I read hundreds of books, and have quite a stash of writing craft books. Depending on where you are in your writing journey, some of these books can be hard to follow or confusing at best. Finding the advice you need can mean wading through pages of irrelevant info.
The best ever writing craft book for me has been Donald Maas' Writing the Breakout Novel. I used some of the exercises in it to write some prize-winning short stories. I've just ordered his latest, but it hasn't arrived yet--no next-day Amazon delivery in Australia, more like next month!
A great craft book I picked up over the holidays is The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing by the editors of Writer's Digest (I love their work). You may have it. I've got the first edition, but there is a second edition out. It is divided into several sections, each penned by famous writers such as Margaret Attwood, Stephen King, yes...Donald Maas, Anne Tyler et al. The beauty of it is you don't have to wade through it cover to cover, you can pick what you feel like reading or need to know about at the moment. It comes in five parts...
PART ONE is the Art and Craft of a Strong Narrative
If you're struggling with ideas and getting started, there's Taming the Beast by N.M. Kelby, using a great example in Truman Capote--ideas can start out running wild, train them onto the page. Then once you have the idea, there's plenty of advice on outlining your novel which I definitely need.
There's advice on Plot and Structure by the masters, which includes great advice on settings/locations.
As you'd expect, there's a HUGE section on Characterisation, including tips from Alice Hoffman on bringing your characters to life.
PART TWO is all about The Writing Process
There's heaps of best-selling advice from the likes of Sue Grafton and Elizabeth Sims. This section concludes with two great articles on Revision and Editing.
PART THREE is Exploring Novel Genres
I found this section great as I have to write fantasy in my writing group. It's a way to equip yourself if you want to try different genres--Literary, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Horror, Mystery/Suspense/Whodunits, Romance and much more...all by top-selling authors in each genre.
PART FOUR is about Finding and Cultivating a Market for your Work
Well, if you write it, then you need to sell it. This part is all about publishing, the market, book proposals, queries, synopsis, rejections, platforms (including for novellas), marketing plans, editors, agents, contracts, self-publishing. It's all there!
PART FIVE is Interviews with Novelists
Let's listen to Tom Clancy, Elizabeth George, Joyce Carol Oates, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut, Anne Tyler, Stephen King, Cory Doctorow talking about their way of writing...these are superb.
The book concludes with Best-Selling Advice. This varies a lot from author to author.
Overall, this is a great book on the craft of writing, one of the best I think. It inspires me. If you haven't got a copy on your shelves, I highly recommend you grab one.
- Have you read this writing craft book? If so, are you a fan?
- What is your favourite writing craft book?
- Do you find how-to books a help or a hindrance?
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