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Recommended Books on Writing Technique: The Best of the Best
by Cheryl Rainfield, 2009
Good books on how to write fiction can be invaluable. They can help you discover new ways to make your writing more effective and powerful, show you things to avoid so that you don't turn readers off or throw them out of your story, and dramatically help you improve the quality of your writing. However, it's important to remember that every author is coming from the perspective of what works for them–and what works for one writer does not work for all writers. Take what works for you, and throw out the rest.
I have created a list of some of my favorite books on fiction technique–books I recommend. They are all well written, easy to read, and they all have valuable advice that I wish I'd listened to years earlier. I hope you'll find them useful. I know I have.
If you have any resistance to learning technique, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life and Live Writing: Breathing Life into Your Words are the easiest to dive into. Bird by Bird is funny, vibrant, and real, and inserts bits of technique here and there into the conversational tone, and Live Writing is also very conversational, at times reads like a story, and is actually written for kids (but has so much wonderful stuff for adults).
This is one of my favorite books; it sits on top of my desk for easy access. The insightful, thought-provoking, detailed questionnaire about your protagonist is worth the price of the book alone. I turn to it every time I start a new book. Her other exercises are all incredibly valuable. She offers great insight, and both encouragement and wise writing advice. Written by a former literary agent and editor, and a successful writer herself. Highly recommended!
Morrel, Jessica Page. Between the Lines: Master the subtle elements of writing fiction
Fantastic, insightful writing and editing advice, linking emotion and readers' reactions and expectations to writing. This book covers a lot that I think other books don't, and explains how to use techniques effectively. Very detailed and helpful. This is one of my favorite writing technique books.
Fletcher, Ralph. Live Writing: Breathing Life into Your Words – Strategies, ideas, and tips to fuel you for a lifetime of writingAlso A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You.
Incredibly easy to read, this book has lots of very helpful writing advice given in easily digestible chunks. A lot is said in a succinct, compact manner. The book is intended for kids, but it holds so much helpful advice and excellent reminders. Again, this covers a lot. One of my favourites.
Browne, Renni and Dave King. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print
Engaging and easy to read, incredibly good advice on how to polish your writing and make it the best it can be from two editors who know their stuff. This book teaches you techniques that are important in staying out of the rejection pile and getting published. Concrete, immediately useful, incredibly helpful advice and technique. It covers so much important stuff! One of my favourites.
Stein, Sol. Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies
Incredibly helpful, solid advice and technique on writing from a great editor. This book covers a lot of material. Includes examples from Sol Stein's behind-the-scenes work with bestselling novelists. One of my favourites.
Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Wonderfully humourous and chatty, an entertaining read while imparting wisdom, advice, and tidbits from her writing life. This isn't so much a book on writing technique, as an entertaining read about writing that offers good advice--such as that first drafts are always shitty, and are supposed to be.
Maass, Donald. Writing the Breakout Novel
A great book on writing a novel that sells well. This has some excellent advice on writing well, writing the kind of story that really works. It is very easy to read, uses examples from recent fiction, and has practical advice.
Rasley, Alicia. The Story Within Writing Series (self-published)
Alicia really knows her stuff, as you'll see if you check out her site, where she offers free articles on writing. There is a lot of information in these booklets. They're not quite as easy to read as her online articles, but they're packed full of great and useful information.
Block, Lawrence. Telling Lies for Fun & Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers
A very readable, and at times amusing, book with good advice.
Kress, Nancy. Elements of Writing Fiction - Beginnings, Middles & Ends (Elements of Fiction Writing)
If you like Nancy's monthly column in Writer's Digest magazine, you'll want to check this book out. It's got a very conversational tone, really helpful advice, and is easy to read. This has a lot of focus on beginnings and endings, and has a lot of concrete, helpful suggestions.
Keyes, Ralph. The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear
This is more a book for inspiration than technique. The title actually put me off – I thought I didn't need courage to write. Yet it helped me to hear that E.B. White (author of Charlotte's Web) was so anxious in his life, put himself down as a writer, and worried so much over his writing -- yet his writing is so powerful, and seems so easy. The book is full of tidbits like this, and offered me some comfort. I really enjoyed the book.
©Cheryl Rainfield, 2009
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