do writers choose the right blend of strengths for their characters–attributes that will render them admirable and worth rooting for–without making it too easy for them to succeed?
Character creation can be hard, but it’s about to get a lot easier.
Inside The Positive Trait Thesaurus, you’ll find:
- A large selection of attributes to choose from when building a personality profile. Each entry lists possible causes for why a trait might emerge, along with associated attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and emotions
- Real character examples from literature, film, or television to show how an attribute drives actions and decisions, influences goals, and steers relationships
- Advice on using positive traits to immediately hook readers while avoiding common personality pitfalls
- Insight on human needs and morality, and how each determines the strengths that emerge in heroes and villains alike
- Information on the key role positive attributes play within the character arc, and how they’re vital to overcoming fatal flaws and achieving success
- Downloadable tools for organizing a character’s attributes and providing a deeper understanding of his past, his needs, and the emotional wounds he must overcome
If you find character creation difficult or worry that your cast members all seem the same, The Positive Trait Thesaurus is brimming with ideas to help you develop one-of-a-kind, dynamic characters that readers will love. Extensively indexed, with entries written in a user-friendly list format, this brainstorming resource is perfect for any character creation project.
The Negative Train Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi – Crafting likable, interesting characters is a balancing act, and finding that perfect mix of strengths and weaknesses can be difficult. But the task has become easier thanks to The Negative Trait Thesaurus.
Through its flaw-centric exploration of character arc, motivation, emotional wounds, and basic needs, writers will learn which flaws make the most sense for their heroes, villains, and other members of the story’s cast. Inside The Negative Trait Thesaurus you’ll find:
- A vast collection of flaws to explore when building a character’s personality. Each entry includes possible causes, attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and related emotions
- Real examples from literature, film, or television to show how each flaw can create life challenges and relational friction
- Advice on building layered and memorable characters from the ground up
- An in-depth look at backstory, emotional wounds, and how pain warps a character’s view of himself and his world, influencing behavior and decision making
- A flaw-centric exploration of character arc, relationships, motivation, and basic needs
- Tips on how to best show a character’s flaws to readers while avoiding common pitfalls
- Downloadable tools to aid writers in character creation
About the authors: Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi are the creators of the award winning online resource for writers, Writers Helping Writers (formerly The Bookshelf Muse). Members of SCBWI, both authors write in the Middle Grade and Young Adult genres.
Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (P.S.) by Francine Prose — Long before there were creative-writing workshops and degrees, how did aspiring writers learn to write? By reading the work of their predecessors and contemporaries, says Francine Prose.
In Reading Like a Writer, Prose invites you to sit by her side and take a guided tour of the tools and the tricks of the masters. She reads the work of the very best writers—Dostoyevsky, Flaubert, Kafka, Austen, Dickens, Woolf, Chekhov—and discovers why their work has endured. She takes pleasure in the long and magnificent sentences of Philip Roth and the breathtaking paragraphs of Isaac Babel; she is deeply moved by the brilliant characterization in George Eliot’s Middlemarch. She looks to John Le Carré for a lesson in how to advance plot through dialogue, to Flannery O’Connor for the cunning use of the telling detail, and to James Joyce and Katherine Mansfield for clever examples of how to employ gesture to create character. She cautions readers to slow down and pay attention to words, the raw material out of which literature is crafted.
Written with passion, humor, and wisdom, Reading Like a Writer will inspire readers to return to literature with a fresh eye and an eager heart.
About the author: Francine Prose is the author of sixteen books of fiction. Her novel A Changed Man won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and Blue Angel was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent works of nonfiction include the highly acclaimed Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and the New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer. A former president of PEN American Center, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Francine Prose lives in New York City.
Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell — How does plot influence story structure? What’s the difference between plotting for commercial and literary fiction? How do you revise a plot or structure that’s gone off course?
Award-winning author James Scott Bell offers clear, concise information that will help you create a believable and memorable plot, including:
- Techniques for crafting strong beginnings, middles, and ends
- Easy-to-understand plotting diagrams and charts
- Brainstorming techniques for original plot ideas
- Thought-provoking exercises at the end of each chapter
- Story structure models and methods for all genres
- Tips and tools for correcting common plot problems
Filled with plot examples from popular novels, comprehensive checklists, and practical hands-on guidance, Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure gives you the skills you need to approach plot and structure like an experienced pro.
About the author: JAMES SCOTT BELL is a bestselling and award winning suspense writer, and one of the top writing coaches in the country. He writes in both the traditional and indie publishing realms. Writing as K. Bennett, he is the author of the Mallory Caine, Zombie-at-Law series, which begins with PAY ME IN FLESH. In 2012 he became the first writer to have a self published work nominated for the prestigious International Thriller Writers Award (for the novella ONE MORE LIE). He was the fiction columnist for Writer’s Digest magazine and has written four popular books for the Writers Digest line: Plot & Structure, Revision & Self-Editing, The Art of War for Writers and Conflict & Suspense. Jim taught novel writing at Pepperdine University and continues to teach at numerous writers conferences in the United States, Canada, London, Australia, and New Zealand. He attended the University of California, Santa Barbara where he studied writing with Raymond Carver. He lives and writes in L.A. He blogs weekly at Kill Zone.
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. —The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. is a prescriptive American English writing style guide comprising eight “elementary rules of usage”, ten “elementary principles of composition”, “a few matters of form”, a list of forty-nine “words and expressions commonly misused”, and a list of fifty-seven “words often misspelled”. In 2011, Time magazine listed The Elements of Style as one of the 100 best and most influential books written in English since 1923.
About the author: William Strunk Jr. (1 July 1869 – 26 September 1946), was a professor of English at Cornell University and author of the The Elements of Style (1918). After revision and enlargement by his former student E. B. White, it became a highly influential guide to English usage during the late 20th century, commonly called Strunk & White.
Did you find your favorite on this list? If not, please share in the comments below.
Featured image provided by Tribecomics.com.