When I decided I wanted to be a writer, I got my hands on everything I could about plotting, prose, story and character development and the art of creative writing.
Here’s what I learned: the majority of books from famous writers are self-reflecting memoirs with a handful of good life lessons. Inspirational, but not useful.
Although – I will add – sometimes inspiration is exactly the missing piece; because without a burning desire to succeed as a writer, few authors will take the time to master their craft.
What is “craft”? Craft is the skill of doing something well; of making something.
In my opinion,
Craft is the “how”. Art is the “why.”
Most writers and even many gurus (especially the famous writers) only focus on the art, the why, the passion. But writing a passionate book is not the same as writing a good book.
YOU do not get to define the quality, or the value of your work – that depends on its impact, which means ultimately, readers will decide for themselves (although you can get better at communicating the value).
I’ll also point out, when most people talk about the craft of writing, they’re actually talking about the art: the flowery, ornamental, sentence-by-sentence choice of words that few real readers will care about. While pretty writing can be an effective additional feature of a book, it is not the book.
So when I talk about the craft of writing, I’m talking about the nuts-and-bolts, universal tips, tools, lessons, techniques and strategies that you can actually use to avoid common amateur mistakes and make your manuscript stronger.
In my opinion, there are too few books like this: and instead a whole bunch of completely separate, unique approaches, so that when you read them all, you’re actually left to pick and choose or assimilate as many useful approaches as possible.
That’s why I wrote BookCraft: a complete system to writing books readers love.
But it took me a PhD, a few dozen books and a decade to get there, and I’m indebted to the insights of many great writers who came before me; peers in my field or the publishing industry; and story experts.
So without further ado, these are what I think are the most useful books for authors who are determined to improve their writing. PS. I’m also including some “author writing business” books – because the first step to good writing is understanding
that art is creativity focused into an object of value.
Figuring out who your audience is, what they expect and appreciate, and how to make them happy will be critical to your success, confidence, skill and writing craft (because the more people like your writing, and the faster you see favorable results, the more likely you’re going to persevere and move from inexperienced to masterful.)
I didn’t list them in preference, but my top three: nobody wants to read your shit; plot perfect; and write from the middle.