Craft Books About Writing you Need to Read

Deep in the drafting trenches whilst trying to write my first book, I realised three things;

  1. I had no idea how to effectively structure a novel-length story.

  2. My sentences were a mess.

  3. I had no idea how to fix these problems.

After some dramatic wailing, I did what most fledgling writers do and decided to purchase some writing craft books.

And down the rabbit hole I went…

The amount of craft books claiming to offer unique insight on how to make your manuscript shine is astounding and, quite frankly, overwhelming. With such an abundance of options to choose from, it’s difficult to determine which craft books are actually helpful and which are passable for most writers.

So, writer friends, I’ve done you a favour and read…all of them, so you don’t have to.

Well, not quite all. But I have digested a large amount and have put together shortlist of books which, in my humble opinion, are a must-read for all writers. There were of course numerous other books I found helpful which did not make it onto this list but if you’re looking for a short, concise reading stack to begin your novel writing studies, covering a wide range of topics, this could be the line-up you need. And for those seasoned craft book readers well into their writing journey, perhaps there’s a book on this must-read list yet to make it onto your TBR.

How Not to Write a Novel

by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman

It may be pushing the parameters of the term ‘craft’ book to include this one, but it’s here for a reason. Written by a literary agent and critic, this hilarious little gem of a book is an amusing collection of all the things which will get your manuscript thrown into the rejection pile by literary agents/publishers. From overuse of exclamation marks to clichés, it takes you through the pitfalls of many newbie writers. You may not realise you’re guilty of a cardinal writing sin until you read this book.

(N.B. I was guilty of the ‘character looks in the mirror to have an opportunity to describe themselves to the reader’ moment with my first book attempt. I shall now hang my head in shame accordingly.)

Even if you’re looking for something more technical, at very least, it will give you a laugh with advice such as: “Giving a reader a sex scene that is only half right is like giving her half of a kitten. It is not half as cute as a whole kitten; it is a bloody, god awful mess.”

In short, this is a great book to read before you even start writing. Especially, if you’d like to avoid severed kittens.

Plot and Structure

by James Scot Bell