On Writing by Stephen King
At once a memoir of the craft and a how-to book, On Writing is one of the best resources available both for the unpublished writer and the established veteran. Covers everything from plot and character to finding time to write to dealing with writer’s block. A must-read.
How to Write and Sell your First Novel, by Oscar Collier with Frances Spatz Leighton
From the moment you’ve had that first spark of interest, to the moment you see your book in the store, this book takes you on a crash course through the business of writing. A great primer on how to approach the industry-finding an agent, working with an editor, dealing with contracts, etc. Vital to serious writers who understand that most bestsellers are the result of dedication to creative business principals, not just a whim of imagination.
Plot and Structure, by James Scott Bell
A trim and direct discussion of the basic principals of plot building-essential for writers of commercial fiction. Focuses on “page-turner” techniques and plot points that will get you noticed. Easy format, easy to read.
Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass
One of my all time favorite books. Targets mid-list, established writers, but is essential to new writers as well. Dissects strategies of characterization, conflict, setting, and more–also discusses how those strategies function in familiar, tried-and-true novels. Geared more toward writers of commercial and mainstream fiction than writers of high literature.
Building the Career Novelist, by Donald Maass
This book functions on two levels: 1) it’s a primer for anyone who isn’t already in the business (it’s full of industry jargon and insider information), 2) it leads you through the thinking and planning that will help establish a career in writing-as opposed to a hobby. Other topics include mid-list death and successful branding. Again, speaks more to writers of commercial and mainstream fiction, but is applicable to anyone who wants writing to be their next nine-to-five.
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Rennie Browne & Dave King
Essential, essential, essential. If professional feedback suggests that your writing just doesn’t “sparkle,” or if you’re tired of hearing “it just didn’t grab me,” this is the book for you. A vital, critical, and strategic guide to making every single word count. Teaches you how creative deleting can yield a tighter, more efficient read. Many writers I’ve worked with don’t think they need this book until they actually read it.
Guerrilla Marketing for Writers, by Levinson, Frishman, & Larsen
If you’re a new writer, your publishing house probably isn’t going to put any real money or muscle into publicizing your book. This book suggests creative and often economic ways to market and publicize your book. Particularly great for self-published writers.
Turning Life into Fiction, Robin Hemley
How to make your real life experiences translate into fiction-which often means coloring and shading the truth in order to make it more “truthful” on paper. Comments on journaling and writing about real people in your life.
Writing with Power, Peter Elbow
An exploration not of writing, but of the writing process. Elbow tackles writer’s block and other creative obstacles by breaking down the writing process into two parts: one creative and generative (free-writing), the other critical and prescriptive (editing). Academic and theoretical, the book is fantastic for anyone fascinated with the creative process. But to others, it may be a bit dry. For writers of fiction, creative non-fiction, academic non-fiction, and business writing.
–By Lisa Van Auken. Lisa, a former agent with the Creative Media Agency, who is currently pursuing an MFA in creative writing.