Who gets to tell the story has an immense effect on what story gets told.…
Craft books are an essential part of any writer’s reading regime. Don’t let your ego get you all excited about “being self-taught.” There are instructions. Read them.
- The Writer’s Portable Mentor by Priscilla Long. If I could keep only one craft book, I would keep this one. In its calming tone, it teaches you how to love crafting sentences and learn what you need to know to succeed.
- Story by Robert McKee. While McKee wrote this book with screenwriting in mind, the principles apply to all sorts of narratives. I haven’t found a better source for learning what makes a plot work and how to build captivating stories.
- A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver. Not just for poets. You’ll learn how to infuse your words with sounds and intention, no matter what your form.
- Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. A dive into creating meaning in your own work and figuring out how other writers create it in theirs.
- On Writing by Stephen King. A personal look at how King became the writer he is today, with details like how his wife took Carrie out of the trash can and convinced him to keep it.
- Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark. This seasoned writer straddles the line between journalism and literature, but this book provides solid tools to make any kind of story better.
- Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer and Jeremy Zerfoss. A funky illustrated work that leans toward the fantastic but has lessons for every writer.
- The Way of the Writer by Charles Johnson. Essays from Johnson’s long career in art and writing, with lots of discussion of literary techniques that create a daily life of being a writer.
- Naming the World by Bret Anthony Johnston. Tons of interactive exercises from a Harvard creative writing professor and author.
- Burning Down the House by Charles Baxter. Baxter’s collection of essays discussing fiction’s place in the world as well as techniques for getting it right.
- The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr. Lessons in allowing your true voice to come through from the author of The Liars’ Club, a memoir that spent more than a year on the best-seller lists.
- The Situation and the Story by Vivian Gornick. A memoir- writing classic about structuring the circumstances of your story to evoke the emotional experience on the page.
What’s your favorite craft book?