Forum Friday: Craft & Reference Books

The more I experience of novels (reading, writing, and reading about them), the more I am struck by the brimming seas of information and resources out there on novel craft, improving writing, grammar/punctuation, character and story development, etc. etc. etc. ad every element you can possibly imagine related to writing and or publishing a work of fiction.

Since honing our craft is something we can (and should) work on at every stage, for today’s Forum Friday I want to ask: as a writer or novelist, what books/resources have you found particularly useful? These could be books on craft, medical or military or architectural terminology, how to write different age groups or the opposite gender– anything. Let us know below!

To start I’ll posit Stephen King’s oft-cited and aptly-titled memoir, On Writing.

King’s book is part autobiography, part lessons in craft– and often enough the two overlap. It is one of the few books on the craft of writing that I have (to date) read from cover to cover, and I would gladly recommend it to anybody looking to improve their fiction or even basic written communication skills.


18 responses to “Forum Friday: Craft & Reference Books”

  1. I’ve read parts of it, and it seems quite instructive.

    1. In honesty, I haven’t read enough craft books yet to compare it against, but I found it concise, direct, and even entertaining! King included numerous anecdotes from his own life and experience as they relate and they are very encouraging.

  2. writingmom2013 Avatar

    I am a huge advocate for Francine Prose’s book Reading Like a Writer: a Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them. This book discusses the importance of reading if you’re a writer, talks about specific books, and aspects of writing that can be learnt from them, and provides encouragement for those times when you’re feeling like you are the worst writer ever and why can’t you just quit, already? It’s an inspirational, informative, and interesting read.

    1. Thank you so much for mentioning this! I am writing it down and adding to my to-read list. And HOW appropriate is it that her last name is “Prose”? Coincidence, or clever nom de plume?

  3. I read King’s book earlier this year when I had the flu and honestly it was the first book on writing that I’d read since college. Up to this point I haven’t utilized very many craft books, I much prefer learning craft by reading fiction and so far that’s served me well. But I do feel guilty for not pouring over craft books in my free time like some authors do. But to each their own!

    1. Laekan, I’m just the same! Though when I read On Writing, I began to feel that perhaps there was more to be gained by reading more books on the craft itself… But you’re certainly right (almost wrote “write”, ha): there is more than one way to learn the craft, and reading fiction is an important part of writing it!

  4. The book I found most useful was “Writing Mysteries” by Sue Grafton. It’s a collection of instructional lessons from members of the Mystery Writers of America organization. My mother bought this book for me when I was a teenager and I still have it πŸ™‚

    1. Kevin, that’s awesome! It’s great that there are so many specific resources out there these days for writers of certain genres– not just the craft books specifically for mystery writers, but whole organizations like Mystery Writers of America. Man, I need to look into those myself (thanks for the reminder)! Thanks for reading and sharing!

  5. Just bought the book… thanks for the recommendation.

    1. Hoorah! Hope it will be as illuminating for you as it was for me πŸ™‚

  6. This isn’t about one book in particular but rather a practice I find really helpful. Every time I read a new novel, I write down the page and line number of sentences/passages that really strike me. When I’m done with the book I keep them all recorded in one place (the Goodreads quote section works well for this). If I’m ever stumped or just feeling off, I go back to my list if good sentences and try to figure out what makes them so arresting. It might sound a little odd but I think it’s kind of a hands on way to learn from the masters.

    1. WHAT! No way! I do the exact same thing! Well– up until the Goodreads part. I didn’t know there was a quote section (clearly I need to spend more time on Goodreads)! When I read a book I use a slip of paper for my bookmark, note my favorite lines/passages, and then take them all down when I’ve finished with the book. How cool to find somebody else who does this, and revisits them to learn from them! Thanks for sharing, and for pointing me to the quotes section. I’m gonna go check that out πŸ™‚

      1. Definitely do it! It’s a great way to keep track of little bits of wisdom from other authors for when you’re feeling stumped.

  7. I’m currently reading and sporadically reviewing William Zinsser’s classic “On Writing Well.” I’m old enough to have read it when it first came out, when I was an undergraduate with writing aspirations. Now that I’m seriously pursue a career crafting words, I’m enjoying it even more.

    1. William Zinsser. Yesss…I feel that that is a name I should remember… I am going to see if my library has On Writing Well and give it a look. Thank you for mentioning it, Tony!

  8. I bought Ann Palmer’s ‘Writing and Imagery’ at a conference recently, but I’m danged if I can find it now 😦 I imagine, with your artistic nature Julie that you’d be interested in it.

    1. Oooh…I like the sound of that! Thanks for mentioning it, Roy. I hope your copy turns up soon!

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