Books That Taught Me How To Write Books

 

Writing To Sell

by Scott Meredith

This is the first book on writing I ever read and is still the foundation of my thought process. Along with a lot of other things, Meredith explains that the main character needs to have something they MUST do and a reason they CANNOT do it, otherwise there is no plot. Sounds obvious when you say it like that, but a lot of stories do miss this cruical element.

 

Writing Excuses Podcast

by Mary Robinette Kowal, Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Howard Taylor

They've been doing this once-a-week, 15 minute podcast since 2008, and it just keeps getting better. I listen to these on the way to and from work and re-listen again and again to the episodes covering lessons I'm working to internalize.

 

Good Scripts / Bad Scripts

by Thomas Pope

Intended for screenplay writers, but works just as well for novelist. Each of the 25 chapters covers one movie, half of them good, half of them bad, and uses them to explain one crucial aspect of storytelling. The chapter about what Pope calls "The False Second Act" so perfectly explains why the movie The Jewel of the Nile fell flat that I now instinctively check every plot I outline to make sure I'm not writing a false second act.

 

On Writing

by Steven King

This book set me free from the tyrany of trying to write opulent prose. King says if a description is colorful and appropriate for the book's tone, then there you go, mission accomplished.

 

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers 

by Renni Browne & Dave King

Some great sentence-level advice to make your prose sound professional. 

 

The Craft of Writing Science Fiction That Sells

by Ben Bova

Plenty of important things to take from this book, but the big eye-opener for me was the concept that just because a character is travelling or fighting or doing whatever doesn't mean the story is moving forward. The story only moves forward when information is revealed to the reader that changes the situation, that is, when questions are being asked or questions are being answered.

 

How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy

by Orson Scott Card

A lot of good stuff in here, but the most brilliant insight may be Card's MICE Quotient, which you should be able to find an explanation of if you Google it. Mary Robinette Kowal has a great lecture about embedding one MICE story type inside another and how you have to close the stories in the opposite order you open them. Google her name and MICE Quotient and hopefully you'll find an explanation of that. 

 

Characters & Viewpoint

by Orson Scott Card

This also goes into the MICE Quotient but the chapter that was most relevatory to me was the last chapter, where Card talks about how not all third-person limited viewpoints are the same: there are different levels of penetration into the character's mind, and the best writing will shift between light penetration, deep penetration, and cinematic point of view as the story requires. 

 

The Science of Science-Fiction Writing

by James Gunn

First explains why people like to read stories and the cruicial elements any story must have, then explains how to write SF stories that include those elements.

 

Aliens and Alien Societies

by Stanley Schmidt

Space Travel

by Ben Bova and Anthony R. Lewis

World-Building

by Stephen L. Gillett

These are all part of The Science Fiction Writing Series edited by Ben Bova and are a great starting point if you want your spaceships and alien worlds to be techically plausable.

 

Various Novels by Dean R. Koontz

I went through a phase in high school where this is all I read. It took many years before I was mature enough to analyze what it was that Koontz did that I found so compelling. The short answer: "open ended questions." A little bit much to try to explain here, but if you catch up to me in person and are interested, I'll tell you all about it.

Edit: I've now written an essay on the subject.

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