Recommended Reading List
Compiled by Mary Jane Maffini and Barbara Fradkin with a little help from their friends.
Kenneth Atchity, A Writer’s Time (Norton, rev. ed. 1995)
-- Thought-provoking and demanding but well worth the read if you are serious about managing yourself and the writing process.
Larry Beinhart, How to Write a Mystery (Ballantine, 1996)
-- Readable and practical by the author of Wag the Dog.
Lawrence Block, Writing the Novel From Plot to Print (Writer’s Digest, 1979)
-- Solid advice from the master.
Renni Browne and Dave King, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (Harper-Collins, 1991)
-- Editors give you the inside story. Listen to them.
Julia Cameron, The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation in the Writing Life (Putnam, 1998)
-- More of a lifestyle than a manual. Extremely useful approaches to writing and harvesting experience and emotion. Readable for itself.
Theodore A Rees Cheney, Getting the Words Right: How to Revise, Edit and Rewrite (Writer’s Digest Books, 1983)
-- Sound advice throughout.
Connie Emerson, The 30-Minute Writer (Writer’s Digest, 1993)
-- Many of these techniques can be adapted to breaking down the many steps of novel writing into bite-sized pieces. Very useful.
Syd Field, Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting (expanded edition) (Dell, 1984)
-- The structure of screenplays can form a solid backbone to apply to your novel.
James N. Frey, How to Write a Damn Good Mystery (St. Martin’s Press, 2004)
-- Kind of ‘Mystery Writing for Dummies’, practical, humorous and easy to read, but contains gems.
Bonnie Goldberg, Room to Write: Daily Invitations to a Writer’s Life (Tarcher/Putnam, 1996)
-- Lovely. Like having a friend visit.
Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Shambhala Pocket Classics 1998)
-- This is a goldmine, also available in audiotape.
Karen Elizabeth Gordon, The Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed (Times Books, 1984)
-- We all need a grammar book, this one is fun.
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (Scribner, 2000)
-- Highly recommended by mystery writer Sue Pike.
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Anchor, 1994)
-- Insightful and entertaining inside view of the writing process by one who lives it.
Margaret Lucke, Writing Mysteries (Self-Counsel Writing Series, 1999)
-- Easy to read, lays out the process as well as the business, and includes some worthwhile exercises.
Donald Maass, The Career Novelist: A Literary Agent Offers Strategies for Success (Heinemann, 1996)
-- Solid, practical advice, not always what we want to hear.
Donald Maass, Writing the Breakout Novel (Writer’s Digest Books, 2001)
-- This book has changed the way people write and structure novels and is well worth the purchase price and the investment of working through it.
Eric Maisel, Living the Writer’s Life: A Complete Self-Help Guide (Watson-Guptill, 1999)
-- Of course you’re crazy.
Dick Perry, One Way to Write Your Novel (Writer’s Digest Books, rev. ed 1972)
-- Forget the pub date. This book, if you can still find it, could change the way you approach writing and kickstart your first book.
Gary Provost, Beyond Style: Mastering the Finer Points of Writing (Writer's Digest Books, 1988)
-- The subtitle says it all. This classic is out of print but well worth hunting for.
Gary Provost, Make Your Words Work (Writer’s Digest Books, 1990)
-- One of the best and the most readable overviews of writing the novel. Highly recommended.
Sol Stein, Stein on Writing (St. Martin's Press, 1995)
-- An excellent overview by a successful editor.
William Jr. Strunk and E.B. White, The Elements of Style (Macmillan, 1959)
-- Get the latest copy. It’s still immensely valuable and it all still makes sense.
Dwight V. Swain, Techiques of the Selling Writer (University of Oklahoma Press, 1965)
-- An old book and one that’s hard to find but it deals with matters few others do. Especially strong on character, conflict and underlying story. It is far more intellectually challenging than its title implies. It is out of date in many peripheral ways but not where it counts.
Wilson R. Thornley, Short Story Writing (Bantam 1976)
-- Unfortunately out of print. It is the best guide to writing short stories I have come across. Watch the secondhand stores.
Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Storytellers and Screenwriters (Michael Wiese Productions, 1992)
-- Superb view of story structure.
Nigel Watts, Writing a Novel (McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd. 2003)
-- Deceptively small, but packed with information and answers to practical questions. Part of the Teach Yourself series.
Writer’s Digest, Elements of Fiction Writing Series
-- There are many volumes in this collection of “how-to’s” I found Plot and Dialogue to be the most useful.
Writer’s Digest, Howdunnit Series
-- Everything from poisons to DNA testing to scene of the crime analysis. Check out http://www.writersdigest.com/ for individual titles in both these series and others.
Recommended Reference Materials:
A good style manual
A good baby name book
As many dictionaries as you can get your mitts on (CAN, US, UK)
Current Market Guides: Writer’s Market, Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market, etc.