Since it’s Thanksgiving, I thought I’d give thanks to some of those wonderful writers who generously share their knowledge of the craft of writing with the world. I clutch at craft books like they are lifeboats, running for them at the first sign that my manuscript is in danger of sinking. Here are a few of my picks of the best craft books available – the ones that you want on your bookshelf:
Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Vogler is a screenwriter, but he understands Joseph Campbell and the structure of the hero’s journey and he delivers it in a clear and succinct style. Truly one of my all-time favorite books for understanding the holistic concept of story and story archetypes.
Robert McKee, Story. This is an expensive book, but a true classic. McKee also comes from the world of film, but structure is his business, and he dissects what works and provides excellent examples. I particularly like his analysis of scene and sequel – a principle I didn’t fully understand before I read this book.
Janet Burroway, Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. Also an expensive book, but one that is used as a text by many writing programs. Burroway dissects it all, from character to voice to point of view, and includes exercises for both individuals and groups, and examples (short stories and excerpts) of every craft element. I go to this book first whenever I’m stuck.
John Gardner, The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers. This book is dense. Meaty. Yet I have sticky notes on so many pages, my copy looks like it could fly. Gardner’s book is one that every serious writer must read. And re-read. He includes exercises that are among my favorites for understanding an aspect of craft.
Ursula Le Guin, Steering The Craft. A good basic book discussing foundation, with exercises, Le Guin writes with clear, often visual expression. This is a terrific book for beginners in particular, but even seasoned writers will learn something new.
I have many, many more books to recommend, and I’ll continue this discussion later.