Art and Craft: Book Suggestions for Budding Authors
Every writer has a story to tell and a unique voice in which to tell it. That part of the process can’t really be taught. But what about pacing, grammar, characterization and all those other structural elements that can make or break your manuscript? Having a great writing craft book on hand can help you navigate those nuances and break through that dreaded writer’s block.
Here are a few suggestions from the Swoon team:
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
This book changed the way I looked at writing, and I think it is the perfect inspiration for anyone who is “thinking about writing”. I felt so redeemed knowing I wasn’t the only one who could feel daunted by the task ahead of me, and the message this book sends is inspiring. From “shitty first drafts” to taking things one task at a time, it celebrates the journey and makes it feel like finishing your novel is possible. I keep a painting of two birds sitting on a stack of books above my writing desk. It’s that little reminder that I just need to take it “bird by bird”, and not get weighed down and look at the bigger picture. The important thing is sitting down and writing and eventually your pages will fill. – Lauren S.
Writing and life. Because you can’t have one without the other. – Liz S.
I think it’s an inspiration and also works as a guide to life. But maybe all the best books on writing do that. – Jean F.
The Chicago Manual of Style
This tome won’t teach you how to write riveting prose, craft a perfect plot, or construct believable characters, but it’s your BFF during revisions. If you’re the kind of person who is always second-guessing your grammar or punctuation (like I am), this baby saves you a lot of time trying to remember your high school lessons about oxford commas. Your publisher will thank you for doing careful revisions! – Christine Barcellona
Wrede on Writing: Tips, Hints, and Opinions on Writing by Patricia C. Wrede
Patricia Wrede was one of my favorite childhood fantasy authors. Her writing advice digs deep into the different elements of a story from characters to plot to world building. I find myself re-reading this at times to help refine my writing style. – Lauren S.
Hero With a Thousand Faces by Stephen Campbell
This book may not give much advice about writing, but it’s still a fascinating read exploring the theory of the monomyth, also known as the hero’s journey. Basically it lays out the fundamental elements and themes that continue to crop up in stories throughout history all over the world, from the journey of Odysseus to that of Luke Skywalker. I would recommend it to any fellow adventure story fan. – Emily S.
On Writing by Stephen King and Save the Cat! By Blake Snyder
Since I have zero ambition to be a writer myself, I’m not as well versed on craft books as I might otherwise be. That said, I think that Stephen King’s On Writing is a great read; I’ve heard wonderful things about Save the Cat (even though it’s aimed at screenwriters, the lessons there can be really helpful in working out plot and pacing issues); and for romance writers specifically, I really recommend checking out Jenny Cruise’s website. I know it’s not a craft book (yet!) but she has a lot of really great essays and blog entries filled with helpful advice. – Holly West
A Dictionary of Medieval Terms and Phrases by Christopher Coredon & Ann Williams
This isn’t necessarily on writing specifically, but as someone who likes historical and fantasy it is a great reference book when I’m trying to immerse my characters in another time or place. – Lauren S.
Do you have any books you use to help improve your own writing? Share your suggestions in the comments below!