Wednesday, December 23, 2015

List of craft books-updated

Last week I mentioned a new book I was recommending (Beautiful Sentences by Barbara Baig) and asked if readers had other favorite, tried and true craft books.

Of course you did!

I thought a complete list would be a good idea, so I fired up the Excellerator and herewith. The books that are highlighted are ones you didn't mention, to my utter shock and dismay! I'm a devoted fan of Natalie Goldberg's books, and the Shawn Coyne book is one that is also high on a lot of writers' lists. (It tells you something interesting about me that I remembered the title as Kill the cat, not Save the cat.)

And if you want to download the list: click here for the google doc.

Updated list that includes books from the comment section: Updated list


BJ Muntain said...

Wow, that must have taken some time! Thanks so much!

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Oh, fantastic! This will be a fun list to go through in the new year, in addition to the Book Riot harder list (or whatever it's called). Thank you, Janet.

I don't know what it is, but the first time I tried to read Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones it was just not my thing. I bogged down not too far in and returned it to the library. The second time, though, it was great. I have another of her books (rescued from the library book sale) that I haven't opened yet. I'm not even sure of what the title is, I just knew I'd want it eventually.

And the Ray Bradbury book is amazing, of course. Ray Bradbury was amazing. I was shelf reading in the B's yesterday and accidentally almost fell into Dandelion Wine instead of working. The perils of people who love books being employed in libraries.

Lucie Witt said...

This is great! Thank you, QOTKU, for taking the time to put this together.

Now, excuse me, I'll be hiding my wallet so I don't go buy every single one of these I don't already own.

Happy holidays to those of you who are celebrating! I'm going into the office today but looking forward to a long weekend with my little boys and my stepsons, who will be in town soon. Hope all of you are happy, healthy, and well this new year.

S.D.King said...

Thank you, Janet! What a gift.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I don't understand how my bookshelves lack a book titled Kill the Cat. What a great list. I am so very broke or I would go out and stock up on all of these. Thank you once more, Janet for all the time you take on us wild woodland creatures. Did you see Lawrence Block popped up among us? I love his Bernie Rhodenbarr books.

Ah well, reading my WUS out loud to the dog. Must proceed- it makes new rounds in 2016.

CynthiaMc said...

In addition to Save the Cat (a personal favorite) - Save the Cat Goes to the Movies and Save the Cat Strikes Back. My copies look as though they've been to war, I've used them so much.

Kill the Cat is actually part of Save the Cat (example - in Legally Blonde when Elle's boyfriend breaks up with her).

Also love Writing Novels That Sell by Jack Bickham and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne.

Colin Smith said...

Oh, what a delightful gift! Thank you, Janet. :)

Yay! I have THE ART OF FICTION and two SAVE THE CAT books. I feel like a proper writer now... :)

Unknown said...

Wow! Great list. A) Seeing several books I own on this list makes me feel less loser-ish. B) Now I know how to spend that gift card I got. Huzzah!

Kitty said...

I'm surprised Elmore Leonard: 10 Rules for Good Writing is not included. I know it's been praised here before. I was chided by several people when I bought his book. However, it's been my best reference book along with "The Elements of Style."

A.J. Cattapan said...

Save the Cat is great! It's been the very backbone of my published (or soon-to-be published) books. It's also probably the reason people say my books read like movies. :)

Kitty said...

I've never heard the term "save the cat," so I googled. By coincidence, there's a story in our local paper this morning in which the cats are the heroes!

Karen McCoy said...

Save the Cat! How could I forget? It's on my shelf, waiting for me to finish reading it.

Thanks so much for taking the time to put this together! What an amazing resource.

DLM said...

Kitty: aww! Hooray for puddies.

Cynthia, keep us posted. And get well soon! Bronchitis is awful, I'm so sorry you're up against it.

Janet, thank you!

Unknown said...

You are one helpful shark. The dastardly reputation of the Shark is in jeopardy.

And you're everywhere! I recently became a Guppy and there you were, in the November newsletter, a screenshot of The Shark blog. It made me smile, because sometimes I feel like all us reiders are in a secret club, and then there's a shot of the shark and I realize, um, no. The whole world knows.

Susan said...

This is amazing! Thanks, Janet--and everyone who suggested these books. I missed this thread last week but saved it as a resource. How handy to have it all in one place so I can judge how broke I can expect to be!

Yes to the Ray Bradbury book. Actually, yes to Ray Bradbury anything! I recently received an email from the executive director of a children's literature foundation who likened my first book to Dandelion Wine. It's the highest praise I've ever received, and it still blows my mind.

