Writing Fiction

Here is a collection of books recommended by Book-in-a-Week members to help improve their fiction writing.

Characters and Viewpoints book coverCharacters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing) by Orson Scott Card — “This book is a set of tools: literary crowbars, chisels, mallets, pliers and tongs. Use them to pry, chip, yank and sift good characters out of the place where they live in your memory, your imagination and your soul.” Purchase Characters and Viewpoint from Amazon.

The Weekend Novelist book coverThe Weekend Novelist by ROBERT J. RAY — “During the week Robert J. Ray was a teacher. On weekends he learned the fiction writer’s craft and produced his first novel. He ended up selling six books in six years. The same success as a writer can happen to you. His step-by-step program, the same one he uses himself and teaches in his popular fiction-writing class, organizes your writing around the weekends. Each weekend you work through the basics of character, scene, and plot, the construction of the novel in scenes and chapters, and the actual writing and editing of your book.” Purchase The Weekend Novelist from Amazon.

The Novelist's NotebookThe Novelist’s Notebook by Laurie Henry — “Laurie Henry nurtures writers throught the long and sometimes lonely task of writing a novel. Her 115 imaginative journal activities offer ways to approach every stage of the process from creating characters to shaping the story, from exploring themes ro revising and polishing. She helps writers develop a schedule, conduct research, benefit from bad days, even think of a title.” Purchase The Novelist’s Notebook from Amazon.

20 Master Plots book cover20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them by Ronald B. Tobias — “Twenty plots discussed and analyzed – plots that recur through all fiction, no matter what the genre. You’ll learn how to a successful plot integrates all elements of a story, and how to use these plots effectively in your own work.” Purchase 20 Master Plots from Amazon.

45 Master Characters45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters by Victoria Schmidt — “Every novelist, screenwriter and oral storyteller faces the challenge of creating original and exciting characters. Archetypes–mythic, cross-cultural models from which all characters originate–provide a solid foundation upon which to fashion new and vastly different story people. 45 Master Characters explores the most common male and female archetypes, provides instructions for using them to create your own original characters, and gives examples of how other authors have brought such archetypes to life in novels, film and television. Worksheets are then included for writers to develop and map the lives of their own characters. * Excellent companion to the works of Joseph Campbell * The first and only book focusing heavily on the heroine’s journey * Includes 45 black & white movie stills and line art depicting classic examples of each archetype.” Purchase 45 Master Characters from Amazon.

Steering the Craft book coverSteering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew by Ursula K. Le Guin — “A self guided voyage of discovery for a writer working alone, a writing group, or a class. Steering the Craft is concerned with the basic elements of narrative, how a story is told, what moves it and what clogs it.” Purchase Steering the Craft from Amazon.

Marshall Plan for Novel Writing book coverThe Marshall Plan for Novel Writing: A 16-Step Program Guaranteed to Take You from Idea to Completed Manuscript by Evan Marshall — “It breaks down the novel-writing process into small, manageable tasks that even the most inexperienced writers can achieve. Readers will learn how to find a hook, create a conflict, develop a protagonist and set her into motion.” Purchase The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing from Amazon.

Marshall Plan Workbook book coverThe Marshall Plan Workbook: Writing Your Novel from Start to Finish by Evan Marshall — “The Marshall Plan Workbook, companion volume to the very successful Marshall Plan for Novel Writing, focuses on building a novel’s plot, with more than 100 pages of fill-in sheets that become a veritable blueprint for each reader’s novel. The Marshall Plan Workbook pushes deeper into the process of writing a novel scene by scene.” Purchase The Marshall Plan Workbook from Amazon.

Substance and Structure book coverStory: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee — “In Story, McKee expands on the concepts he teaches in his $450 seminars (considered a must by industry insiders), providing readers with the most comprehensive, integrated explanation of the craft of writing for the screen. No one better understands how all the elements of a screenplay fit together, and no one is better qualified to explain the “magic” of story construction and the relationship between structure and character than Robert McKee” Purchase Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles from Amazon.

Scene and Structure book coverScene and Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing) by Jack M. Bickham — “Using numerous examples from his own novels–including Dropshot, Tiebreaker, and others–Bickham guides writers in building a suitable framework for their novel, no matter what its form or length. Includes exercises, checklists, projects.” Purchase Scene and Structure from Amazon.

Self Editing for Fiction Writersstrong>Self Editing For Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and David King — “Hundreds of books have been written on the art of writing. Here at last is a book by two professional editors to teach writers the techniques of the editing trade that turn promising manuscripts into published novels and short stories. In this completely revised and updated second edition, Renni Browne and Dave King teach you, the writer, how to apply the editing techniques they have developed to your own work. Chapters on dialogue, exposition, point of view, interior monologue, and other techniques take you through the same processes an expert editor would go through to perfect your manuscript. Each point is illustrated with examples, many drawn from the hundreds of books Browne and King have edited” Purchase Self Editing For Fiction Writers from Amazon.

