My 8 Favorite Books on Writing
Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain
It was written all the way back in 1974, but this is my favorite book on the list. So much good advice in here, but the best is: Move a story along quickly by making sure you have two elements in each chapter—a motivating stimulus and a character reaction. A motivating stimulus is something that happens (a person pulls a gun on your character or an ex-girlfriend calls up out of the blue); the character reaction is what your character does in response to that stimulus (he pulls a gun of his own, he runs away, he slams down the phone or decides to chat). Have a stimulus and reaction in every chapter and readers will be unable to put your story down.
Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One by Les Edgerton
If you want to get an agent’s (or a reader’s) attention, the opening of your novel is the most important part of your book. In most cases, the first few pages of your novel will be the only part an agent even reads. Hooked is strictly about opening a novel—everything from not cramming too much “fluff” into your first few pages to the importance of jumping straight into the action from the opening sentence. Sprinkled throughout are tons of examples of books with great openings.
How to Write a Damn Good Mystery Novel by James Frey
This book focuses on writing a mystery novel but there’s information in here that’s helpful for any writer. There’s an easy-to-follow guide to laying out a step-sheet for your novel (a fancy word for a detailed outline) and a list of character archetypes you may want to include in your book.
On Writing by Stephen King
You may have heard of Stephen King, a moderately successful author. He wrote a book about writing books. And it’s very good.
Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
Many consider this to be the best screenwriting book on the market, but there’s also plenty of advice that’s relevant for novel writers, too. There’s advice on everything from putting together an attention-grabbing logline (a one-sentence summary of your book/screenplay) to exercises that help you generate ideas for your next novel/screenplay.
2k to 10k by Rachel Aaron
Productivity is the focus in this book. There’s great advice about becoming a more prolific writer and increasing your output. My favorite: Writing is an active art, not a passive art. Don’t sit around waiting for inspiration or a story to materialize. Instead, pursue your ideas relentlessly.
Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose
Writing isn’t just about being a good writer; it’s about being a good reader, too. This book focuses on what writers should pay attention to as they’re reading novels—how your favorite writers structure their novels, build sentences, introduce their characters, and so much more.