The Argh Writing Craft Reading List

And here it is, the suggested reading on writing in alphabetical order by author, culled from the comments of the previous post. My faves are Seger, Burroway, McKee, and Mernit if you’re writing romantic comedy. And when I go to supernatural/fairy tale stuff, I hit Vogler again. I also remember loving Block’s Telling Lies for Fun and Profit and reading Bickham over and over. The Browne/King book is a great editing book. Michael Hauge’s seminars taught me so much, so I know his book is good. Don Maass and Deb Dixon, too. But many of these are new to me (and some aren’t but I didn’t like them, so I’m just keeping my mouth shut on those), so I have some new research to do. In the meantime, here’s your list, Argh.

Bell, James Scott, The Art of War for Writers
—, Conflict and Suspense
—, Plot and Structure
Bell, Susan, The Artful Edit
Bickham, Jack. The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)
—, Scene and Structure
—, Writing and Selling Your Novel
Block, Lawrence, On Character
—, Telling Lies for Fun and Profit
Bradbury, Ray, Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity
Bright, Susie, How to Tell a Dirty Story
Brooks, Terry, Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life
Browne, Renni, and Dave King, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers
Burroway, Janet, Writing Fiction
Card, Orson Scott, Characters and Viewpoint
Dixon, Deb, Goal, Motivation, Conflict
Dunne, Peter, Emotional Structure
Evanovich, Janet, How I Write
Frey, James H., How to Write a Damn Good Novel
Gardner, John, The Art of Fiction
George, Elizabeth, Write Away
Goldberg, Natalie, Writing Down the Bones
Hauge, Michael, Selling Your Story in Sixty Seconds
—,Writing Screenplays That Sell
Hayden, G. Miki, Writing the Mystery
Hood, Ann, Creating Character Emotions
Horton, Andrew, Writing the Character Centered Screenplay
King, Stephen, On Writing
Klein, Cheryl B., Second Sight
Knost, Michael, ed, Writer’s Workshop of Horror
LeGuin, Ursula, Steering the Craft
Lukeman, Noah, The First Five Pages
Lyon, Elizabeth, Manuscript Makeover
Maass, Donald, Writing the Breakout Novel
Masello, Robert, Robert’s Rules of Writing
Mayer, Bob, The Novel Writer’s Toolkit
McClanahan, Rebecca, Word Painting
McKee, Robert, Story
Mernit, Billy, Writing the Romantic Comedy
Peck, Robert Newton, Fiction is Folks
Pressfield, Stephen, The War of Art
Rasley, Alicia, The Power of Point of View
—. The Story Within Plot Guide for Novelists
Ray, Robert, The Weekend Novelist
Schmidt, Victoria, Story Structure Architect
Linda Seger, Making a Good Script Great
Snyder, Blake, Save the Cat
—, Save the Cat Goes to the Movies
—, Save the Cat Strikes Back
Sokoloff, Alexandra, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors
—, Writing Love: Screenwriting Tricks for Authors II
Stein, Sol, How to Grow a Novel
—, Solutions for Writers
—, Stein on Writing
Swain, Dwight, Techniques of the Selling Writer
Truby, John, Elements of Story
Ueland, Brenda, If You Want To Write
Vogler, Chris, The Writer’s Journey
Watts, Nigel, Write a Novel and Get It Published
Weiland, K. M., Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success
Wheat, Carolyn, How to Write Killer Fiction
Whitcomb, Laura, Novel Shortcuts
Williams, Joseph, Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace
Williams, Stanley D, The Moral Premise: Harnessing Virtue and Vice for Box Office Success
Wood, Monica, Pocket Muse

39 thoughts on “The Argh Writing Craft Reading List

  1. Great list! I’ve been fortunate to hear some of this material presented live by the authors. Some of it was absolutely life changing as well as career changing.

