Looking for books of the writerly variety? Look no further. Here are eight books that have changed my writing life for the better.
Writers are readers first and those books we’re so eager to get our hands on aren’t just fiction. Many a craft-based book can be found upon a writer’s shelf, helping us to improve our skills, develop our understanding of story, and nurture our fledgling books until they’re ready to fly into the reader’s hand.
But, with the multitude of writing how-to books out there, how do you know which ones are right for you? That’s where this post comes in. Here are eight craft-based books that have revolutionised my writing, eight books that I can’t recommend enough. And here’s why...
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The Writer’s Guide to Psychology
Author Extraordinaire: Carolyn Kaufman
It’ll probably come as no surprise that I have a gazillion books on psychology, but The Writer’s Guide to Psychology: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment and Human Behavior holds the title of the only book I have on psychology specifically for writers—and I refer to it so much (check out the Further Reading section of my Psychology & Storycraft posts; you’ll see it). It’s an amazing resource, easy to understand and written for writers who don’t necessarily have a background in psychology.
“What you think you know about psychology may not be accurate.”Carolyn Kaufman
Over 12 chapters, Carolyn Kaufman explains the various approaches to therapy (there isn’t just one type of therapy, you know), sheds light on how psychologists interact with their clients, and explores over a dozen different disorders, delving into how and how not to write about all aspects of psychology. A must-have read for any writer wanting to include psychology in their stories.
Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story
Author Extraordinaire: K. M. Weiland
This book has become my go-to resource when plotting my overarching storyline and my individual scenes. K. M. Weiland guides the reader through each section of the eight act structure that underpins all stories and teaches how to “get the most bang for your buck.” And, oh boy, do you.
In the second half of the book, Ms Weiland goes in-depth with her analysis of scene and even sentence structure, creating an irresistible pull on a reader’s heart and mind. Structuring Your Novel is the resource for you if you’re a writer who doesn’t want to rely on guesswork, instead putting the techniques of the experts to good use in your own personal masterpiece.
Find out more about Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story* here.
Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It)
Author Extraordinaire: Rochelle Melander
“I will teach you the life skills and writing tools you need to show up often enough to write your own book fast.”Rochelle Melander
The quote on the left sums up Write-A-Thon perfectly. Over 26 days, you will write your novel (beating NaNoWriMo by four whole days!).
The book itself is divided into three sections: prewriting, the writing marathon, and the post-writing stage, and I just adore that. As much as I love NaNoWriMo, there isn’t much supported follow-up immediately after the event. This book is different. It trains you before the marathon, it guides you through those epic 26 days, and then it’s there to support you after you’ve reached The End.
How much value did I get from Write-A-Thon? Enough that I cut up my Post-It notes, went through the book again, and marked out all my favourite chapters, exercises and quotes with colourful place markers. Whenever I’m lacking motivation or struggling through a block, I revisit these markers and get myself back on track.
Find out more about Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It)* here.
2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love
Author Extraordinaire: Rachel Aaron
This book changed the way I word sprint. Before reading it, I would go into a sprint with a vague idea of the scene—if that—and churn out perhaps 300 words in 30 minutes. Every few sentences, I’d stop, ponder, write, ponder, write a bit more, and then realise that my scene was going nowhere. Say hello to frustration and goodbye to any motivation to write.
Then I read about Rachel’s three-sided method to writing more: Knowledge, Time and Enthusiasm. I already had Time down and Enthusiasm was hot on its heels, but where I was severely lacking was Knowledge—knowledge of where my story was going. I put Rachel’s advice into action and my output for a 30 minute sprint rocketed up to 1000+ words. It wasn’t long afterwards that I did my first 10k day, and not long after that, two more of them. If you’re a word sprinter or in need of a word infusion during NaNoWriMo, 2k to 10k is a must!
Find out more about 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love* here.
Want to take your storytelling to the next level? @Writerology has 8 books to help you master the craft.
The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression
Authors Extraordinaire: Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
Every time I sit down to write, I crack out The Emotion Thesaurus. Every time. That probably makes it the most used book in this list and here’s why: it concerns the key element at the heart of all good books. Human emotion.
“Readers have high expectations. They don’t want to be told how a character feels; they want to experience the emotion for themselves.”Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
You’re writing about an emotion? Check out the Thesaurus. Inside you’ll find 75 different emotions, from Adoration to Worry, with definitions, physical signals, internal sensations and mental responses listed for each emotion. There’s also a section on the cues exhibited by people experiencing the emotion acutely or in the long-term, what the emotion may escalate to and cues of the suppressed emotion.
Oh yeah, and that’s not all. Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi also include several important lessons to keep in mind when writing about emotions, like the realistic progression of emotion, how to avoid clichés and how to avoid ‘telling’ readers your characters’ emotions at the start of the book. Perfect for a writer who’s tired of using the same old descriptions for feelings, a writer who wants to level up their characters’ emotional journeys and draw in their readers with a resonant story.
Find out more about The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression* here.
The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus
Authors Extraordinaire: Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s other two thesauri, The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes and The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws. Two guesses what these books are about.
As with their wonderful Emotion Thesaurus, these two thesauri list dozens of personality traits, positive ones to one book, negative ones to the other. For each trait, they include possible causes, associated behaviours, thoughts and emotions, positive and negative aspects of the trait, examples from literature and film, and traits in supporting characters that could cause conflict in the story.
There’s also a section on positive traits and your villains (because multidimensional antagonists are so much more interesting) in The Positive Trait Thesaurus and the role of flaws in character arcs and relationships in The Negative Trait Thesaurus. If you’re in the character creation stage, these books are fantastic resources to add to your collection.
Rivet Your Readers With Deep Point of View
Author Extraordinaire: Jill Elizabeth Nelson
“Have you ever read a book that melded your mind with the main character’s psyche?”Jill Elizabeth Nelson
Do you write in third-person but long for the closeness of first-person? (I know I did!) Then Deep Point of View is the technique you need to master, and Jill Elizabeth Nelson does an amazing job at teaching it. I read this book from start to end in one sitting, I was that engrossed. How’s that for un-put-down-able?
From stunning examples of what Deep POV looks like in action to the features you need in your narrative (or need to cut from your narrative) to master it yourself, Rivet Your Readers With Deep Point of View has everything you need to start practising the art of storytelling at its most personal. You should definitely give it a go.
Find out more about Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View* here.