Handy Books For Writers

I have always enjoyed reading books about writing.  For some reason, it gets me in the mood to write.  Plus, there are plenty of suggestions, hints, or theories that can help me overcome writer’s block or attack a plot problem from a different angle.  Over the years, there are a few such books that were quite useful to me.

How To Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by Orson Scott Card  
This is the only book I’ve found that deals solely with the problems that plague fantasy and sci-fi writers.  Orson Scott Card is a prolific writer in both genres, although he does learn a bit more towards the sci-fi.  But, either way, he does an excellent job defining fantasy versus sci-fi and addressing the problems inherent in dealing with those genres.  It’s a great, easy-to-follow read and it’s relatively short, only 140 pages, so it doesn’t take very long to devour it.  This is a must-have for writers of fantasy and science fiction.

100 Things Every Writer Needs To Know by Scott Edelstein
The best thing about this book is its straightforward approach and portability.  It’s divided into 100 chapters, each one no longer than three pages, and usually only a single page long.  (The only long section is the one that describes the different forms of writing and poetic terminology.)  The book has five sections:  “basic Wisdom,” “The Writing Process,” Building Your Writing Skills,” Making Money From Your Writing,” and “The Writer’s Life.”  Scott Edelstein has over 25 years of experience in almost every field associated with writing, so his opinion and advice is worth considering.  the short chapters make this the perfect book to take with you wherever you go.  Need a little inspiration, but don’t want to spend hours reading?  Take five minutes and read a few of Scott Edelstein’s chapters.  You won’t regret it.

By Cunning & Craft:  Sound Advice and Practical Wisdom For Fiction Writers by Peter Selgin 
This book takes longer to get through, but it’s a great reference for any and all writer’s of fiction.  It doesn’t hone in on any specific genre, but is full of great advice.  The idea behind this book is that anyone can learn to write and write well, given the proper tools.  Writing is not something reserved to those born with “the gift.”  natural talent always helps, but Peter Selgin takes the view that writing is more craft and hard work than magic and intuition.  No matter whether you agree with that position or not, the knowledge within these pages is priceless.

Screenplay:  The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field 
It may seem odd to include a book about screenplays on a bog that deals with fantasy novels, but there are a lot of good ideas and tricks contained in screenwriting that can be applied to your own writing, making it tighter and more streamlined.  Planting seeds, showing rather than telling, story arc construction…these are all tools of the trade that are focused on and enhanced in scripts.  So, even if you aren’t planning on writing scripts for plays, movies, or television, you should still take a look at what the screenplay style has to offer.

The Writer’s Quotation Book:  A Literary Companion, edited by James Charlton 
I always love a good quote, and this little marvel is full of them.  Readers, reading, writers, writing, editing, editors, publishing, publishers…everyone gets their turn in the sun.  There are several editions of this book; I just happen to have the 1985 version.  I do recommend having a little book of quotes to help remind you that you aren’t alone, that others have been where you are and know exactly where you are coming from.

Does anyone else have any writer-related favorites they like to turn to for advice and maybe a few laughs?


2 thoughts on “Handy Books For Writers

  1. Hi, Kat! Thanks for sharing your favorite selection of books for budding authors. I don't deal in sci-fi/fantasy much, but I think the difference between the two is that one deals with things that might happen in the future, and the other deals with completely fantastic realms. I might be wrong about that; what did the book say? "100 Things Every Writer should Know" sounds like a helpful recourse I could probably take on without taking forever to finish it! I haven't really read any long writer's guides, but two I had out for a time dealt with historical fiction.They were "The Writer's Guide to Colonial America" and "The Writer's Guide to Renaissance England." They are two of my favorite areas of history, so the books gave me lots of nice little incites for my tales.

  2. Thanks! Yes, your differentiation between sci-fi and fantasy is correct. Sci-fi deals with a mostly realistic projection of science and technology into the future while fantasy deals with magic and begins that (as far as we know) never have and cannot exist. I love 100 Things. It's a wonderful book and I think every writer should have a copy. I didn't realize that writer's guides could come on such specific topics!

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