    Speaking of Michael Hauge, he’s doing an all day workshop for NJ Romance Writers in April. Registration is open and, I imagine, filling up fast!

  2. Gonna check out your recommendations, Jenny. You mentioned GMC recently and I love that.
    I have to say the first book I ever read about writing years ago was Brenda Ueland’s book. I can’t say it changed my writing but I enjoyed reading it and have reread it a few times since then.

  3. Wow. Thank you, Jenny Crusie. I was going to buy the wrong Seger. I’ve got 10 days before I plunge into the morass of WTF-am-I-doing-writing. This list is very well timed.

    Look, Kiddo. I know you don’t know me from Adam. I know I’m just another voice on the loop. And sometimes my voice doesn’t translate well.

    But I truly appreciate the value of what you offer–quite freely–to the world. You are a writer, Crusie, but you are also an instinctive teacher. Thanks for the list. Thanks for the sharing. Now, remember. No more freebies.

    Protect your future.

    And now…hello, Amazon.

      1. Fortunately you’re a goddess, so most of what you do for attention tends to benefit the rest of us πŸ˜‰ This is a fabulous list – I’m glad we have most of these books floating around Chez Rumblefuzz, as it’s definitely time to revisit a few of them.

        Also, What Leigh Said about giving us glimpses of your writerly wisdom. Thank you so, so much!

  4. Thanks for the list. Will see what the library has on hand, and build my list of things to buy from there. I ended up with a copy of Volger because I was so sorely tempted to mark up and highlight the library book I had to return it so I could have my own copy to put the tangents and AHA!s down in.

    1. The library is a VERY smart move for most of these. Writing books are as subjective as writing methods, and what one person loves you might loathe. I think McKee is brilliant but it’s a really difficult book. There are others on there that I’ve looked through and thought, “WTF?” but they clearly helped other people.

      1. whoops… i must have missed the “helpful” part… Masello just made me laugh. πŸ˜‰ although if he helps anyone else, cool.

  5. Wow! It’s awesome to see the list displayed. I had no idea about half of them. I have McKee, Vogler, Maas, which are the big three that I go to often but have to have time for because you can’t just skim those. Bickham’s 38 mistakes, I love it for the easy read. It just hits on all the key things and you can read it while soaking in the tub. : )

    1. McKee, Vogler, and Maas are all excellent. I think Bickham’s earlier book was one of the first ones I read way back in the beginning. I liked it a lot although I never did get scene and whatsis.

  6. What an excellent and kind idea! Glad to see this list.

    Are you still looking for Writewell ideas? I have a couple for the beginning 100s level. See, I’m rewriting my first draft, and finding all these discontinuities. For example, my people have a day off, and two days later, I give them another day off (even though my planet has a nine-day week). Also, I have these characters, and I forget their names, and give them other names, and other characters which are mentioned briefly, but then turn into someone else . . . . And it’s a real SLOG trying to corral all these ideas and get some sort of continuity going. Right now I’m doing two spreadsheets (characters and places), synopsis of each chapter, and a timeline. Is this largely a personal problem, or is it the sort of problem many beginners have, and you folks have the magic wand to solve them? (Do any of the books really address this? Oh well, I should be slogging instead of reading, anyway. (-: Should be doing data entry instead of whining!)

    1. You just try to catch them in the rewrite. I get confused on days, so I buy cheap calendar pads and write in when scenes happen so I can make sure it all makes sense. Names I screw up all the time, but the betas usually catch them. If you’re writing an epic, you have more to keep track of then I do.

      1. LOL. I just went through a name spasm the other day in my WIP. Caught it right away. I also use a notebook while writing to keep track of names, plot points, scenes, etc.–a stenography notebook to be exact. Perfect size & I got hooked on them back when I actually took steno in high school & they taught that along with home ec, sewing, metal working, and wood working.

