Even if you’re not new to writing, I’ve found these books to be very helpful. At the bottom of the page you’ll find a few books for specific genres, such as paranormal and gay romance, as well as a brief bio for the content curator of this course.
General Reading on Writing:
- No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 days by Chris Baty
Chris Baty founded National Novel Writing Month, where writers from around the world try to write 50,000 words in a month. This book helps beginners turn their ideas into novels with lots of pep talks from others who’ve gone before. If you’ve always wanted to write a novel, this is the kick in the pants you might need to get it done!
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
This is part memoir, part master class for writers. He talks about the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. His advice is grounded in his life and as a struggling, emerging writer. He also explains how the link between writing and living spurred his recovery after a near-fatal accident in 1999.
- Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss
A Panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots into the air. When the bartender asks why he did that, the panda shows him a wildlife manual that reads: “Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”
- Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew by Ursula K. Le Guin
This book covers the basic elements of narrative: how a story is told, what moves it and what clogs it. Each topic includes examples that clarify and exercises that intensify awareness of the techniques of storytelling.
- Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Dynamic Characters and Effective Viewpoints by Nany Kress
Explains in detail how to create three-dimensional and believable characters, develop their emotions, create realistic love, fight, and death scenes, and use frustration to motivate your characters and drive your story. At the end of each chapter are exercises to help you improve your writing.
- Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers From Start to Finish by James Scott Bell
Explains in detail how to create strong beginnings, middles, and ends. Includes plotting diagrams and charts. Brainstorming techniques for original plot ideas. Thought-provoking exercises at the end of each chapter. Story structure models and methods for all genres. Tips and tools for correcting common plot problems.
- Description & Setting: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Believable World of People, Places, and Events by Ron Rozelle
Establish a realistic sense of time and place. Use description and setting to drive your story. Keep excess description from cluttering your story. Craft effective description and setting for different genres. Skillfully master showing vs. telling.
- Dialogue: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Effective Dialogue by Gloria Kempton
Create dialogue that drives the story. Weave dialogue with narrative and action. Use dialogue to pace your story. Write dialogue that fits specific genres. Avoid the common pitfalls of writing dialogue. Make dialogue unique for each character.
- Revision & Self-Editing: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft Into a Finished Novel by James Scott Bell
Write a cleaner first draft right out of the gate using Bell’s plotting principles. Get the most out of revision and self-editing techniques by honing your skills with detailed exercises. Systematically revise a completed draft using the ultimate revision checklist that walks you through the core story elements.
- The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne The Story Grid is a tool developed by editor Shawn Coyne to analyze stories and provide helpful editorial comments. It’s like a CT Scan that takes a photo of the global story and tells the editor or writer what is working, what is not, and what must be done to make what works better and fix what’s not. The Story Grid breaks down the component parts of stories to identify the problems. And finding the problems in a story is almost as difficult as the writing of the story itself (maybe even more difficult.)
More Specialized Reading:
- Police Procedure & Investigation: A Guide For Writers by Lee Lofland
Most everything you see on your favorite crime show is inaccurate! Let Lee Lofland, and his two decades in law enforcement, help you get all your facts right for your next novel. More than 80 photographs, illustrations, and charts showing everything from defensive moves used by officers to prison cells and autopsies. Detailed information on officer training, tools of the trade, drug busts, con air procedures, crime scene investigation techniques, and more. First person details from the author about his experiences, including accounts of arrests, death penalty executions, and criminal encounters. (This is part of Writer’s Digest Books Howdunit series.)
- Man, Oh Man: Writing Quality M/M Fiction by Josh Lanyon
The definitive guide to writing M/M (Male/Male, or gay) Romance. Josh takes you step by step through the writing process with help and insight from the genre’s top publishers, editors, reviewers, and writers. This book has it all from how to find fresh ideas and strong hooks, to how to promote and market your published work, even if you self-publish.
- Writing the Paranormal Novel: Techniques and Exercises For Weaving Supernatural Elements Into Your Story by Steven Harper
Choose supernatural elements and decide what impact the supernatural will have on your fictional world. Create engaging and relatable characters from supernatural protagonists and antagonists to supporting players (both human and non-human). Develop strong plots and complementary subplots. Write believable fight scenes and flashbacks. Create realistic dialogue.
Anna Jordan Draves is a librarian in Boston who has been writing for most of her life. She has been a Municipal Liaison for National Novel Writing Month since 2006, and her favorite genre is gay romance mixed with fantasy and mystery/suspense. Some of her favorite authors and books, among a variety of genres, not including nonfiction, include:
Josh Lanyon – Come Unto These Yellow Sands
Ginn Hale – The Shattered Gates (book 1 of The Rifter trilogy)
Jordan Castillo Price – Among the Living (book 1 of her Psycop series)
Dean Koontz – One Door Away From Heaven, Dark Rivers of the Heart
Amor Towels – A Gentleman in Moscow
Fredrik Backman – A Man Called Ove
Ursula K. LeGuin – The Left Hand of Darkness
Jeff Garvin – Symptoms of Being Human
Ada Maria Soto – His Quiet Agent
Kelly Haworth – Y Negative
Brian Jacques – Redwall (book 1 of the Redwall series)
Kristin Cashore – Graceling (book 1 of the Graceling trilogy)
Gina Damico – Croak (book 1 of the Croak trilogy)
Mary Stewart – The Crystal Cave (book 1 of her Authurian Saga series)
Joseph Hansen – Fadeout (book 1 of his Dave Brandstetter series)
(This website was last updated December 2017.)