Four great books for writers

In honor of my return to the blog, I’m putting a post for my fellow writers. Because that’s why I’ve been away. I’ve been writing the whole time, working on a new novel. I swear.

Writers must read. It’s the first requirement. We should all read widely in genre and out, and this includes so-called “craft books.” Some writers balk at this advice. There’s an old belief that writing is somehow innate: either know how to do it or you don’t.

Truth is, none of us were born knowing how to write. If it’s a talent, it’s a learned one. And here are a few great books to help you keep learning:

writing_breakoutWriting the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. Maas is an agent and a writer. (He has a pseudonym. If anyone knows it—send me an email. I hate not knowing things.) Anyway, Maas spent some time analyzing the novels that break out of the pack and take off. The result: excellent, not-so-obvious observations that can help tip your novel in the right direction.


on_writingOn Writing by Steven King. I would read this just for the awesome storytelling. King tells the story of how he became a writer, which is really entertaining—and he gives some solid practical advice. Like kill your adverbs. Really Kill them dead.



save_the_catSave the Cat by Blake Snyder. This is a screenwriters book, but the patterns Snyder identifies are pretty universal to storytelling. The book has been criticized for over-emphasizing formulas–and I am not an advocate formula fiction (snore). Still, every writer should be aware of readers’ expectations in story lines, and Snyder lays that framework bare, so you can learn how to set it up yourself—then you can twist it, subvert or tear it all down if you want to.



Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Has any writer not read this one yet? If you haven’t go out and get it, Lamott knows the writer’s mind. She has great ideas to help you get past all those hangups and get writing!



What are your favorite writing craft books?

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6 Responses to Four great books for writers

  1. Lisa Thomson says:

    Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg is a tad new age-y but good.

  2. On Writing is my favorite of all time. Although, Julia Cameron has several, such as Artist’s Way, that are great as well.

  3. sarazaske says:

    I received a passel of recommendations from a writers’ group I’m a part of, so I thought I’d pass them along:
    Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley
    Lectures on Literature by Vladimir Nabokov
    What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
    On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner
    The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
    The Getaway Car by Ann Patchett
    The Mindful Writer by Dinty W. Moore
    If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland
    Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster
    How I Write by Janet Evanovich

  4. R J Madigan says:

    I love Bird by Bird. It’s in my reference collection right by my computer in the office. Rae.

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