• Craft/Resource Books

    Anyone who was with me in my MFA program can tell you: I notoriously hate craft books. That's why I'm listing ones I've found particularly useful, across various levels (as judged by me). Please note, I am not getting a commission from the sale of any of these books, nor have the authors asked me to talk about them. (In fact, they don't know who I am!)

    Although at first glance it appears to be a hodgepodge of whacky diagrams, cute cartoons, and other arts, Wonderbook's organizing logic makes sense upon reading the introduction. Each chapter often comes with at least one writing exercise in the middle, given in a bubble to the side, often with an accompanying image as part of the prompt, and the book ends with an appendix with some interviews, essays, and other writing exercises. Part a coffee table book to flip through and part a book concerning building block but big-picture elements of fiction, particularly speculative fiction, Wonderbook is a great tool for any young writer who wants to understand culturally conventional tips to crafting a story that can stand on its own legs.

     

    Level: Beginner

    Although I disagree with Percy's dislike of dialogue, I found Thrill Me to be among one of the most useful craft books I read during my MFA. He ultimately argues that one can take the best lessons of literary fiction—beautiful sentences, rhythmic wordplay—and those of genre fiction—plot and excitement—and merge them to create writing that, as one of his professors once advocated for, thrills. Broken into standalone essays, Percy draws from film and TV in addition to books in order to illustrate his points.

     

    Level: Intermediate (with some beginner-friendly chapters)

    Craft in the Real World is an absolute game-changer. It's less a craft text and more a "how to think about craft" text, shifting the focus from the dominant paradigm to a more inclusive view of writing, discussing the relationship between culture and craft. Although this book feels mostly geared towards fiction writers of color who are in or have gone through an MFA, and people who either teach or want to teach at the MFA level, others will find the first section of the book, which reimagines craft and craft terms, indispensable.

     

    To sample, check out "25 Essential Notes on Craft," published on LitHub.

     

    Level: Intermediate

    If you're hoping to craft literary-leaning stories, Meander, Spiral, Explode is a must. At once both literary analysis and a craft text, the book examines the structural possibilities of (mostly fictional) narrative. In the introduction, Alison challenges the conventional wisdom of narrative as an arc, arguing we do not necessarily need to apply it to all narrative, that in fact, the arc's predominate mode of Western storytelling for centuries is a disservice to all the other possibilities for narrative shapes.

     

    Level: Advanced

    Do you always reach for the same hackneyed expressions to describe body language, internal feelings, and other expressions of emotions? I know I do. The Emotional Thesaurus is one of the most useful books I've purchased. With over 100 different emotions and their corresponding physical, internal, and mental tells, plus a list of "power verbs" associated with them, this text is useful to anyone who wants to vary up their descriptions along this line. Although I've yet to explore the other text in the series, Ackerman and Puglish also have several other books focused on other descriptions as well.

     

    Level: All

  • Helpful Content By Others

    Have a go-to craft article or packet by another author? Let me know so I can look it over to potentially include it!

    Terry J. Benton-Walker

    Are you getting started with a novel or large fiction project, but need some guidance? My terrific and brilliant friend Terry J. Benton-Walker has created a set of worksheets to help guide you through the key elements of your novel: your main character, the obstacles and stakes, and the scenes. I've tested and vetted this product myself! And if you enjoy it and are able, consider throwing him a few dollars on his Ko-Fi.

    Blair Thornburgh

    Blair has worked in publishing for many years, and is also an excellent novelist. Her articles are invaluable resources. You can read about revision/editing strategies, how to structure your first chapter, overall plot and how to write scenes, and more.

    Susan Dennard

    Susan Dennard has a huge list of craft resources on her site—there's basically something for everyone! She has discussions on traditional publishing, plot and character, revising, finding a support network, and more. Anything you can think of related to writing and publishing, Susan probably has an article for.

    Arley Sorg

    Arley Sorg is the co-editor of Fantasy Magazine, one of the pro-paying speculative fiction markets. He constantly reaches to pull new writers up, and is generous with his time and energy on his social media to that end. His website has a plethora of links worth checking out, particularly in regards to aforementioned markets.