Tis the season…and if you are needing last-minute suggestions for either your own stocking or a fellow writer’s, here are my current favorites.
- Donald Maass, Writing The Breakout Novel Workbook. This has long been my very favorite craft book. Clearly written, with excellent examples and terrific exercises at the end of every chapter, if you dive into those exercises your writing will improve by leaps. At the very least, read the chapters on building conflict in plot. His mantra is “tension on every page” and he’s so right. Anything by Maass is terrific.
- Lisa Cron, Story Genius. I’m a big fan of understanding how we humans process stories, in order to understand how to reach my readers. This book addresses that head-on. What I love most is her definition of what therapists might call a patient’s “backstory wound” and what she calls a character’s “defining misbelief”. She leads the writer through the process of finding and then using that misbelief in the character’s arc.
- Debra Dixon, Goal, Motivation & Conflict. I found this book only recently. Oh, I’d heard about it for years, and I’m now kicking myself that I didn’t find it sooner. Simple, short, and extremely clear, GMC will revolutionize the way you see both character and story. I’m especially amazed by how I’ve discovered things about my characters that create and add to the deeper layers of story and their arcs. Get this one, if nothing else. I read the ebook and now have the actual on order!
- Ursula K. Le Guin, Steering The Craft. New 2015 edition. If you haven’t noticed, I do like craft books that are simple and clear, with examples and exercises that are easy to follow and complete. This is one of the best for all-around story construction at the most fundamental levels. Terrific for the beginning writer on your list, or for any writer refreshing the basics. Short, sweet, and perfect.
- James Scott Bell, Super Structure. Just about anything by Bell (like Donald Maass) will sharpen your writing. He’s particularly good at defining plot, and techniques to tackle plot. If that’s what you struggle with, you need this book and the last book on my list…
- Martha Alderson, The Plot Whisperer Workbook. Long a staple for writers, this book helps you to understand and clearly visualize the connection between rising tension and plot progression, in conjunction with character arc. You can’t beat that combo.
Happiest of holidays and here’s to a great writing 2019!