I don’t think it’s a secret that writers and editors love to read. It helps us improve our craft and learn effective ways to get our message across. As a developmental fiction editor, I’m always recommending craft books to clients. There’s a lot of advice out there. Some excellent. Some mediocre. Some downright wrong. While much of that advice is well-meaning, it can become quite prescriptive and rigid. There is only one truth in writing: everything in balance. And here’s a secret. Writing rules are trend driven and dictated by the market. That means what was once popular stylistically will wane and then comes back into fashion. The best craft books resist this market urge and can provide timeless practical advice. Here are some of my favourites which also show us that once in a while, it’s okay to break the rules.
G M C: Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon – a seminal book on getting to the heart of character building
The Making of a Story by Alice LaPlante – an anthology on the craft of writing
Intuitive Editing by Tiffany Yates Martin and Refuse to be Done by Matt Bell – teaches writers and editors how to edit while retaining voice and how to troubleshoot your own manuscript.
Understanding Show Don’t Tell by Janice Hardy – not only teaches how to show our writing, it tells us that sometimes it’s okay to tell.
The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald J Maass – gives tools on how to add emotion without the dreaded telling.
Finding Your Writer’s Voice by Bria Quinlan and Jeannie Lin – allows us to learn the unteachable: what makes us each unique writers.
Craft in the Real World by Mathew Salesses – if you only read one book, make it this one so you truly understand why the western story narrative isn’t the only way to tell a story.
The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio – anyone can write poetry and this book helps the writer unleash their imagination.
Dear Writer, Are You Intuitive? by Becca Syme – Becca Syme does some great work on teaching us how no one productivity method works for everyone. All her books and videos are highly recommended but this one struck a particular chord with me.
Story Arcana by Caroline Donahue and Tarot for Fiction Writers by Haley Dziuk- Tarot (like astrology) is based on archetypes which are also the building blocks of storytelling and character building. These books give you exercises to unlock your creative mind while giving insights into each archetype.
The Heroine’s Journey by Gail Carriger – We’ve all heard of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. She takes the myth of the hero and shows a different path – the heroine – while debunking gendered stereotypes.