I have read over 50 books on writing craft. (Yes, I counted!). So let me save you some time and tell you about the top 5 writing craft books that I keep coming back to.

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1. Save the Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last Book on Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need by Jessica Brody

Save the Cat! Writes a Novel is based on the original Save the Cat method of plotting screenplays by Blake Snyder. While I’m not convinced it lives up to the subtitle of “the last book on novel writing you’ll ever need,” Save the Cat Writes a Novel has earned itself a place on my bookshelf among the craft books I continuously reference as I write.

Its strengths? This book is a must-read for plotting a well-paced novel. It outlines 15 major sections or beats that occur within most stories that create a book readers will love. Also, it breaks each beat down into percentages of your novel – this is invaluable for pacing as it helps to guide approximately how long each section of the plot should be.

Drawbacks: I’ve plotted several novels using this method now and while it helps me find the overall story arc, I find it focuses more on external plot and I end up missing some of the internal conflict of the main character. Ie. What is the main character’s flaw? How does their internal struggle drive the external plot? What does the main character want and what do they need? For those questions, I turn to the next book on this list.

2. Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel by Lisa Cron 

Again, the subtitle feels a little misleading. I didn’t find a lot of “brain science” in this book. However, Cron does guide you in developing a character-driven plot through developing a fully-fleshed-out main character first, then developing how their internal struggle drives the plot.  

I plotted one of my manuscripts using this method (Parallax Error) which turned into my favourite manuscript to write because of the depth of the characters. BUT after completing a first draft, I noticed significant issues with pacing – this is where I went back and consulted Save the Cat! Writes a Novel to be able to visualize where the slow spots were and where I needed to expand.  

Consulting between these two top books will help develop a strong plot with a dynamic character. Win-Win! 

But for the days when you need a little less structure and more of a creative push, my go-to writing craft book is this next one.  

3. Wonderbook: An Illustrated Guild to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff Vandermeer

Finally, a subtitle that lives up to its claims! Wonderbook is geared towards writers of speculative fiction but I believe there’s gold to be mined for any fiction writer. There’s something about seeing plot structure displayed as the peaks and falls of a reptilian beast’s spine that makes my writerly heart happy.  

This book covers everything from how to begin a story to how to revise one and it is packed with creative artwork and inspiration.

4. For writers of non-fiction I recommend You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything In Between by Lee Gutkind 

Written by the founder of the literary journal Creative Nonfiction, this book is packed full of practical advice on how to go about writing nonfiction. I will be referring back to this book many times as I work on my nonfiction project. 

But what about when you’ve written your manuscript and want some editing guidance? For that, I suggest the following. 

5. Self-Editing For Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Dave King and Renni Browne 

This book breaks down the editing process from top-down fixes like point of view and characterization to nitty gritty bits like paragraph length and repetitive words.

I find this book helpful to know what to look for and how to fix it when I’m working on revisions.

So there we have it: My top five recommendations for books on writing craft!

The next two craft books on my To Be Read list are these ones:

  1. Create With Co-Authors: How to Use Effective Collaboration to Level Up Your Writing by Donna Barker, Crystal Hunt, and Eileen Cook

These lovely writers run The Creative Academy for Writers (this is a great resource to check out!) and knowing Eileen Cook’s teaching style, I’m thinking this book with likely be a valuable resource as I embark on co-writing a non-fiction project.

2. Seven Drafts: Self-Edit Like a Pro from Blank Page to Book by Allison Williams

I’ve been searching for a writing craft book with more guidance on the overall editing process for a novel and I’m thinking this one might fit the bill. I’m certainly looking forward to checking it out.

Do you have a favourite writing craft book? What books do you find yourself coming back to for guidance or motivation? Let me know in the comments!

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