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Throughout my quest for education, I encountered people who held the opinion that all a person needs to do to learn to write is just write. That may work for some people, but for me, I needed a road map to guide me. I needed to know what I should be looking for, at least in the beginning. Once I understood the basics, I knew I would be able to allow intuition to move me along, but first I needed the basics.
On the different forums and groups I belong to, I have noticed other beginning writers engaged in their own search for education regarding the craft of writing, and asking for resource lists. As I have read an awful lot of how-to books, I thought I might share my own list of what I consider the most helpful. Here they are--pulled from my bookshelves--my top ten favorite how-to books.
General Writing Information
English Grammar Workbook for Dummies by Geraldine Woods: Who doesn’t need help with grammar? This book has all kinds of exercises that are a great refresher, plus a quick reference card.
How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card: This book is the best handbook on writing, no matter which genre you write. It covers all the basics of writing, from idea construction to publishing information.
What Would Your Character Do? By Eric Maisel, Ph.D. and Ann Maisel: Of all the books on character development I read, this was the most hands on with developing character and backstory.
Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham: This book took the mystery out of structure, and gave me concrete methods of developing scenes that go somewhere in a story. Definitely a great book to read early on in the educational process.
Hooked by Les Edgerton (could also be up at General Writing Information): I bought this to learn how to write a compelling beginning, and wound up learning a lot about structuring a book/story. He’s also very motivational.
Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell: I love James Scott Bell! He’s not afraid to outline! He is my book mentor! (okay, I know, enough with the exclamation points…)
The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maas: Wisdom regarding taking a story to the next level. I will be using this book when I get into edits on my novel.
The Writer’s Book of Wisdom by Steven Taylor Goldsberry: Short essays of writerly wisdom
Take Ten for Writers by Bonnie Neubauer: Puts fun in writing and coming up with ideas. Encourages silencing the inner editor and just writing!
There it is, my list of “go-to” books. There are others, of course, but these are the ones I think of first if people ask me what has been helpful for me.
Wait… There’s only nine listed?
Oh yeah, number ten falls in the Motivational category. It’s Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life by Terry Brooks. I loved this book because it was another writer who believes in the power of outlining. I was feeling like a writerly weirdo, and this book helped me realize the writing process is different for everyone, and whatever your process is, it’s the right one.
What resources have you found helpful along your writer’s journey?