I always read widely when starting a new project. From getting a puppy, going somewhere different on holiday, to completing my proofreading course, I always read a lot about the particular subject I’m currently interested in (sometimes obsessively!). This got me thinking about the books that authors and writers might have found useful in helping them develop their writing skills. Being curious (nosy!), I decided to ask the authors and writers in the Facebook groups Book Connectors and Writers, Authors and Readers (check these groups out if you are on social media) which books they had found useful. This list of books is the result. Recommended by writers for writers, there might be something in this list you haven’t read and that you may find helpful.
Kate Bendelow, The Real CSI: A Forensics Handbook for Crime Writers
Who is allowed access to a crime scene? What happens when a body is discovered? Will a blood transfusion alter DNA? How can the distribution of gunshot residue inform your plot? The Real CIS – A Forensic Handbook for Crime Writers answers these questions and more in a unique and exclusive insight into crime scene investigation. Using real-life examples and case studies, experienced CSI Kate Bendelow shines a light behind the yellow tape and debunks the myths popularized by the ‘CSI Effect’. Each chapter explores the latest procedures in contemporary practice including: · Crime Scene access and preservation· Fingerprints and DNA profiling· Footwear· Trace evidence· Fire scenes· Drugs and toxicology· Firearms
Bloomsbury Yearbooks, Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2018
This bestselling guide to all areas of publishing and the media is completely revised and updated every year. The Yearbook is packed with advice, inspiration and practical guidance on who to contact and how to get published.
Foreword to the 2018 edition by David Lodge
New articles in the 2018 edition on:
– Writing popular history by Tom Holland
– Editing and writing by Diana Athill
– Ghostwriting by Gillian Stern
– Writing Thrillers by Kimberley Chambers
– The health and wellness market by Anita Bean
– Self-publishing online by Harry Bingham
– How to choose your agent by Jo Unwin
– First Chapters by Emma Flint
– Pitching your ideas by Mike Unwin
– How to make a living by Alison Branagan
All articles are reviewed and updated every year. Key articles on Copyright Law, Tax, Publishing Agreements, E-publishing, Publishing news and trends are fully updated every year.
Plus over 4,000 listings entries on who to contact and how across the media and publishing worlds
In short it is ‘Full of useful stuff’ – J.K. Rowling
Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron provides a twelve-week course that guides you through the process of recovering your creative self. It aims to dispel the ‘I’m not talented enough’ conditioning that holds many people back and helps you to unleash your own inner artist. Its step-by-step approach enables you to transform your life, overcome any artistic blocks you may suffer from, including limiting beliefs, fear, sabotage, jealousy and guilt, and replace them with self confidence and productivity. The Artist’s Way will demystify the creative process by making it a part of your daily life.
From Alicia Keys to Elizabeth Gilbert, Patricia Cornwell to Pete Townshend and Russell Brand, The Artist’s Way has helped thousands of people around the world to discover their inner artist. Whatever your artistic leanings, this book will give you the tools you need to enable you to fulfil your dreams.
Andrew J. Chamberlain, The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt Handbook: Everything you need to be a better writer and produce great work
This book has been written for you with one simple aim: to present the fundamentals of creative writing in a practical, accessible way that you can apply straight away to your own work.
Each chapter takes you through the principles of the craft, combining the best advice from professional writers, artists, and editors with examples from classic and contemporary literature. The Handbook is full of “toolbelt tips”; applicable advice on every dimension of the craft; from story development to genre, narrative structure to writing voice, and characterisation to world-building & setting.
This is what other writers have been saying about the Creative Writer’s Toolbelt Handbook:
“A unique and comprehensive handbook… it lays the foundations and then helps you build.”
“A refreshing change to many writing books.”
“I’ve found so few advice givers as competent and informative as Andrew Chamberlain”
The handbook divides into eight chapters, each focusing on dimension of the craft, with sections in each chapter giving you a range of tools that you can apply straight away to your own writing.
Lisa Cron, Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel
Following on the heels of Lisa Cron’s breakout first book, “Wired for Story,” this writing guide reveals how to use cognitive storytelling strategies to build a scene-by-scene blueprint for a riveting story.
“Story Genius” is a foolproof program that saves writers from penning hundreds of pages only to realize that something’s not working and they have to start again. Informed by story consultant Lisa Cron’s science-based insights into how story structure is built into the architecture of the brain, this guide shows writers how to plumb the nitty-gritty details of their raw idea to organically generate a story scene by scene. Once writers reach the end of Cron’s program, they will have both a blueprint that works and plenty of compelling writing suitable for their finished novel–allowing them to write forward with confidence.
Jeff Gerke, Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction
What’s more important to a story: a gripping plot or compelling characters? Literary-minded novelists argue in favor of character-based novels while commercial novelists argue in favor of plot-based stories, but the truth of the matter is this: The best fiction is rich in both.