Other recs:

My friend/writing partner, Monica Leonelle, recently put out a series of books called Growth-Hacking for Storytellers. Her first book, Write Better, Faster focuses on helping writers increase their writing speeds--kind of like NaNo on speed. It doesn't work for me, personally, because I'm a pantser who masochistically enjoys agonizing over and/or relishing every sentence, but she also has some good tips for outlining to get you through the first draft and on creating a discipline for writing every day (which she follows up with The 8-Minute Writing Habit).

Story Engineering by Larry Brooks is another great book that helps you strip down your story to a basic narrative and then instructs you on how to build it back up to find out what works and what doesn't to create a compelling story.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is another good book that encourages creatives to keep working through self-doubt. It's not so much a writing craft book, but it can be helpful to writers who have hit their own roadblocks.

I guess now it's time to revamp my wishlist...

Anonymous said...

What a great list. I have quite a few of these already. Yay, me! Thank you, Janet.

I would add THE WAR OF ART by Steven Pressfield and Shawn Coyne.



Lisa Bodenheim said...

This is a great list. Thank you, Janet, for your time in putting this together. I have a few of the books and I follow some of the other authors who post regularly on blogs.

A couple of craft books not listed that I have found useful:
Jordan E. Rosenfeld's MAKE A SCENE.

My load of laundry is soaking and the bread dough is in the warm oven to rise. A break in Christmas prep so time to continue revising that WiP.

CynthiaMc said...

Hubby's being discharged right now. Heading home!

Mister Furkles said...

Spellbinding Sentences by Barbara Baig, which may or may not be beautiful depending on penmanship or font selection. Ordered it yesterday using last summer's gift card. Hope the sentences in it are beautiful but ugly is okay if it helps me write better.

Colin Smith said...

Yay, Cynthia!! :D :D :D

DK said...

Surprised that SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS, by Renni Browne and Dave King, isn't on this list. I always thought it was one of the essentials.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

Wow. This is a wonderful list, I'd say a Christmas present fro QOTKU.

I forgot to mention THE WRITER'S JOURNEY: MYTHIC STRUCTURE FOR WRITERS by Christopher Vogler.

Off today's topic but pertaining to yesterday's, there is an interesting article in The Guardian about small independent publishers compared to big publishers. I would have liked to comment again after Richard explained where he was coming from, but I was on an airplane. His comments were quite the reality check. After reading the Guardian's article, Indies sound attractive. Of course vetting them is important, but vetting an agent should be the same. Right?

CynthiaMc said...

Thank you. You kept me entertained yesterday with Felix.

Unknown said...

That is an impressive list of books. I am feeling that you have managed to but me in a twisted paradox. I need my books to sell so I can have money so I can but these books so my books will sell.

I feel like I am in those old anti-drug commercials where the guy walks in a circle explaining why he does drugs to work harder to buy more drugs so he can work harder and so on.

Beth H. said...

I love this! I will be sharing this with my writer friends. I suspect I'll be picking up Save the Cat in the very near future.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Oh hey, I forgot until now. The short story I mentioned in the comments on this week's WIR is "Green Pants" (not "New Pants") and is by Stephen Graham Jones. Because I know you were all waiting with bated breath ;). On the same day, we also read "Last Will" by Kevin McIlvoy, and it was interesting to compare the two.

Brigid said...

HUZZAH, Cynthia! Happy Christmas!

FIL may be discharged today; we'll find out later. But in other sad news, his BIL passed today. I didn't know him well, but I get the sense it was expected (Alzheimers). The last thing my inlaws need is more grief right now.

BL Storrie said...

And if I could just add two books by Shawn Coyne's associate Steven Pressfield (my hero in the mental battle with myself) - THE WAR OF ART and TURNING PRO. Both digestible in a couple hours. Both about your writing as a job. Both about overcoming resistance in all its pernicious forms and becoming a professional detached from the pain and suffering. I read them at every stage of a novel-in-progress, especially when my stomach turns and I want to run like hell. These two little books are game changers.

Kate Larkindale said...

I forgot to mention a couple of other titles I loved. William Goldman's Which Lie do I Tell and Adventures in the Screen Trade. Like Save the Cat, they're for screenwriters (I work in the movie biz as a day job), but the principles are the same for any form of storytelling. They're great reads, and very helpful.

CynthiaMc said...

Fingers crossed for your FIL. So sad about his BIL. Keeping all of you in our prayers.

