My Top Writing Craft Books

When you’re learning the craft of writing (and really, no writer should ever stop learning) the subject of books on writing often comes up. There are the usual suspects, such as Stephen King’s On WritingDebra Dixon’s GMC and Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat and I whole-heartedly recommend them the latter two (I haven't gotten around to On Writing yet, so I really must fix that.)

I wanted to share my recommendations for practical craft books that have helped me and that I go back to time and time again..

1. The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

This is a fantastic book to help you better show your characters emotions, rather than tell. Each emotion has a page dedicated to it (e.g. Anger, Fear, Gratitude, Insecurity etc.) with a description, the physical signs, internal sensations, mental reactions as well as tips for writing emotion. This is not a book you need to read back to front. It's intended use is as a reference to have on hand for use either during drafting or revisions, to help you flesh out your scenes with life-like emotion.

I love this book so much I have both the physical and ebook copies.



2. & 3. The Positive Trait Thesaurus & The Negative Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

Similar to The Emotion Thesaurus, these two books help you to create life-like 3D characters by deepening your characterisation. Set out in a similar fashion, these two books have a double page for each character trait (e.g. Funny, Creative, Bold, Hostile, Apathetic) with a definition, possible causes, associated attitudes and behaviours, thoughts, emotions and examples from film. The examples from film are fantastic and they include a lot of films that people of any age would know (Die Hard, Harry potter and The Wizard of Oz all get mentions).

Again this is a permanent on my desk when I am planning a story and I have both the paper and ebook version.

4. Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes

A plotting book designed specifically for romance novels!! *cue crowd cheering*

So, for anyone who's battled to fit a romance plot with two (or more) protagonists into a traditional plot structure, this book is for you. Gwen is both a romance writer and editor herself, so she knows romance novels. It's simply written, easy to follow and has the right level of detail for those of us who are still one foot in the "pantser" camp. Highly recommend.

5. The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maas

This is a great book to help you really dig deeper or If you've sent your manuscript out and are hearing that agents or editors "didn't connect with the character." Pull more emotion out of your characters and their worlds, create stories that reach in and grab your readers heart. It's more of a "food for thought" kind of book rather than a step by step guide.

6. Grammar Girl (quirk and dirty tips)

OK, so this isn’t a craft book but it IS one of my most used writing resources. I have my illustrated version of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style but this site is so quick and easy to use. Want to know the difference between further and farther? Or whether or not you should capitalise the F in French Fries? Grammar Girl will tell you quickly, sharply and without fuss. Plus she has a short snappy podcast in case you prefer to listen to your grammar lessons.

There you have it, my 5 writing craft recommendations for romance writers! Have you used any of the above? Any that you would add to this list?