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From great writers to great teachers, I've sought out many positive role models and coaches to help me along the never-ending journey toward writing mastery. Most of them are writers writing about writing.
There are plenty of books out there to help encourage writers facing blank pages, offering comfort about the trials and tribulations of this journey, chucking their readers under the chin to encourage them to keep going.
These are not those kinds of books. These are select sources recommended for writers looking seriously to hone their skills, those willing to pursue the writing dream even into the dreariness of the waking world.
Stage, Film, Television
The Understructure of Writing for Film and Television
Ben Brady & Lance Lee
The very best of the bunch, Brady and Lee dive deep into the inner workings of film writing, approaching structure and character from the highest levels of the Act while drilling all the way down into the smallest component: the beat. A must-have resource for any writer's reference library.
The Art of Dramatic Writing
A masterful look at how to craft a story. The stage is the birthplace of modern visual storytelling, but don't let the premise fool you - what makes a play powerful is what makes a movie or novel powerful - the perfect character for the right story.
McKee is the man, the myth, the legend. I've attended two of his all-weekend sessions over the years and, love him a lot or not at all, his insights into the discipline of the craft is not for the faint of heart. His scathing insights can make the wheat separate itself from the chaff!
Save the Cat!
He left us way too soon, but Blake Snyder's irreverent and cutting look at writing for film endures. With witty insights and charming impatience, this is a must-read for any screenwriting enthusiast.
One of the most profound summaries capturing the inner workings of making a movie, from one of Hollywood's greatest. Screenwriters take note: if you want your work produced, learn all you can about the production of a feature film. See how a master treats a good screenplay!
Writing for Emotional Impact
Had the privilege of meeting Karl in Los Angeles while attending a seminar he was giving on the topic of packing emotional punch into scripts. Definitely worth having this resourche in your library!
Teach Yourself Screenwriting
Raymond G. Frensham
A compact, thorough overview that touches all the points, from structure to rising tension to character. This book has next to no fluff, so if you're ready to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty forging a powerful script, this is a terrific resource to review early and often.
Short Stories, Novels
Teach Yourself Writing a Novel
Talk about an all-in-one resource for novel writing! Nigel Watts does a masterful job of laying out the tools of the trade while instructing the writing student to contemplate what they're writing for, the importance of being a reader, and gives insights into the personality of a professional writer. This little book packs a punch!
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
Renni Browne and Dave King
Editing is one of the more cumbersome aspects of the creative writing act, but Browne and King bring order to chaos with their methodical approach to quality editing. You can't NOT have this book in your collection!
So You Want To Write A Novel
Lou Willett Stanek, PhD
With a title like this and a cover like that, such a book would normally be destined to get lost in the noise. Not so here. Stanek blends encouragement with craft insights, and shows how discipline truly can dance with the muse.
Fiction Writer's Handbook
Hallie and White Burnett
With a preface by Mailer and epilogue by Salinger, how can you miss? Hallie and Whit Burnett give practical advice on the principles of writing, touching on the need to commit to the work required and encouraging healthy self-criticism.
Writing Fiction for Dummies
Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy
Seriously? Yes! What a terrific assembly of the key aspects for writing a successful novel. From helping writers discern good ideas from bad, to what makes characters compelling, to the crucial need for creative conflict, to insights on traditional vs. self-publishing options. Another resource on the bookshelf often pulled down and thumbed through.
The Nighttime Novelist
Another all-in-one resource for novel writers, but with a twist. Check out this clever resource laying out the novelist's journey in an easy-to-read, quick-to-reference, hard-to-put-down binder style packed with timely quotes and challenging insights.
Conflict, Action & Suspense
Part of the highly useful Elements of Fiction Writing series from Writers Digest, William Noble brings the challenges and rewards of ensuring your writing has all the conflict and action it needs to keep readers reading and books selling. Among the WD series in my library, this is the one I find myself returning to the most.