Christina Seine said...

Yay, Cynthia - wonderful news! =)

Thank you so much Janet for this list! I wonder if my bank would approve a Book Buying Loan. They should. If they have their priorities right.

And to borrow a line from that good old shark movie, "We're gonna need a bigger book shelf."

CynthiaMc said...

Get the other one :)

CynthiaMc said...

Mine too! I went to a conference several years ago as an actor and was writing between sessions. A sweet lady walked up to me and asked me what I was writing. I was working on the scene where my debutante turned blockade runner was caught smack in the middle of the Battle of Mobile Bay. She asked if she could read it. I never NEVER let anyone read anything of mine until it's been published but I let her see it. She said "I know you think you're a novelist but you're really a screenwriter. Go to that session." I did and she was the instructor. Surprise! I felt like I was coming home.

There is a great Save the Cat forum as well. I got back into acting so haven't been there in a while but they are great people and several of us have remained friends.

Rachael Ann Mare said...

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is a great book; however, you could argue that editing is not really craft, per se. BUT Ayn Rand's The Art of Fiction absolutely belongs on this list and it is a travesty to leave it off. So much help in that book that doesn't exist anywhere else.

Donnaeve said...

Good news on the husband being released, CynthiaMac.

THANK YOU Ms. Janet for this list. I suppose the good news is we provided more than what is pointed out as no mentions! I think the little tidbits off to the side are interesting too. Like the "Amazon says it was pubbed in 1900!"

I would also say certain books work for some while not for others. I liked Bird by Bird, FOREST FOR THE TREES, and ON WRITING b/c they didn't get into a whole lot of detailed analysis, i.e., it wasn't like attending class with a boring, dry professor. Those books, IMO, were written as if sitting down with the authors, and they were simply talking to you about craft. That's what works for me.

SPELLBINDING SENTENCES arrived the other day. I hope it "speaks" to me in the same way. I haven't had a chance to even peek at it yet.

Craig F said...

An incredible list, thank you.Though I am not really asking for you to do more work I was wondering if I could make a suggestion? Would you be so kind as to build a new category of blog post around this?

Perhaps something like author assets to go right under author asshats.

I would appreciate it. At the moment I believe I will finish my WIP and get a query package together. I know the concept will get attention but if I get a few requests that don't make it I'll read a few of them.

Better yet, tell Colin to do it.

Panda in Chief said...

Funny thing! Save the Cat is sitting on my table, even as I read this. Nice to know I am on the right track.
My cat thinks so too.
Merry Christmas, everyone!

Anonymous said...

I have a good many of the books on that list, some more helpful than others. There are a few others that should be mentioned and have been valuable to me in one way or another:

The Writer's Journey, by Christopher Voegler
Story, by Robert McKee
The Novel Writer's Toolkit, by Bob Mayer
Stein on Writing, by Sol Stein
Scene & Structure, by Jack Bickham

And not so much about craft, but creativity:

The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield
Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron

But if I were allowed to recommend only ONE book about craft, it would be this one:

Screenwriting Tricks for Authors, by Alexandra Sokoloff

And for those of you short on funds (aren't we all?), I also highly recommend her website/blog where there is SO MUCH information. Honest to god, Alex is one of the most generous people I know when it comes to sharing her knowledge with other writers, and her ability to describe stuff so it makes sense is just amazing.

Unknown said...

Thank you your Highness, the Duchess of Sharkdom (or is it the Queen, I've forgotten). Now there's more to add to my "All I want for Christmas" list.

With all this added reading, though, I must pause to ponder if the new year will also afford me added writing time. After all, the Shark, with her healthy appetite, grazes the depths. Yum, yum; chomp, chomp.

Colin Smith said...

As you all know, the name Buttonweezer carries a lot of weight on Carkoon (with a name that long, how could it not?). The Buttonweezer clan boasts many notable figures, not just the beloved Felix, and today’s post puts me in mind of Beetruce Buttonweezer. Back when I was on Carkoon (oh, those blessed days of skin-peeling sun and eye-watering stench!), I recall her book, THUH KRAFT OF RYTING, was a standard text for students at Carkoon University. I still have a copy somewhere (yes, of all the things to bring with me to Slush Pile Exile…!), so here’s a portion, with all the appropriate grammatical and spelling corrections applied:

While it is preferable on Carkoon to communicate by emittance of a variety of bodily noises, or by using some physical means of making one’s meaning and intention clear, in some cases, it can be advantageous to use writing for the same purpose. With writing it is possible to achieve the same clarity of meaning as, for example, a well-placed flatulent outburst, or a carefully-timed disembowelment. Though, unlike these time tested, tried-and-true methods of communication, with writing one must place particular attention upon the order of words and the use of punctuation lest one’s meaning be misconstrued to one’s disadvantage.

