Books and Courses on Fiction Writing Technique
That I Recommend
by Cheryl Rainfield, the award-winning author of STAINED, SCARS, and HUNTED, 2018
Learning good writing technique is key to getting–and staying–published. I think, as writers, we can always keep learning and improving on our craft. I will never stop learning and adding to my knowledge.
One of my favorite ways to learn writing technique is through books and courses. They can help you discover new ways to make your writing more effective and powerful; show you things to avoid so that you don’t turn readers off or throw them out of your story; and dramatically help you improve the quality of your writing. Of course, what works for one author might not work as well for another author; our brains process things differently, we come from different perspectives, and we are all at different stages in our writing. But these books and courses have been invaluable to me. Take what works for you, and ignore the rest.
These are some of my favourite books and courses on fiction-writing technique. They are all well written, easy to read, and they all have valuable advice that I wish I’d listened to years earlier. I hope you’ll find them useful. I know I have.
I highly recommend Holly Lisle’s writing technique courses. She provides very specific, clear advice with a friendly, easy-to-follow manner; I’ve bought many of her courses. If you’re in a hurry to improve your writing, start with her shorter classes, which are easier to follow, then graduate up to her bigger, more complicated classes. Holly offers a private discussion board where writers can get help from each other on their writing using the classes. This is especially important when you take one of the bigger classes; it gives you added motivation, encouragement, and support.
Write Flash Fiction that Doesn’t SUCK
If you have any resistance to learning technique, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life and Live Writing: Breathing Life into Your Words are the easiest to dive into. Bird by Bird is funny, vibrant, and real, and inserts bits of technique here and there into the conversational tone, and Live Writing is also very conversational, at times reads like a story, and is actually written for kids (but has so much wonderful stuff for adults).
Orr, Alice. No More Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing a Manuscript that Sells
This is one of my favorite books; it sits on top of my desk for easy access. The insightful, thought-provoking, detailed questionnaire about your protagonist is worth the price of the book alone. I turn to it every time I start a new book. Her other exercises are all incredibly valuable. She offers great insight, and both encouragement and wise writing advice. Written by a former literary agent and editor, and a successful writer herself. Highly recommended!
Morrel, Jessica Page. Between the Lines: Master the subtle elements of writing fiction
Fantastic, insightful writing and editing advice, linking emotion and readers’ reactions and expectations to writing. This book covers a lot that I think other books don’t, and explains how to use techniques effectively. Very detailed and helpful. This is one of my favorite writing technique books.
Fletcher, Ralph. Live Writing: Breathing Life into Your Words – Strategies, ideas, and tips to fuel you for a lifetime of writing
Also A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You.
Incredibly easy to read, this book has lots of very helpful writing advice given in easily digestible chunks. A lot is said in a succinct, compact manner. The book is intended for kids, but it holds so much helpful advice and excellent reminders. Again, this covers a lot. One of my favourites.
Browne, Renni and Dave King. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print
Engaging and easy to read, incredibly good advice on how to polish your writing and make it the best it can be from two editors who know their stuff. This book teaches you techniques that are important in staying out of the rejection pile and getting published. Concrete, immediately useful, incredibly helpful advice and technique. It covers so much important stuff! One of my favourites.
Stein, Sol. Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies
Also: How to Grow a Novel: The Most Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Overcome Them
Incredibly helpful, solid advice and technique on writing from a great editor. This book covers a lot of material. Includes examples from Sol Stein’s behind-the-scenes work with bestselling novelists. One of my favourites.
Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Wonderfully humourous and chatty, an entertaining read while imparting wisdom, advice, and tidbits from her writing life. This isn’t so much a book on writing technique, as an entertaining read about writing that offers good advice–such as that first drafts are always shitty, and are supposed to be.
Maass, Donald. Writing the Breakout Novel
A great book on writing a novel that sells well. This has some excellent advice on writing well, writing the kind of story that really works. It is very easy to read, uses examples from recent fiction, and has practical advice.
Rasley, Alicia. The Story Within Writing Series (self-published)
Alicia really knows her stuff, as you’ll see if you check out her site, where she offers free articles on writing. There is a lot of information in these booklets. They’re not quite as easy to read as her online articles, but they’re packed full of great and useful information.
Block, Lawrence. Telling Lies for Fun & Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers
Also Spider, Spin Me a Web: A Handbook for Fiction Writers
A very readable, and at times amusing, book with good advice.
Kress, Nancy. Elements of Writing Fiction – Beginnings, Middles & Ends (Elements of Fiction Writing)
If you like Nancy’s monthly column in Writer’s Digest magazine, you’ll want to check this book out. It’s got a very conversational tone, really helpful advice, and is easy to read. This has a lot of focus on beginnings and endings, and has a lot of concrete, helpful suggestions.
Keyes, Ralph. The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear
This is more a book for inspiration than technique. The title actually put me off – I thought I didn’t need courage to write. Yet it helped me to hear that E.B. White (author of Charlotte’s Web) was so anxious in his life, put himself down as a writer, and worried so much over his writing — yet his writing is so powerful, and seems so easy. The book is full of tidbits like this, and offered me some comfort. I really enjoyed the book.
©Cheryl Rainfield, 2018
Written by Cheryl Rainfield, award-winning author of SCARS, STAINED, and HUNTED