Sunday, March 17, 2013

15 QotW: What is Your Favorite Book on the Craft of Writing?

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, everyone! Before you head out to that parade, why don’t you take a couple of minutes to answer the new Question of the Week?

Pretty much the only thing writers love as much as writing is talking about writing. So each week here at Adventures in YA Publishing, I post a question for you to answer. The questions cover all topics important to writers: craft, career, writers’ life, reading and books. Together we’ll become better writers by sharing tips and discussing our habits and practices.

Question of the Week for March 17, 2013:
What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?

As writers, we all probably have at least one bookshelf filled with books about how to write. Which of your craft books do you consider mandatory? To which one do you refer over and over again?

My answer: Yikes! Why did I have to ask such a hard question? How can I pick just one? Let’s see… after much deliberation, I’ve made my choice. While I value many, many craft books and reference them often, my favorite would have to be SAVE THE CAT! by Blake Snyder. Written for screenwriters, the advice and tips work perfectly for novelists too. The book is a quick and humorous read, and Mr. Snyder uses personal anecdotes and analyzes popular movies to illustrate his points, which makes them easy to learn. I reference this book dozens hundreds of times while I’m plotting my manuscripts.

I also love the follow-ups: SAVE THE CAT GOES TO THE MOVIES, which breaks down fifty well-known movies according to the STC plotting method, and SAVE THE CAT STRIKES BACK, which expands upon each point in the original book and offers even more advice. While Save the Cat isn’t the only craft book I use, it is my favorite.

The only negative side effect: my family loathes watching movies with me now because I’m always labeling the plot points according to Save the Cat!

YOUR TURN: What is your favorite book on the craft of writing? Why do you love it?

I can’t wait to go buy a whole bunch of new craft books based on your suggestions!
~Clara Kensie


  1. That's a great book. I really like Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell too.

  2. I like Save the Cat - and his "beat sheet" is a useful tool for pacing.
    But I'm gonna have to say, as far as my faves go, I like these:
    "Real Revision" by Kate Messner
    "Anatomy of Nonfiction" by Margery Facklam & Peggy Thomas
    Why I like them: they are focused on writing for children and include nonfiction as well as fiction. While Blake Snyder focuses on what makes a screenplay sell, Messner, Thomas & Facklam focus on what makes your story good, better, best.

  3. Characters, Emotions and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress is my favorite. There's a great emphasis on emotions and how they influence motivations. I've reread it so many times.

  4. I have so many that I love, but one of my big time favorites is Writing 21st Century Fiction by Donald Maass. This is his best writing book yet.

  5. I have several as well, but liked Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks. I highlighted and tabbed most of the book.

  6. Love the "Cat" books and anything by James Scott Bell. Currently I'm really digging The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson.

  7. Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD. I buy every copy I find at used book stores to give away to other writers.

    -- Tom

  8. Wow, you guys, this is wonderful. I have (and love) some of these already, and you can bet I'm going to read the rest! Oh, my poor credit card...

  9. I second all the books mentioned. The craft book that is my current bible is The Anatomy of Story by John Truby. It's been unbelievably helpful. I really can't recommend it enough!

  10. BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott and ON WRITING by Stephen King. Have read them both multiple times.

  11. SELF EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by Renni Brown & Dave King: But here's the thing. You have to grab a pencil and do the exercises.

    Don't get me wrong; it's a great, help read. But the exercises really make clear what the authors are trying to teach.

    Maybe you're not an exercise person. I'm not. But I was on the runway on a Jet Blue flight at O'Hare and stuck there for a few hours (back when that was happening more frequently) and had nothing else to do.

    So, I dug more deeply into the craft book I'd enjoyed flipping through, and it changed my writing for the better.

  12. No, I don't have a books shelf full of books on writing. What I have are books bought mostly for my children's English classes: The Elements of Style (Strunk and White); Eats, Shoots and Leaves (Lynne Truss); Woe is I (Patricia T. O'Conner). Grammar books, all.

    As far as craft books go, I read On Writing (Steven King) years ago, long before I put pen to paper--er, fingers to keyboard--to write my own story. I love the way King writes about his own writing journey, then segues into writing tips full of humorous yet insightful tips on the actual writing process. I've since read it twice more. That's my favorite craft how-to book right now, plus anything Kristen Lamb (@KristenLambTX) writes. (Speaking of, read how Kristen breaks down the plot for FLIGHT: When the Hero is His Own Worst Enemy.

  13. Again, the link didn't work. What can I say? Cut and paste? :-P

  14. I love Save the Cat. All the books mentioned are great, and I loved all of Donald Maass' books. Lisa Cron's Wired for Story. And Cyn's choice is also one of my favorites, Self-editing for Fiction Writers. There are so many great ones, and of course there is On Writing by Steven King.

  15. Fantastic suggestions, guys. I'll be spending a lot of time reading these craft books over the next few weeks!


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