Enter Plot Versus Character. This hands-on guide to creating a well-rounded novel embraces both of these crucial story components. You’ll learn to:
- Create layered characters by considering personality traits, natural attributes, and backgrounds
- Develop your character’s emotional journey and tie it to your plot’s inciting incident
- Construct a three-act story structure that can complement and sustain your character arc
- Expose character backstory in a manner that accentuates plot points
- Seamlessly intertwine plot and character to create a compelling page-turner filled with characters to whom readers can’t help but relate
- And much more
Filled with helpful examples and friendly instruction, Plot Versus Character takes the guesswork out of creating great fiction by giving you the tools you need to inject life into your characters and momentum into your plots.
Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within
For more than twenty years Natalie Goldberg has been challenging and cheering on writers with her books and workshops. In her groundbreaking first book, she brings together Zen meditation and writing in a new way. Writing practice, as she calls it, is no different from other forms of Zen practice —”it is backed by two thousand years of studying the mind.”
This new edition, which marks almost twenty years since the original book’s publication, includes a new preface in which Goldberg expresses her trademark enthusiasm for writing practice, as well as a depth of appreciation for the process that has come with time and experience. Also included is an interview with the author in which she reflects on the relationship between Zen sitting practice and writing, the importance of place, and the power of memory.
Cathie Hartigan and Margaret James, The Creative Writing Student’s Handbook
This new handbook takes students through the entire creative writing process.
You will find plenty of practical advice, helpful exercises, lots of tips and links to useful websites in this indispensable manual for new and seasoned writers alike.
Cathie Hartigan and Margaret James are highly motivated authors and creative writing tutors. Between them, they have over thirty years of successful teaching experience for Writers News Home Study Division, The London School of Journalism and Exeter College.
They are readers and judges for many international writing competitions and, with Sophie Duffy, are the founders and administrators of both The Exeter Novel Prize and The Exeter Story Prize – see www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk for more information about literary competitions and services to writers.
‘A very helpful guide.’ Dr Paul Vlitos – Programme Director of BA English Literature with Creative Writing. University of Surrey, Guildford, UK
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
There is a reason why Stephen King is one of the bestselling writers in the world, ever. Described in the Guardian as ‘the most remarkable storyteller in modern American literature’, Stephen King writes books that draw you in and are impossible to put down.
Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have.
King’s advice is grounded in the vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999 – and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery.
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”
“Superb writing advice… hilarious, helpful and provocative.” — “New York Times Book Review.”
“A warm, generous and hilarious guide through the writer’s world and its treacherous swamps.” — “Los Angeles Times.”
“A gift to all of us mortals who write or ever wanted to write… sidesplittingly funny, patiently wise and alternately cranky and kind — a reveille to get off our duffs and start writing “now,” while we still can.” — “Seattle Times.”
Ursula Le Guin, Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story
Completely revised and rewritten to address the challenges and opportunities of the modern era, this handbook is a short, deceptively simple guide to the craft of writing. Le Guin lays out ten chapters that address the most fundamental components of narrative, from the sound of language to sentence construction to point of view. Each chapter combines illustrative examples from the global canon with Le Guin’s own witty commentary and an exercise that the writer can do solo or in a group. She also offers a comprehensive guide to working in writing groups, both actual and online.
Masterly and concise, Steering the Craft deserves a place on every writer’s shelf.
Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing
“These are the rules I’ve picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I’m writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what’s taking place in the story.”–Elmore Leonard
For aspiring writers and lovers of the written word, this concise guide breaks down the writing process with simplicity and clarity. From adjectives and exclamation points to dialect and hoopetedoodle, Elmore Leonard explains what to avoid, what to aspire to, and what to do when it sounds like “writing” (rewrite).
Beautifully designed, filled with free-flowing, elegant illustrations and specially priced, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing is the perfect writer’s–and reader’s–gift.
David Lodge, The Art of Fiction
In this entertaining and enlightening collection David Lodge considers the art of fiction under a wide range of headings, drawing on writers as diverse as Henry James, Martin Amis, Jane Austen and James Joyce. Looking at ideas such as the Intrusive Author, Suspense, the Epistolary Novel, Magic Realism and Symbolism, and illustrating each topic with a passage taken from a classic or modern novel, David Lodge makes the richness and variety of British and American fiction accessible to the general reader.
He provides essential reading for students, aspiring writers and anyone who wants to understand how fiction works.
Robert McKee, Story: Subject, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting
Robert McKee’s screenwriting workshops have earned him an international reputation for inspiring novices, refining works in progress and putting major screenwriting careers back on track. Quincy Jones, Diane Keaton, Gloria Steinem, Julia Roberts, John Cleese and David Bowie are just a few of his celebrity alumni. Writers, producers, development executives and agents all flock to his lecture series, praising it as a mesmerizing and intense learning experience.
In “Story”, McKee expands on the concepts he teaches in his $450 seminars (considered a must by industry insiders), providing readers with the most comprehensive, integrated explanation of the craft of writing for the screen. No one better understands how all the elements of a screenplay fit together, and no one is better qualified to explain the “magic” of story construction and the relationship between structure and character than Robert McKee.
