5 Books for Writers that Aren’t Recommended Enough
Sorry, Stephen King! You didn't make the cut.
When I first became serious about learning THE CRAFT (i.e., writing complete sentences), every Best Of list for writers seemed to include Stephen King’s On Writing, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of those books. I’d recommend them too, except… All of them focus primarily on the mindset of a writer. Not practical, applicable tips that anyone can use to take their crappy first draft to the next level.
Here’s five books guaranteed to teach you lessons that you can apply to the page (or keyboard) next time you sit down to write your future bestseller.
1. Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K.M. Weiland
Regardless of which category you fall into, it’s beneficial to scribble down even a brief outline of your story. If for no other reason than to catch plot holes before you commit them to paper. K.M Weiland’s book teaches you how to outline effectively, explaining key storytelling concepts along the way so you understand not only how a successful story works, but why.
There’s also a separate companion workbook which allows you to follow along with her advice and apply it in real time to whatever story you’re currently working on. And if you need some extra inspiration, her blog is absolutely packed with insightful posts on storytelling and character creation.
2. Which Lie Did I Tell? by William Goldman
Part memoir, part writing how-to (or how-to-not), this book offers invaluable and humorous insight into the creative process. It’s Goldman’s other book Adventures in the Screen Trade that’s often recommended to students of screenwriting. But I find Which Lie Did I Tell to be far more beneficial to writers… regardless of whether you intend to write films, novels or anything in-between!
In this book, Goldman reveals his thought process, shares secrets to his work ethic and delivers applicable tips on storytelling amid humorous anecdotes about his time spent working in Hollywood. It’s an entertaining read, as well as an educational one.
And when you’re done reading it, you can always go watch any number of the films he wrote, such as The Princess Bride or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
3. Write Great Fiction Series
This entire series is a great asset to any writer’s collection, whether you consider yourself a beginner, a little rusty or an advanced guru.
Each book tackles a specific element of the storytelling process, whether that’s Descriptions and Settings or Revision. If you’re struggling with a particular area of writing, you can easily find a book in this series that isolates that concept and explains it in easy-to-understand terms.
If I had to pick a favorite, it’d be Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. Maybe I’m biased since plot is my particular writer’s kryptonite… but Bell’s unique perspective on the topic helped me understand concepts that other writers had completely failed to teach me.
2. Creating Short Fiction by Damon Knight
Although Damon Knight isn’t considered a household name, he was a prolific short story writer whose story “To Serve Man” was the basis for the one of the most iconic episodes of The Twilight Zone.
Don’t let the title of this book fool you! Although Knight primarily wrote short stories, his teachings are applicable to writers of any form, be it novellas or doorstoppers à la Brandon Sanderson.
This book is packed with incredibly insightful tips on how to create stories and characters from scratch, ensure they act realistically even in the craziest of circumstances, and wise advice on how to ensure your story resonates with readers.
1. Now Write! Series
There’s a reason I saved this series for last. In a troubling amount of writing books, there is very little emphasis placed on actually writing. Often I’ll find myself reading pages and pages of lofty musings on mindset… without ever stumbling upon a single call to action to drop the book and WRITE SOMETHING.
The books in this series are definitely not guilty of that. They’re designed to get us writing as soon as possible!
Each book in the series is centered around a particular genre or theme, such as Mysteries or Nonfiction, and provides writing exercises created by masters of the craft in each field. For example, the Screenwriting book contains exercises by screenwriters who penned such award-winning films as Raging Bull and Cape Fear.
With these books on your shelf, you’ll never have an excuse not to write!
(This article was originally published on Medium.)