These books belong on your bookshelf, and their collective wisdom belongs in your writing mind!
Books On Writing Fiction
Steering the Craft:
A Twenty-First Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story
by Ursula K. Le Guin (revised 2015 edition)
This book of writing advice from award-winning, ground-breaking author Le Guin is a priceless resource for the emerging writer. Le Guin avoids wasting time on the obvious platitudes about good writing and focuses instead on under-the-hood, nitty-gritty techniques, often overlooked, that separate mundane output from true excellence. New materials added to the original 2005 work includes a chapter on “Crowding and Leaping” that alone is worth the price of this book. As one Amazon reviewer said: “This is a condensed elixir of art and experience and maybe is not for a general audience. But I seriously think it’s a great secret weapon to have in your arsenal if you are serious about your writing.” It’s the book I recommend most often to emerging writers seeking to make their fiction richer.
How To Write Your Best Story:
Advice for Writers on Spinning an Enchanting Tale (2nd ed.)
by Philip Martin (Crispin Books, 2017)
Trade Softcover • 168 pages • $14.95
Full disclaimer: I am the author of this book. I wrote it to highlight techniques of storytelling seldom taught in writing courses, but seen consistently in great works of award-winning and popular fiction. The focus here is on exploring three key elements that fuel the magic of story: intriguing eccentricity, delightful details, and satisfying surprises. The proven storytelling techniques are time-tested and used by the best authors, including winners of the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer, and National Book Award, as well as commercially successful authors whose books appear on bestseller lists and whose work is treasured by generations of fans. “[This book] goes behind technique, practice, and skill, to the heart of things: what a story is, why stories matter, what we’re doing when we tell (or write) one.” – SJ Rozan, award-winning mystery novelist.
The Writer’s Journey:
Mythic Structure for Writers (3rd Ed.)
by Christopher Vogler
A classic work, this book drew writers’ attention to the “Hero’s Journey,” a folk tale structure found around the world and explored in Joseph Campbell’s studies of mythology and archetypes. The Writer’s Journey by Vogler looks at the fictional tools provided by this structure, and offers many ideas for ways to connect and reconnect your writing with the tremendous power of myth and traditional hero tales. Very useful for the revision stage, as you review your initial draft to identify what is working, what is weak or missing, and what can increase the overall impact of your novel by pulling the most powerful elements to the forefront.
Books On Writing Nonfiction
A Writer’s Coach:
The Complete Guide to Writing Strategies that Work
by Jack Hart (2006)
I learn something every time I pick up this amazing book. Jack Hart is editor at large for The Oregonian and has coached writers for many years while mastering the craft himself. His book is a clear, well-organized set of great advice on how to craft the journalistic report or story (and by extension, many other forms of writing). The Table of Contents shows the approach: Method, Process, Structure, Force, Brevity, Clarity, Rhythm, Humanity, Color, Voice, Mechanics, Mastery. I love that the list includes force, brevity, clarity, rhythm. Too many writers can produce run-of-the-mill work, but haven’t learned to elevate their work to the next level. Best of all, he practices what he preaches. The book’s succinctness is wonderful. This is one of the least-fluff, most bang-for-the-buck book on writing I have on my bookshelf. It’s one of the best books on craft for nonfiction writers. Get it. You’ll read it many times . . . and enjoy it each time.
Books on Becoming a Successful Writer
The Business of Being a Writer
by Jane Friedman (2018)
University of Chicago Press
This essential book offers the business perspective that emerging writers often overlook, preferring to rely on hearsay, wishful thinking, and luck. This core business knowledge will boost the prospects for any writer with realistic ambition and a commitment to succeeding in a highly competitive field. The trick is to merge a writer’s dewy-eyed dreams and artistic goals with a better sense of feasible targets and how to get there. Friedman’s advice is always based on reality, and still manages to be encouraging.
Build Your Author Platform: The New Rules
by Carole Jelen and Michael McCallister
As an indie publisher, I’ve acquired many books of advice on marketing books, creating publicity plans, building a social-media presence, and developing business plans and platforms to promote an author’s career and sell books.This is one of the best resources in that field. If you want to develop a real-world marketing plan for your published work as an author, this book delivers a terrific bang for the buck. It covers a lot of ground in just the right level of detail, combining practical action steps with a common-sense overall strategy. (See full review of Build Your Author Platform here.)
Books on Pitching to Literary Agents
The First Five Pages:
A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
by Noah Lukeman (1999, paperback 2005)
This book drives home the book-industry imperative: you must make an irresistible impression in the first several pages of your submission. Given the huge piles of queries and submissions clamoring for the attention of any literary agent or editor, your writing needs to be crisp, compelling, and unique from the opening sentence. Thankfully, this book not only makes that point clearly, it also offers practical advice on how to shape your writing to pass this test.
Making the Perfect Pitch:
How To Catch A Literary Agent’s Eye (2nd Ed.)
Advice from 45 Literary Agents
edited by Katharine Sands (Crispin Books, March 2018)
Trade Softcover • 322 pages • $19.95
The book is full of sample query-letter excerpts, pitching techniques, essential lists of dos and don’ts, and valuable insights into the tastes and preferences of literary agents representing fiction to nonfiction, children’s books, memoir, poetry collections, and more. Making the Perfect Pitch will give you that edge of insider information needed to successfully pitch your novel or book project to the right agent.