John Mullan, How Novels Work
Drawing on his weekly Guardian column, “Elements of Fiction” John Mullan offers an engaging look at the novel, focusing mostly on works of the last ten years as he illuminates the rich resources of novelistic technique. Mullan sheds light on some of the true masterworks of contemporary fiction, including Monica Ali’s Brick Lane, J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, Don DeLillo’s Underworld, Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley under Ground, Ian McEwan’s Atonement, John le Carré’s The Constant Gardener, Philip Roth’s The Human Stain, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated, and Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. He highlights how these acclaimed authors use some of the basic elements of fiction. Some topics (like plot, dialogue, or location) will appear familiar to most novel readers, while others (meta-narrative, prolepsis, amplification) will open readers’ eyes to new ways of understanding and appreciating the writer’s craft. Mullan also excels at comparing modern and classic authors-Nick Hornby’s adoption of a female narrator is compared to Daniel Defoe’s; Ian McEwan’s use of weather is set against Austen’s and Hardy’s. How Novels Work explains how the pleasures of novel reading often come from the formal ingenuity of the novelist, making visible techniques and effects we are often only half-aware of as we read. It is an entertaining and stimulating volume that will captivate anyone who is interested in the contemporary or the classical novel.
James Scott Bell, How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript
There is one sure-fire way of improving your novel fast. . . You may know the fundamentals of how to write fiction. You may be more than competent in plot, structure and characters. But if your dialogue is dull it will drag the whole story down. On the other hand, if your dialogue is crisp and full of tension it immediately grabs the reader. And if that reader is an agent or editor, sharp dialogue will give them instant assurance that you know what you’re doing as a writer. Writing a bestseller or hot screenplay is no easy task, but dazzling dialogue is an absolute essential if you want to get there. The best part is, the skills of the dialogue craft are easy to understand and put into practice. #1 bestselling writing coach James Scott Bell has put together and expanded upon the dialogue lectures from his popular writing seminars. In How to Write Dazzling Dialogue you’ll learn:
- What fictional dialogue is … and isn’t
- The 11 secrets of crafting memorable dialogue
- The 5 essential tasks of dialogue
- 5 ways to improve your dialogue ear
- 4 can’t-miss methods to increase conflict and tension in any dialogue exchange
- The top 10 dialogue issues, and how to resolve them
You’ll also see dazzling dialogue in action with examples from hit novels and screenplays. Don’t sabotage your chances of selling your work to readers or publishers because the dialogue is unexceptional. Dazzle them with what the characters say. How to Write Dazzling Dialogue will give you the tools to do it.
Plot and Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot that Grips Readers from Start to Finish
Craft an Engaging Plot
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?
With Write Great Fiction: Plot & Structure, you’ll discover the answers to these questions and more. 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.
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
Think of The War of Art as tough love… for yourself.
Since 2002, The War of Art has inspired people around the world to defeat “Resistance”; to recognize and knock down dream-blocking barriers and to silence the naysayers within us.Resistance kicks everyone’s butt, and the desire to defeat it is equally as universal. The War of Art identifies the enemy that every one of us must face, outlines a battle plan to conquer this internal foe, then pinpoints just how to achieve the greatest success.Though it was written for writers, it has been embraced by business entrepreneurs, actors, dancers, painters, photographers, filmmakers, military service members and thousands of others around the world.
Francine Prose, Reading Like a Writer
In her entertaining and edifying New York Times bestseller, acclaimed author Francine Prose invites you to sit by her side and take a guided tour of the tools and tricks of the masters to discover why their work has endured. Written with passion, humour and wisdom, Reading Like a Writer will inspire readers to return to literature with a fresh eye and an eager heart – to take pleasure in the long and magnificent sentences of Philip Roth and the breathtaking paragraphs of Isaac Babel; to look to John le Carré for a lesson in how to advance plot through dialogue and to Flannery O’Connor for the cunning use of the telling detail; to be inspired by Emily Brontë’s structural nuance and Charles Dickens’s deceptively simple narrative techniques. Most importantly, Prose cautions readers to slow down and pay attention to words, the raw material out of which all literature is crafted, and reminds us that good writing comes out of good reading.
Christopher Vogler, Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers
See why this book has become an international best seller and a true classic. The Writer’s Journey explores the powerful relationship between mythology and storytelling in a clear, concise style that’s made it required reading for movie executives, screenwriters, playwrights, scholars, and fans of pop culture all over the world. The updated and revised third edition provides new insights and observations from Vogler’s ongoing work on mythology’s influence on stories, movies, and man himself.
John Yorke, Into the Woods: A Five-Act Journey into Story
With examples ranging from The Godfather to True Detective, Mad Men to Macbeth, and fairy tales to Forbrydelsen (The Killing), Yorke utilizes Shakespearean five-act structure as a key to analyzing all storytelling in all narrative forms, from film and television to theatre and novel-writing–a big step from the usual three-act approach Into the Woods: A Five-Act Journey Into Story is destined to sit alongside David Mamet’s Three Uses of the Knife, Robert McKee’s Story, Syd Field’s Screenplay, and Lajos Egri’s The Art of Dramatic Writing as one of the most original, useful, and inspiring books ever on dramatic writing.
Have you read any of these books and found them useful? Are there any books you think should be added?
A huge thank you to the authors and writers from Book Connectors and Writers, Authors and Readers for sharing their favourite books with me.