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Monday, May 5, 2014

Book We Can’t Live Without: The Writer Version

Hi, I’m Stina and I have a confession to make. I am a writing-craft-book junkie. It started out quite innocently. I knew it wasn’t enough to write a story and hope for the best. I needed to know HOW to construct a compelling story and characters. So, I purchased a few general books on the topic of writing fiction, but quickly realized they weren’t enough. We each have our own strengths and weaknesses, and these books are too limited in scope to help us. Books that focused on our specific needs are a much better investment of time, money, and space.

As I’ve mentioned before, I became a craft-book junkie. If a book looked good, I just had to have it. I ended up buying some books that were golden, and others that were no better than the sludge at the bottom of a lake. To spare you the frustration I went through, I decided to share some of my all-time favorite books for those of you who want to challenge your craft further. Some of the books are also excellent reference material. 

Plotting Your Novel

Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass: This workbook is filled with useful exercises to help you during the planning process. Or, if you’re a panster, it will help you during revisions. I have several books like this, but Donald’s book is by far the best.

Save The Cat by Blake Snyder: This is a favorite for a lot of fiction writers and screenwriters. Even if you’re not a fan of outlining, the book will help you plan the basic structure to keep your story from meandering all over the place. This will save you time during edits.

Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass: Of all of Donald’s books, this one is my favorite. There are a lot of questions in it to help you shape your characters and plot, and to help you create an emotional read. It can be used during outlining or during edits.


Getting Into Character—Seven Secrets A Novelist Can Learn From Actors by Brandilyn Collins: Not only does this book help with getting into character, it has chapters on writing emotion and subtext.

The Negative Trait Thesaurus and the Positive Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi: These two guides will help you write multi-dimensional characters.

The Writer’s Guide to Psychology by Carolyn Kaufman: Fiction writers and screenwriters are notorious for making things up when it comes to psychological disorders. Instead of doing the proper research, they rely on their imagination and movies. The result is a loss of credibility when a reader does know better. Or worse yet, your inaccurate portrayal of a psychological disorder might have a negative impact on individuals who deal with it in real life.

Miscellaneous Topics

Hooked by Les Edgerton: If your first pages don’t grab your reader, the individual will toss the book aside and move onto something else. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the rest of the book might be, if the reader gives up before then, they won’t get to appreciate it. Hooked will help ensure your beginning is just as compelling as the remainder of the book.

The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi: This brilliant resource will ensure that you’re showing your characters emotions instead of telling the reader how the characters feel.

Rivet Your Readers With Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson: This skinny book is fill with exercises to help you take your writing from shallow to deep. It’s the different between showing and telling, and is a great companion to The Emotion Thesaurus. These two books will help your readers connect with your characters.

Writing Subtext by Linda Seger: The short book covers all kinds of topics dealing with subtext, and will help you create a more enriched read.

Conflict & Suspense by James Scott Bell: This book is one of those you’ll want to refer to every time you write a story. It doesn’t matter what genre you write, this book will help you ensure that your story is a page turner.

Strengthen Your Writing

It was the best of sentences, it was the worse of sentences by June Casagrande: Your writing can’t help but come out stronger after you read this book.

Roget’s International Thesaurus: This is not a standard thesaurus. It’s organized according categories and the concept behind it is brilliant. You’ll never want to use a regular thesaurus after checking out this one.

Editor-Proof Your Writing by Don McNair: I can guarantee this book will tighten your writing and gave agents and editors the clear prose they crave (which is the other part of the title: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave).

Do you have any favorite writing-craft books that you can’t live without?

Stina Lindenblatt @StinaLL writes New Adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and can be found at her blog/website.   She is represented by Marisa Corvisiero, and finds it weird talking about herself in third person. Her debut New Adult contemporary romance TELL ME WHEN (Carina Press, HQN) is now available. LET ME KNOW (Carina Press) will be available Sept 1st, 2014.


Andrea Mack said...

Thanks for this great list of resources, Stina!

Traci Kenworth said...

I'm a craft-book junkie too!!

Anne Louise Bannon said...

Great list. However, you're missing Howdunit: Book of Poisons, by Serita Stevens and Anne Bannon Pray forgive the self-serving part of this, but my husband would be very upset if I didn't mention the book.

Kassie Kay said...

This is an awesome list! I especially appreciate the little blurbs explaining why you like each book. Thanks, heaps!

You MUST add Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott!!! I'm sure you've read it. It's golden. If you haven't, you need to. It's my favorite.