I am reminded of a student who attempted to utilize the writing technique while still a novice. As I recall, he had a grievance with someone who owed him money, and eschewing the common practice of removing a limb of equal value, he attempted a letter of complaint. Unfortunately, his grasp of word placement and punctuation was primitive such that he ended up selling himself into servitude, and offering himself to his communicant’s sister for the production of future offspring. As you know, the written document is as solid legally as bloodshed. I haven’t heard from the poor student since, so learn these lessons well if you wish to master the craft of writing.

We will begin our lessons with the order of words, and why it is inadvisable to leave it up to the reader to determine the intended sequence. For example, “I want to feel the burning you have for me” is a perfectly acceptable expression of romantic desire. “I have the want to feel you burning me” is not, unless you work for Madam Blackwhip.


It’s a fascinating work... :)

Megan V said...

WOW, what a list! Thanks QOTKU!

And Cynthia— YEY! HUZZAH! Happy news and Happy Holidays!

Susan, Julie, KdJames, BL
I'm adding some of those to my list!

What a handy post and an entertaining comment thread (Colin, thanks much for the chuckle-needed that :))

CynthiaMc said...

Love The Artist's Way. I'm reading it for the eleventy-hundredth time. Every time I do I see things I never saw before. Morning Pages are the best (3 pages of longhand writing every morning).

Cindy C said...

Compiling all these books into a list is a great gift! Thanks, Janet and thanks everyone else for the suggestions.

Writing Down the Bones was the book that got me back into writing seriously a few years ago. I'd read it before and one day when I was trying to fit all my books on the shelves I picked it up and started rereading and got inspired to get back to writing.

angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

I love your world building of Carkoon. I'm there. When are you going to write the Book of Carkoon?

Kae Ridwyn said...

Thank you ever so much for this list, QOTKU!!! It's been printed, and many (I've read several) just ended up on my TBR pile.

I was one of those who also rushed out and ordered Barbara Baig's SPELLBINDING SENTENCES, and have a copy of SAVE THE CAT on my bookshelf which I've absolutely devoured.

Two others, not on your list but which I've learned huge amounts from, are Porter G. Perrin's WRITER'S GUIDE AND INDEX TO ENGLISH and Donald M. Murray's A WRITER TEACHES WRITING. They're both fairly ancient, but I love the way that they teach their own various topics (grammar-y stuff and composition, respectively).

Congratulations, Cynthia, and all the best for a quick recovery for you both.

And Merry Christmas, everyone! (It's less than 6 hours away here in Australia, and the kids are at fever pitch!)

LynnRodz said...

Wow, Janet, thank you for this list. I do have several listed here (of course, Elements of Style and Hooked) but I would be remiss if I didn't include a few others that aren't listed. Each of these has something well worth reading, some more than others, but here goes in alphabetical order:

FINDING YOUR VOICE How To Put Personality In Your Writing by Les Edgerton
GIVE 'EM WHAT THEY WANT by Blythe Camerson & Marshall J. Cook
STRUCTURING YOUR NOVEL From Basic Idea To Finished Manuscript by Robert C. Meredith & John D. Fitzgerald
YOU CAN WRITE A NOVEL by James V. Smith, Jr.
WRITING FOR CHILDREN & TEENAGERS by Lee Wyndham Revised by Arnold Madison

For those interested in writing screenplays:

HOW NOT TO WRITE A SCREENPLAY 101 Common Mistakes Most Screenwriters Make by Denny Martin Flinn

CynthiaMc said...

Writing for Children and Teenagers is awesome. Thanks for reminding me about 101 -I have that and need to read it again.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Yowza, any books on fixing transmissions? No, well okay.

Thanks, awesome. Wow.

roadkills-r-us said...

Yikes! I meant to comment and thought I had, but between getting my book out and preparing to drive half way across the country, I apparently forgot. I'm glad to see _Writing Down the Bones_ on your list-- it's what I meant to suggest. It was a huge help to me. I recommend it frequently, and have give away at least a half dozen copies.

I am definitely a fan of Ms. Goldberg.

The Penultimus said...

Fantastic list! I also suggest Nathan Bransford's excellent and concise HOW TO WRITE A NOVEL?