Writers have several important tools they lean on: a great keyboard, a trusted laptop, maybe even a lucky red pen. But there’s usually a stack of dog-eared books, too, that are sitting on the desk — ready to provide tips or inspiration as needed.
Here are the books I grab over and over again. They’ve been my bibles. But, you know, even if you don’t write fiction, I honestly bet you’ll get a kick out of all of these. They’re all great fun:
- On Writing, Stephen King: I love this book. The first half is King’s own personal story of how he came to write fiction, but you can jump right into the second half if you want. (That’s where he tells all his secrets.) I absolutely love how he breaks down the drafts, and tells you what to look for in each one. It’s really an outstanding book.
- The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes, Cowden, LaFever, Viders: The eight hero archetypes and the eight heroine archetypes are as old as time, and this book explains each one (with modern-day movies and books as examples). This book shows you how each archetype you’ve selected for your story might interact with the others, and what conflicts may arise when you put them in various situations. Fun stuff.
- GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict, Debra Dixon: I would never be able to tell a 100,000-word story if I hadn’t read this book. Dixon really breaks it down: how every character needs an external goal, motivation and conflict, as well as an inner one. She shows how they criss-cross, meet, and make for fabulous plots.
- Love Planets, M.J. Abadie and Claudia Bader: Wondering how your Taurus heroine might get along with your Capricorn hero? Wondering what might drive them apart and what they might argue over? This book isn’t designed for fiction-writing, but I often assign my characters signs and then look them up in this book to get ideas for conflict and possibility. Great fun.
- The Baby Name Wizard, Laura Wattenberg: This is, hands-down, the greatest book for naming characters. Not only does it list names by gender, but it tells you in what era those names were popular (so to name your hero’s father, who was born in 1951, you’ll have a more reasonable name). It also gives you suggestions for brothers and sisters for each name (“Lily,” for instance, would most likely have sisters named “Sophie,” “Ava,” “Isabel,” and “Ivy.”) It also gives nickname possibilities (“Laz” for “Lawson” or “Fin” for “Phineas”). Sometimes I get carried away just reading this book for fun.
So those are my all-time faves. What great writing books would you recommend? What top 5 are in your arsenal?