At some point in any writer’s life—whether you are starting out or need a dose of inspiration—a craft book on writing can be useful and helpful. A so-called “craft book” is sort of a writing class and writing companion gathered between two covers. There are several such books on my bookshelf that I turn to time and again, and some that I keep within reach right on my desk. They are great to keep you going … along with a bottomless coffee pot.
Writing can be lonely, and in an era obsessed with “social media” in which we’re expected to fill every waking moment with emails, text messages, tweets and Facebook updates, you can’t help but wonder if there’s something wrong with wanting to be left alone to write something that’s a bit more involved and less instantaneous. On the pages of these books you’ll be reassured that you aren’t the only one trying to put words on paper (or on the screen). Someone has done this before you, and done it well, and they’re willing to share what they’ve learned.
Craft books are something I plan to mention during my upcoming talk, “How to Get Started Writing Your Story (And Publishing Your Work) at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 22 at the Chesapeake City Branch Library. (Hope to see you there!) Meanwhile, I thought I would share some of my favorite craft books and how—and why—they have been helpful to me.
Favorite craft books on writing:
How to Write Magical Words and magicalwords.net
This wonderful book is a compilation of the magicalwords.net blog kept by several accomplished fantasy writers, including Faith Hunter, David B. Coe, Misty Massey, A.J. Hartley and C.E. Murphy. Though geared toward fantasy writing, it’s chock full of practical tips from working writers dealing with everything from getting unstuck, to making a living, to rewrites, to marketing, to coming up with ideas. You can easily visit the blog online, but the book (available in print and as a digital book for your Kindle or Nook) is a resource you will turn to again and again.
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
I came across this book several years ago and it remains one of my perennial favorites. Don’t be scared off by the commercial nature of the title, because this is actually a very practical book that shares first-hand accounts of how several well-known authors struggled with concepts or rewrites until they had a good (and sometimes bestselling) manuscript. Examples of good writing, characterization, etc., are pulled right from the pages of popular recent novels and you will be introduced to some writers you might not have known about, but whose work sells well for a reason.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
Known for his historical novels, Pressfield’s short and rather “new age” books will get you inspired to step off your creative project, whether it’s writing or getting in shape or launching a business. He writes from the experience of someone who struggled for many years before finding success through hard work. I keep this one on my desk.
The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman
You can probably guess from the title that this book is all about polishing your manuscript. Have you got a good hook? Here are practical tips on keeping your manuscript in front of editors and readers.
On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser
I would call this book a “classic” and useful to anyone doing just about any kind of writing for work or school. There is a lot of sound, traditional advice in this book. Best of all, it’s available on the shelves of your local library.
Those are ones I keep on my shelf. Here are a few other craft books available from the library.
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
- A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write by Victoria Hanley
- Beginnings, Middles, and Ends by Nancy Kress
- Storycraft: The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction by Jack Hunt