It’s November and for thousands of writers across the globe, that means one thing: National Novel Writing Month. Also known as NaNoWriMo, the month of November sends novelists into a frenzy of story crafting, their aim a 50,000 word draft in 30 days. Fingers fly across keyboards, and characters magically come to life on the page and set off on the adventures of a million lifetimes.
It’s a whirlwind month of writing with community support. We’re all in this together, pouring our hearts out through our fingers onto the screens of our laptops or the pages of our notebooks, making the worlds of our imaginations come alive.
But let’s be honest, drafting a 50,000 word manuscript, like the course of true love, never did run smooth. There are plot holes a mile wide, characters’ motivations that fall flat, and worlds that come out in black and white like Dorothy pre-Oz instead of in that Technicolor vibrancy we were expecting them in. Sometimes the whole manuscript seems in danger of crashing and burning in a maelstrom of Fiendfyre, a la Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
When this happens to me, I find that having handy these five books on craft helps me, if not to smooth out the bumps in the road, at least to make the most of them.
5 Craft Books For Every Writer
Save the Cat
By: Blake Snyder
This book is meant for screenwriters, but hey! Screenwriters really know how to plot. If I’m having trouble figuring out what scene comes next or what’s missing from my overall storyline, I grab this book. Snyder has included a plotting beat sheet with detailed descriptions of each stop on the way from Opening Image to Final Image. When in doubt, I use this handy road map to get me back on track.
The Plot Whisperer
By: Martha Alderson
For another great reference on how to get your characters from “Once upon a time…” to “…happily ever after…” check out this great book! It’s full of tips and tricks that authors can use for tracking not only their plot, but their characters’ development as well. I won this book in a blogging giveaway a few years ago, and I’ve never been so lucky!
By: Stephen King
Need a dose of inspiration? Check out this great tome by Stephen King, master of horror. I have never read a book by King aside from this memoir/writing guide and I still found it fascinating and highly useful. King first shows us how he became the writer he is, then gives us the tools we need to become the writers we are meant to be. Each writer has their own method for success, and reading about King’s process will help you find your own.
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
By: Renni Brown and Dave King
I don’t recommend you make use of this until you have a complete draft. Editing should be saved for after you’ve crossed the finish line. Still, this book is my favorite of the bunch. As a freelance editor, I find myself pulling this book off the shelf almost daily to reference some fine-tuning technique for one of my clients. It’s a good rule of thumb to have someone else help you edit your manuscript before you pronounce it finished, but this book will save that someone else a lot of time and will teach you a few tricks to help your next draft shine even brighter!
Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction
By: James VanderMeer
Full disclosure: I haven’t yet read this book in its entirety. But I can’t wait to! Jeff VanderMeer has assembled thoughts from the masterminds of the fantasy genre and included them with his own brilliantly illustrated guide to writing creative fantasy fiction. The illustrations alone are enough to inspire some pretty imaginative writing sessions. Come for the pictures, stay for the in-depth writing instruction. If you’ve read it already, let me know what you think, as well!
There are oh, so many excellent books out there on the craft of writing. These are just a few of my current favorites. I’d love to hear what books you use to help you fill in plot holes and make your characters pop off the page!
What are your favorite books on writing craft?
Elisabeth Kauffman is a freelance editor in California. Her favorite genres are YA fantasy, sci-fi, and romance. She regularly obsesses over board games, Doctor Who, and Harry Potter. Come share your ideas with her on Facebook and Twitter–@WritingRefinery–and on the web at www.writingrefinery.com