“The skill of a skilled writer tricks you into thinking that there is no skill.”
—Dwight V. Swain (Techniques of the Selling Writer)
I recommend the following books on the craft of writing. Here are quotes from each to inspire you to get a copy or reread the one on your shelf.
On Writing by Stephen King. “Words create sentences; sentences create paragraphs; sometimes paragraphs quicken and begin to breathe. Imagine, if you like, Frankenstein’s monster on its slab. Here comes lightning, not from the sky but from a humble paragraph of English words. … You feel as Victor Frankenstein must have when the dead conglomeration of sewn-together spare parts suddenly opened its watery yellow eyes.”
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass “What about your premise? Is it truly a fresh look at your subject, a perspective that no one else but you can bring to it? Is it the opposite of what we expect or a mix of elements such as we’ve never seen before? If not, you have some work to do.”
Hooked by Les Edgerton. “A tremendous number of possibly good and even brilliant novels and short stories never get read beyond the first few paragraphs or pages by agents and editors. Why? Simple: The stories don’t begin in the right place.”
Stein on Writing by Sol Stein “We are driven through life by our needs and wants. … If your character doesn’t want anything badly enough, readers will have a hard time rooting for him to attain his goal, which is what compels readers to continue reading. The more urgent the want, the greater the reader’s interest.”
Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon. “Motivation is possibly the most important of the three elements of GMC because you can do anything in fiction. … Everything truly is possible as long as you help your reader understand why your characters do what they do. Why they land themselves in impossible situations. Why they make the choices they make.”
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. “So when you come across an explanation of the character’s emotion, simply cut the explanation. If the emotion is still shown, then the explanation wasn’t needed. If the emotion isn’t shown, then rewrite the passage so that it is.”
Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. “Dialogue helps to create original characters and move the plot along. If it isn’t doing either of those things, it probably should be cut.”
Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson. “In Deep [Point of View], we don’t want thoughts or actions told or explained by a third-party; we want to live the events inside the [Point of View Character’s] head.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. “And the truth of your experience can only come through in your own voice. If it is wrapped in someone else’s voice, we readers will feel suspicious, as if you are dressed up in someone else’s clothes. You cannot write out of someone else’s big dark place; you can only write out of your own.”
What writing experts say to push us to write better. Click to tweet.
As a writer, what craft book has spoken to you?
Stephen King’s book did it for me. I don’t read his fiction because it’s not my preferred genre but the book was recommended to me by someone I trusted and, wow! This King guy can write! Not only that, but he gives excellent practical advice. It was a pleasurable read that I, in turn, highly recommend to others.
Jaime, Stephen King definitely inspired me in On Writing. Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird also reached me more in the inspiration realm.
Inspired! Wish I’d read these before I wrote the Tale of the Tail.
You can use the quotes and/or the books for your next masterpiece, Marcia.
Thanks, Zoe. Great and useful tips. I enjoy learning anything writer related.
Me too, Laurean. I wish I had a photographic memory for everything I read in these books.
Thanks for words to chew on.
LoRee, I hope we can swallow their advice too. :0)
Well, I’ve read and studied 2 of the books in my writer group. Just 8 left! Thanks, Zoe
Marilyn, you have a great start. I want to re-read several.
Zoe, I love your list of books and quotes. I’ve got 5 of them so far. The one I return to again and again is Bird by Bird. Anne Lamott motivates me not to give up, and she makes me feel normal when I read about what she imagines is going on behind the scenes after she’s handed over a manuscript to an agent or editor. I could hug her for that alone.
Blessings ~ Wendy
Wendy, I agree. Lots of inspiration in Bird by Bird. I have to remind myself what’s behind the title. For me, it’s I must keep plugging, bird by bird.
Another useful post,, Zoe. I have a whole folder of your posts in my bookmarks folder.Thanks for all the work you do to bless us.
Anne Lamont is my fav.
I’m glad you found it useful, Jane. People keep mentioning Bird by Bird. I think I’m going to have to read it again.