Tuesday, February 21, 2012

3 Great Writing Books for Your Shelf

Today I want to highlight 3 more writing books worthy of a permanent spot on my shelf. (We've already discussed On Writing by Stephen King, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and Writing the Breakout Novel/Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass.)

I'm going with the "Written by James Scott Bell" theme today.

"Techniques and exercises for crafting a plot that grips readers from start to finish."

I wish I had read this book sooner. My natural tendency is to write without any kind of outline or set structure. But as a published writer, I've been forced away from that since to sell a book I need the first three chapters and a synopsis. This is a really wonderful resource for:

  • What basic story structure is and why it works
  • Crafting strong beginnings, middles, and ends
  • Brainstorming original plot ideas
  • Correcting common plot problems

"Techniques for transforming your first draft into a finished novel."

It's been a couple years since I've read this one, so I'm due for a reread. My copy is covered with Post-It flags. If you're a first draft junkie or if the revision process really intimidates you, this is a great resource. It makes the editing process feel very manageable.

"Fiction writing strategies, tactics, and exercises"

This book is excellent. It's similar to On Writing by Stephen King and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott in that it's more than just "here's how to deepen your characters." While there is great stuff in there that will improve your writing, it also talks about the writing life. The rejection, the bad and good reviews, not settling for mediocre stories, talking to agents, quitting your day job, and so forth. The Art of War for Writers is so encouraging and inspiring. And so difficult to describe in a paragraph. You'll just have to experience it for yourself!

One of the most helpful things I learned from James Scott Bell was the concept of Character Journals. What's a tidbit, technique, or tool you've learned that's improved your writing?


  1. I love JSB, too. His books leave me with a feeling of I can do this!!!! I wonder If you could get him to guest here?!

    1. We've chatted on Twitter a bit ... maybe I'll get a chance to ask him :)

  2. Any giveaways coming up ... ? *crosses fingers*

    I really appreciate your recommendation of these books. I love writing help, and have some go-to books sounds awesome. Thanks for helping me decide which ones to look for!

    1. They're all great choices, Rizara! No giveaways of writing books in the immediate future, but hopefully I can line something up in the future.