Top 5(6) Must-Read How-to Books

I will admit, I’ve spent a lot of time and money on how-to-write books. Call it procrastination, call it love of writing, call it whatever you will, but like me, if you’ve read so many of them like I have, you start to realize that they tend to repeat themselves after a while. However, a few gems have really stood out to me and stayed on my bookshelf instead of my inventory. I’d like to share them with you.

Between the Lines

Probably the best how-to-write book I’ve read. It’s about how to lace suspense into the story, foreshadowing, back-story, story structure, flashbacks… I got a lot of tips from this one. If you get any book from this list, this is the one I recommend. A good read before or while you write as it’ll give you a good perspective on your story as a whole.

Words Fail Me, Woe is I

We are never as good with grammar as we’d like to be, are we? I don’t have

“Woe is I” in front of me but I found it just as useful as “Words Fail Me.” “Words Fail Me” is chockfull of grammar tips and how to write concisely.

Even though her books are focused more upon the art of writing, it is most useful for any novel writer. A book I can keep coming back to, kind of like “Elements of Style.” If you haven’t read Elements of Style, then get to it pronto!

Manuscript Makeover

Absolutely indispensable. However, after skimming this book, I waited to read this after I finished writing a novel because it appeared quite overwhelming. I would recommend it for whatever stage of writing you are in. There is no way to remember every tip given in this book, so best to just make a checklist of things that are pertinent to your writing stage as you read through it, then go back to your finished or unfinished story. This book is kind of similar to “Between the Lines” but offers information from a different point of view. Did I mention that an editor wrote this book? Offers story problems and solutions. A must-read.

Story Structure Architect

Great for when you know what genre(s) and theme you’re writing. It gives you a brief rundown of genres and what elements are expected in them. Then the rest of the book contains scenarios that are (exclusive) to that particular type of story. I use this for when I feel lacking in ideas and subplots. Gives 54 different situations of which includes “Flight & Pursuit,” “Adultery,” “Sacrifice for Love,” “Vengeance Taken for Kindred Upon Kindred,” “Self-Sacrifice,” just to name a few! Like I said, this book is indispensable for ideas.

The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits

The only character book I’ve found useful. It’s not the typical book you read cover-to-cover; rather, you skim and pick up ideas and learn a few things. You’ll get the gist when you read the first chapter. If you know your character’s personality, then refer to this to give your character more depth and background. Gives information on nonverbal/verbal communication, physical disorders, career traits, psychological disorders, criminal styles, etc.


About Jessica M

4 responses to “Top 5(6) Must-Read How-to Books

  • mwilsonart

    LOL, dang … the one I bought isn’t on this list. I should have waited :D

  • Valerie

    I’ve read Story Structure Architects. It has a lot of great ideas, but I still struggle with structure and architecture! It may take me awhile to learn that one. The book on character traits sounds really interesting!

    • Jessica M

      I can sympathize with you on that Valerie — being a half-pantser half-plotter, I struggle with following all the structural details “required” in a story. But I have to remind myself that they are just guidelines. These rules may conflict with writing style, so this book’s advice is not necessarily the end-all beat-all. But it couldn’t hurt to try and stick to the tried and true methods! Thanks so much for the comment.

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