Creating Characters book coverCreating Characters Kids Will Love by Elaine Marie Alphin — “To successfully write books that children will read and treasure, you need to discover what makes a kid want to curl up with a book in the first place. CREATING CHARACTERS KIDS WILL LOVE can make the difference between publishing success and failure. The book explains how characters, more than any other story element, draw kids to the page and keep them hooked from the beginning to end. You’ll find dozens of methods you can use to make your own characters more lively and compelling.” Purchase Creating Characters Kids Will Love from Amazon.

Immediate Fiction book coverImmediate Fiction: A Complete Writing Course by Jerry Cleaver — “From the creator of the legendary Writer’s Loft in Chicago, a writing course for those who want to see results now. Covering the entire process, from story building to manuscript preparation and marketing, Jerry Cleaver shows the novice and experienced writer how to start writing and how to get immediate results. Readers will find everything they need to know about managing time, finding an idea, getting that first word down on the page, staying unblocked, shaping ideas into compelling stories, and submitting their work to agents and publishers. Immediate Fiction goes beyond the old ‘Write what you know’ to ‘Write what you can imagine.’ Filled with insightful tips on how to manage doubts, fears, blocks, and panic, Immediate Fiction will help writers develop their skills in as little as ten minutes a day, if necessary. Believing that all writing is rewriting, Cleaver says, ‘You can’t control what you put on the page. You can only control what you leave on the page.’ With this book Cleaver shows how you can get that control and produce results.” Purchase Immediate Fiction from Amazon.

Fiction First Aid book coverFiction First Aid: Instant Remedies for Novels, Stories, and Scripts by Raymond Obstfeld – “Every writer struggles with spots that “just aren’t working” in their manuscript. No other book on the market approaches works like Fiction First Aid does, which quickly shows how seemingly fatal errors can become both manageable and fixable. Novice and more experienced writers alike will appreciate the book’s techniques for identifying and revising weaknesses in their work. Fiction First Aid shows how to repair those wounded manuscripts through easy-to-follow steps, patterned after those found in your typical first-aid manual: 1) Diagnose the problem 2) Suggest specific remedies 3) Prescribe therapies to avoid the problem in the future It couldn’t be any easier!” Purchase Fiction First Aid from Amazon.

38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes book coverThe 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes: (And How to Avoid Them) by Jack M. Bickham – “The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes is as engaging as Bickham wants your fiction to be. It is sharp, focused, funny, and pointed. And it is demanding. Bickham, who has written over 65 novels and several fiction-writing guides, has little patience for wannabes. “Writers write,” Bickham says. “Everyone else makes excuses.” Bickham’s pronouncements are decidedly negative: “Don’t Describe Sunsets,” advises one chapter; “Don’t Write About Wimps”; “Don’t Let [Your Characters] Be Windbags”; and “Don’t Worry What Your Mother Will Think.” But his lessons are positive. Behind each dictum is a terse, entertaining, and utterly well-reasoned examination of why the problem is a problem, and what you can do to expunge it from your prose.” –Jane Steinberg Purchase The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes from Amazon.

How to Write a Damn Good Novel book coverHow to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling (How to Write a Damn Good Novel) by James N. Frey – “Written in a clear, crisp, accessible style, this book is perfect for beginners as well as professional writers who need a crash course in the down-to-earth basics of storytelling. Talent and inspiration can’t be taught, but Frey does provide scores of helpful suggestions and sensible rules and principles. An international bestseller, How to Write a Damn Good Novel will enable all writers to face that intimidating first page, keep them on track when they falter, and help them recognize, analyze, and correct the problems in their own work.” Purchase How to Write a Damn Good Novel from Amazon.

The Craft of Novel Writing book coverThe Craft of Novel-Writing (Writers’ Guide Series) by Dianne Doubtfire — “Talent cannot be taught, but craftsmanship certainly can. Now available in a revised third edition, after numerous reprints, this book is written mainly with the beginner in mind. It is designed to help anyone with talent and dedication to master the techniques of writing a novel that should satisfy not only the author but also the reader and publisher. It is clearly written, covering all aspects of the craft and answers many questions which confront the novice. It also contains a wealth of quotations from contemporary writers.” Purchase The Craft of Novel-Writing from Amazon.

If you have a writing fiction book recommendation please leave it in the comments below.

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About Maureen Wood

M. E. Wood lives in Eastern Ontario with her husband of fifteen years. She has been moderating BIW for over nine years and works on the Internet. You can learn more about her projects on her official website.