In the last few years, I’ve bought more books on writing, the craft, editing, or being a writer. I’ve written about craft books before and all of the books below are worthy additions to my growing collection. If your favourite craft book isn’t on the list, leave it in the comments below!
Zen and the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
This is a classic, so it’s probably no surprise my mother-in-law gifted it to me. I’d put it next to Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and On Writing by Stephen King. It mostly reads like essays bundled together with writing tips sprinkled throughout. I read mostly to inspire and motivate myself and I’ll probably reread it again in a few years. It’s definitely a fun book to gift the writer in your circle.
The Anatomy of Prose by Sacha Black
If I had to recommend one book to new authors (whether they are already published or not), The Anatomy of Prose by Sacha Black is it. It holds a lot of knowledge and brings it in a funny and concise way. It’s a book I could read each year and focus on a different part to grow as a writer. Sacha Black has more good craft books and I highly recommend you check out her podcast The Rebel Author Podcast. Each week she has a guest and talks about a specific writing or business topic.
On Writing and Worldbuilding Vol 2 by Timothy Hickson
In my previous post, I mentioned the first volume of this series. Timothy Hickson has released his second book in his worldbuilding series. He covers different topics this time but with the same depth and care as in his videos and previous book. You can get most of the information from his videos but as someone who learns better by reading off a page, a book is just better for me. Plus I can sticky it up, highlight, and make notes in the margins. To me, this is a workbook.
Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody
The one book every writer has in their collection, whether they use it or not. Save the Cat is one of the structuring tools for novels, like the Hero’s Journey or Romancing the Beat. Before you can break the rules, you have to know the rules. There are dozens of ways to tell a story. Some of them are genre-dependent but culture can also play a part. Save the Cat was originally created for screenplays by Blake Snyder. Then Jessica Brody adapted it to work for novels.
Do you have to use it? No. Will you become a better writer after reading this? Probably, especially if you’re still in the early stages of writing. By analysing successful stories, you’ll see what works well and what doesn’t. You’ll see why certain plot points in a movie resonate so much with the viewer. And what expectations of the genre are. You don’t have to use it. But it helps to understand it.
Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland
An in-depth look at character arcs. K.M. Weiland covers the positive, negative, and flat character arc in this book. It’s all you need to get started. If you work through the book and takes notes about your character as you read, you’ll end up with a pretty good image of who your character is, what they want, what they need, and how they’re going to get it. If you’re story is character driven, you can easily integrate the elements because she ties the character development to the general story structure. If your readers don’t like or connect with your characters, this book might help you to create better ones.
The Artful Edit by Susan Bell
Editing is still the phase in the writing process I dislike the most. In the coming year, I hope to shorten the process and make it easier, and more digestible for me. Mindset is one part of editing; being able to handle the critique. Another part is to grow your language skills. The Artful Edit and the book below, Steering the Craft, will help me with that part.
Steering the Craft by Ursula Le Guin
Another book on editing and this one mostly focuses on copy editing. Grammar rules, punctuation, word choice, etc. It’s no Elements of Style but as much as that is required reading, I think it’s outdated in some ways. And sometimes it helps to understand why certain rules are the way they are. I haven’t read the whole book yet, but it’s a valuable addition to my collection.