This week I’d like to talk about the craft books I truly use, whether they are sitting on my desk or in my Kindle. These are the books that help me in my day-to-day writing or when I’m feeling like I’m a failure as an author. Each one is important to me for some reason and I’d like to share with you why. I won’t discuss every book because I have about sixty that I use regularly, some are exclusively for research and unnecessary for this discussion, but the ones I will discuss have made a major difference in my author life. I will include links where possible and I do not make money from any link I include. The books are in no particular order other than what I saw them in on my desk or in my Kindle (on my desk they are sorted by size in my Kindle I have no idea how they are sorted, but it is probably by what I read them last).
The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi – Actually, there are six books in this series, and I have all of them. I highly recommend all of them not only because of the way they help describe whatever you may be having difficulty describing, but because each entry (in the Emotion Thesaurus at any rate) is two pages and describes internal sensations and physical appearance.
Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff Vandermeer – I was introduced to pieces of this book during my MFA program and fell in love with some of the exercises. Not only are the illustrations amazing, but the book helps me work on my worldbuilding and character development, it is great for any fantasy or sci fi authors who may need a little more experience.
The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler [3rd Edition] – Another book that is great for fantasy authors although it was specifically designed with screenwriters in mind, I find it helps me get the major plot points and character archetypes figured out.
Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody – Like the original Save the Cat, this helps an author figure out the story structure, but is designed for novel writing rather than screen writing. I cannot recommend this highly enough if you’re having a slow-moving middle.
Intuitive Editing by Tiffany Yates Martin – Is one of three books on editing that I keep on my desk, but I will only be talking about two today. This is my most recent purchase and is rapidly replacing all my other books on editing and revision because it is practical, Ms. Yates Martin doesn’t just tell you what a problem is, but she gives examples and actionable steps on how to fix them.
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print by Renni Browne & Dave King [2nd Edition] – Has been my go-to book for editing and revision along with White and Strunk’s The Elements of Style and I still use it regularly. I do wish they would update it soon as it hasn’t been updated since 2004.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King – I have not yet met a writer or wannabe writer who won’t tell you to read this book and I’m no different this collection of essays and memories by one of the greatest writers is amazing. Although the next book may be a close second or even first, it’s purely a matter of opinion.
Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury – Of all the books I have by authors about writing, this is probably my favorite with Stephen King’s being a close second. If you haven’t read it yet, go to the library and get a copy to enjoy for yourself.
By Cunning & Craft: Practical Wisdom for Fiction Writers by Peter Selgin – This was a textbook for my MFA program and it has been well-loved if I opened it up you could see where I marked passages inside that spoke to me on a wide array of topics including characters, scenes, descriptions, and more. This book probably taught me more about the mechanics of writing than any other with the exception of How Fiction Works by James Woods (another textbook that I marked up terribly).
I have a lot of books on my Kindle, but I’m only going to talk about the ones that are the most important to me as an author and the list is short even though there are about thirty on there. Here we go:
Let’s Get Digital: How to Self-Publish, and Why You Should by David Gaughran [4th Edition] – This book is free, and David says he’s going to try to keep is permanently free for the foreseeable future. It’s the first in his Let’s Get Publishing series. David Gaughran along with Mark Dawson are two of the most influential people on my self-published author journey in 2020 (but more on that in another post). In fact, you’ll notice books by both of them in my Kindle list as they have helped me learn more about the business side of self-publishing, something I sorely lacked knowledge of when I started.
Strangers to Superfans: A Marketing Guide to the Reader Journey by David Gaughran – It is the second in the Let’s Get Publishing series and is one of the books I desperately needed four years ago (along with his newsletter and website). It tells about how to identify your ideal reader or fan.
BookBub Ads Expert: A Marketing Guide to Author Discovery by David Gaughran – This is the third book in the Let’s Get Publishing series and the only one I haven’t been brave enough to try what it teaches. I’m a flaming coward, I admit it. I’ve just barely started advertising and BookBub terrifies me.
Learn Amazon Ads: Use AMS to Find More Readers and Sell More Books by Self Publishing Formula – Self Publishing Formula is the brainchild of Mark Dawson and I recently became a student of his classes. I finally dipped my toes into the shallow end of the advertising pool, and I have to admit I’m very impressed. I am not an affiliate, but if you’re a self-published author like me, and you can afford to take his classes I recommend them.
The Newsletter Ninja: How to Become an Author Mailing List Expert by Tammi LaBrecque – I am still trying to implement everything this book taught me about mailing lists and failing horribly. If you’re like me and have a newsletter that is suffering from a lack of engagement, buy this book you won’t regret it.
The Artist’s Journey: The Wake of the Hero’s Journey and the Lifelong Pursuit of Meaning by Steven Pressfield – I adore this book and another book by Pressfield, The War of Art. They lift me up when I struggle with my day-to-day writer life, writer’s block, and more.