Common advice for writers is to read, read, and read more. Read voraciously. Read widely. You need to know your genre inside and out in order to write it well. I completely agree.
It’s one of the reasons I read like it’s my job. Because it is part of my job.
Both editors and writers should have an in-depth knowledge of the kinds of books they are working on. This helps us understand and meet reader expectations. We should be reading the classics to understand the genres’ history, the most popular recent books in the genres we write and edit, and books that have pushed at the boundaries of those genres.
We also need to develop and maintain a current understanding of the writing craft — the how and why of storytelling.
I’m constantly spending time with writing craft books. It helps me stay on top of how writers are currently thinking about storytelling. It also helps me find new ways of explaining complex aspects of storytelling to authors.
Below are some of the writing craft books I recommend for both writers and developmental editors (in alphabetical order by author).
A number of these books provide “universal” advice about story that is specific to certain types of stories, and not actually universal. I’ve included these books here anyway because I’ve found them helpful for understanding those specific types of stories. I recommend taking any “universal” advice with a grain of salt.
- Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative by Jane Alison: Strategies for moving beyond the dramatic arc
- Scene & Structure by Jack Bickham and Jack Heffron: Clear instructions on how to use the scene/sequel and stimulus/response structures in novel writing
- Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody: Solid insight into blockbuster plotting
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King: Practical advice on how to write and revise fiction prose
- The Heroine’s Journey: For Writers, Readers, and Fans of Pop Culture by Gail Carriger: A comparison of the hero’s journey and the heroine’s journey packed full of solid writing advice
- The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyne: A great introduction to story structure
- Wired for Story by Lisa Cron: The why behind common writing advice
- Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft by Janice Hardy: The elements to consider when moving from one draft of a novel to the next
- Understanding Show, Don’t Tell: (And Really Getting It) by Janice Hardy: An in-depth look at what “show don’t tell” really means, and how to apply it to prose
- Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes: A great breakdown of beats expected in romance novels
- The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults by Cheryl Klein: An all-around solid book about writing fiction, focusing on middle grade and young adult novels
- Your Life as Story by Tristine Rainer: Current expectations of memoir and how to find a story in one’s life
- Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping by Matthew Salesses: Discussion on decentralizing Western expectations in story and writing workshops to reach readers and writers with diverse backgrounds
- Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schmidt: A good reference for plot structures
Want to see what else I’m reading or just chat about books? Let’s connect on Goodreads!
Want to grab your own copies and support indie bookstores while you’re at it? You can find (almost) all these books on bookshop.org.
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