Books You Need to Sharpen Your Skills as a Writer

When I first started writing, I wrote short stories and scenes. When I decided to try my hand at writing a novel, I soon discovered that this was a different beast. And I mean beast! Now that I've tamed the beast (for a novel is a huge unruly thing), I can finally hone my skills, fine tune my writing, make my storytelling stand out and develop my style and voice. I've had some help along the way.  My top ten favorite books now are listed below and why I like them.

My collection of books. In the order I bought them.

1. The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing. Writer's Digest 2nd edition. I used this book as a base for when I first started writing. It's a compilation of different writers on different subjects. It's a good first book for starting out to get an overview of how to write a novel.
2. Fire in the Fiction: passion, purpose and techniques by Donald Maass. Writer's Digest Books. He talks about writing deep, passionately, purposefully. Make your book matter.
3. The Breakout Novelist: craft and strategies for career fiction writers by Donald Maass. Writer's Digest Books. This one talks about writing a book that will break out of the midlist, harnessing the unique story within you.
4. Plot and Structure: techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers from start to finish by James Bell. Writer's Digest Books. Once I felt like I had a story to tell, I bought a book on plot and structure because I didn't know how to weld the unmanageable beast that is the novel. I still consult this book after I finish a first draft. (And what is going on with these super long subtitles?)
5. Conflict, Action and Suspense by William Noble. Writer's Digest Books. But you write romances, you say. Why do you need this book? Well, if you think there is no conflict or action or suspense in romance books, you must not be reading them. Romances are fraught with conflict. And suspense? It's called tension. And every book must have it! Anticipation is the word of the day.
6. Dialogue: Techniques and exercises for crafting effective dialogue by Gloria Kempton. Writer's Digest Books. I bought these next three books together after I received some feedback that my dialogue and characters were flat. Though it was much needed feedback, it really hit me hard because with a theatrical background, I thought I was "good" at dialogue. This book helped me learn that dialogue has a deep purpose.
7. Characters, Emotion and Viewpoint:Techniques and exercises for crafting dynamic characters and effective viewpoints by Nancy Kress. Writer's Digest Books. This one helped me create a sense of emotion through characters and viewpoint, really helping me hone my character's reactions, motivations, and reveal these in a beautiful way.
8. Dynamic Characters: How to create personalities that keep readers captivated by Nancy Kress. Writer's Digest Books. I want to have characters that change us, help us to see a truth, embody a virtue. Excellent book for this.
9. Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Michael Wiese Productions. This book is actually on screenwriting, but it's a book about storytelling. How the story beats play out. I like to take my story and lay it over the top of his story beats. He also gives an interesting twist to classifying your story. Worth a look.
10. The First 50 Pages:Engage agents, editors and readers, and set up your novel for success by Jeff Gerke. I wanted to make sure that I was sending out the very best of my work in the first fifty pages, which is what most people are going to read to get an idea of your story.

Honorable mentions: Writing the Heart of Your Story:The secret of crafting an unforgettable story by C.S. Larkin. I don't own this one, but it helped me to reach down deep inside me and to talk about things that have been buried for a long time, things that are important issues to me, things that are sensitive and dear to me. Troubleshooting Your Novel: Essential techniques for identifying and solving manuscript problems by Stephan James. See? I still have problems with my novels. I haven't finished reading this one yet since I just got it for Christmas, but so far it's been very thought provoking.

What are your favorite writing books? Tools? Websites?


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