Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Must-Have Books about Writing

In order to be a good writer, certain elements of the craft of writing must be learned. Here is a list of helpful books for the prospective writer.
This selection of six excellent books for writers are especially helpful to have on hand for character development, plot structure, grammar, and all-around great writing.

1. The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler

This book is often recommended reading for storytelling and scriptwriting classes and is useful for plotting novels as well. Based on Joseph's Campbell's philosophy about the hero's mythic journey, and tailored specifically for writers, this book outlines the stages through which the hero must pass to obtain his goal. In most stories the hero makes an epic journey which includes passing through a series of tests and trials and experiencing a dark moment on her way to redemption or resolution. Using key elements of this theory can help bring a weak, unstructured plot up to par.

2. 20 Masterplots and How to Build Them by Ronald B. Tobias

This book helps generate plot ideas by detailing how to structure a plot around a particular theme or human emotion, such as revenge, escape, rescue, rivalry and many more. Thousands of plots can be created based on these twenty timeless themes.

3. The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines by Tami Cowden, Caro LaFever, and Sue Viders

This book adds a little psychology to character development by putting together sixteen master archetypes which detail personality traits common to heroes, heroines and many colorful side characters such as the Waif, the Bad Boy the Seductress, etc. By using the suggested archetypes as a guide, a writer can create and develop characters with believable motivations according to suggested personality traits as well as mixing and matching them to form conflict. (How does a Bad Boy react to a Waif)?

4. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

If one had to choose just one how-to book, Maass' would be the one. Written by an top literary agent, it gives insight into what publishers and editors want. This book is especially helpful for the advanced writer who already knows the basics and wants to polish his skills.

At the same time, pick up a copy of the companion workbook, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook which is even more helpful than the book. Chances are many writers won't be able to complete the 591 step checklist at the end, but don't worry. Even following a small portion of these recommendations, will guarantee a stronger, more marketable book.

5. The Romance Writer's Phrase Book by Jean Kent and Candace Shelton

Ever get stuck on a phrase? Ever have trouble describing a character's particular body movement or emotion? You don't have to be a romance writer to benefit from this compilation of 3,000 descriptive tags. Organized into categories including "Physical Characteristics, Body Movements, Facial Expressions, this handy reference can help a writer find just the right word or phrase to describe how a character is feeling or reacting. It is best to use this as a base to make up personal descriptive tags rather than using the ones listed, but the listed phrases will get the imagination going.

6. The Elements of Style, Fourth Editon by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

Every well-stocked writer's bookshelf should, of course, contain the usual references of dictionary, thesaurus and at least one book on the elements of style. The first edition of this book came out in 1957 and later editions have been published consistently since then. Recommended by Stephen King, this concise book is a helpful reference to have on hand to improve sentence structure or to refer to in case a question arises concerning the general rules of good grammar. A well-edited book with a minimum of grammatical and spelling errors will help encourage a publisher to take a manuscript seriously

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