10 books every writer needs to read

Something which will be evident to most writers is the plethora of books providing writing advice.

I thought I’d list the 10 books which I’ve found most useful over the years. Some of these may already appear on your bookshelf, but there might be a few here you haven’t yet discovered. I’d love to hear your recommendations too. So, in no particular order, here we go…

Christopher Vogler: The Writer’s Journey
Recommended to me by a screenwriting friend over a year ago and a must-have for any writer, Vogler’s book describes the relationship between mythology and story-telling (the ‘Hero’s Journey’), breaking down the different stages of the story, character development, and plot.

Alexandra Sokoloff: Screenwriting Tricks for Authors (and Screenwriters!)
Sadly only available in eBook format, I’ve been singing the praises of this book ever since I read it over 12 months ago. Sokoloff guides the writer through the development of a novel by dividing it into a five-act story, the same technique used by screenwriters and playwrights. There are lots of examples using well-known films throughout, and it’s a very entertaining read. Be prepared to hit the ‘bookmark’ option on your eReader a lot.

Lisa Cron: Wired for Story
I discovered this book earlier in the year and have been dipping into it for the past six months. The author uses psychology practices to demonstrate how to hook your readers right from the start by analysing what makes a story work, including some really good tips on character development – all the bits which your readers never find out but are essential to you knowing your characters inside out.

Stephen King: On Writing
Like him or loathe him, Stephen King’s book is a very popular writing guide and is something which I still go back and read at least once a year. Part autobiography, part writing advice, there are a lot of tips and tricks in here for all writers in all genres – don’t discount this one just because you don’t write horror.

Lynne Truss: Eats Shoots & Leaves
Struggle with grammar? Get this book. Laugh out loud at the examples, tighten your craft and drive your family up the wall pointing out mistakes in newspapers, signs in shop windows and roadside displays forever more.

Bill Bryson: Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors
I discovered this book by accident a couple of years ago and am glad that I did. If you’re the sort of person who gets easily distracted using  encyclopaedias and dictionaries, then you’re going to love this. Bryson updates the Penguin Dictionary for Writers and Editors and drags it kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Essentially, the book also includes the difference between British and American usages ‘and miscellaneous pieces of essential information you never knew you needed’.

Linda N. Edelstein, Ph.D: Writer’s Guide to Character Traits
Written by a psychologist, this book is a great tool for making sure your character’s traits are believable and accurate. The Guide provides statistical information, exercises and no less than 400 traits ‘blended from a variety of behaviours and influences’. Trust me, your antagonist is in here somewhere.

Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi : The Emotion Thesaurus
Right, people. No more excuses for telling and not showing. Look up the emotion, and find out what the human body does in the way of physical and mental responses, internal sensations and clues to how other characters will react to what your protagonist is feeling.

Carolyn Kaufmann, Psy.D: The Writer’s Guide to Psychology
One for the thriller and crime writers – make sure you accurately describe your character’s psychological disorders, find out what treatments are currently available and how different conditions affect human behaviour.  Fascinating reading.

Ben Schott: Schott’s Original Miscellany
Ever wondered how chillies are measured for heat? Range of ballistic missiles? Levels of freemasonry? Ancient units of measure? Well, here’s the book for you. I’ve had my copy for over ten years but a quick search reveals that it’s still available. Great for research, and a wonderful source of fodder for dinner party conversations.

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