        Think they were grooming us to be Jacquelines of all trades in those days. But it’s all come in handy & even though I’ve forgotten much of the steno, I still use quite a bit when I take notes. Probably very few people on the planet could decipher my hybrid notes now. Kinda works for a mystery writer now that I think about it–it’s like writing in a secret code:)

        1. What a good idea! So, this is my second Nano, and I knew enough this time to try and keep track of names, places in a notebook (but it was really disorganized), but I never would have done the calendar thing. Next time, I’ll do that. It’ll be like 20 minutes of bookkeeping after I make my wordcount, but it’ll be soooo worth it. Don’t Look Down. But, on the other hand, looking sideways can be helpful (-:.

  7. I can help with a couple of those “must look up authors” at the bottom of the list. Story Structure Architect was written by Victoria Schmidt. The Weekend Novelist is by Robert Ray.

  8. Hi, thanks for sharing the list. I’ve a couple of the listed books and they have been useful in developing the plot, characterization , setting et all as also during revision. I’ll try to get some more for my shelves.

  9. I had the good fortune of having Andy Horton as a screenwriting teacher at LSU. Absolutely lovely, sweet, funny man, and was just one of the most encouraging teachers I’ve ever had. Love his book. (Can’t believe I forgot to list it.) Andy had the knack for making you believe that you could be a writer and that what you had was valuable and necessary to the world to hear.

  10. What an awesome list! Thank you. For those of us with websites, or are part of a writer’s group, etc., do we have permission to reprint your list and pass it along? Or do you prefer that we just furnish a link and send people here? I’d love to share the wisdom, but certainly do not want to violate protocol and proper manners!

    1. Personally, I love it when someone links back to the original and I get to discover someone possibly new to me. And really, they’ll thank you for sending them to Argh. πŸ˜€

  11. What I have observed, listening to various writers talk about these things, is that *generally* there are those to whom it comes naturally to describe characters/motivation and those for whom structure/plot is second nature.

    I might be wrong (it happens) (frequently), but it seems that usually one of those things is relatively easy and the other is difficult. And whichever they find difficult is the thing they have learned how to do in spite of the difficulty and can therefore explain and describe to others. While the thing that comes naturally they are at loss to explain.

    So a resource that might be helpful to one writer might just irritate the hell out of another (personally, the thought of using enneagrams or character interviews makes me break out in hives, but I know writers who are seriously at a loss without them).

    I think this is something to keep in mind when recommending and/or buying books about writing. Different writers are going to need different resources.

  12. Brilliant list, thank you so much. It would’ve been a job putting them all together in alphabetical order. It’s not like, here are a bunch of names, press a button and it automatically whips everything around in the correct order…or is there. πŸ™‚

    1. (-: I think you can do it in Excel, but data entry in general is a pain . . . . (I hope to good goodness that you can do it in Excel! That’s why I listed my characters on it, so I could have a chronological AND an alphabetical listing . . . . I believe you can do each column as alphabetical/numerical in turn.)

  13. Thank you for doing, thank you for sharing the list. And the sage advice about libraries for reading, owning for what moves me.

  14. For those of you wanting to alpha sort the list
    1) copy the list
    2) paste the list in Word
    3) highlight the text
    4) click on “Table” under the insert tab
    5) select “convert text to table”
    6) select “seperate by comma” and click ok
    You’ll have to do a little clean-up, but once it’s in table form you can sort it by first name, last name or book title. Hope this helps.

  15. This is an amazing list. I have several of these (which I should probably read some time *rolls eyes*), but I see a lot more I need. Maybe this will be one of my summer time goals – put some real effort into craft books and stop only flipping to the pages I think I need when I think I need them.

  16. I was fortunate enough to hear Vogler give a presentation on the Writer’s Journey a few years ago. It really opened my eyes, both as a reader and as a writer. Now that I have a card for the library in our new town, I can start working my way through some of the others. Thanks!

  17. I’m afraid that I spend more time buying books on writing than actualy writing. No Bird By Bird?

  18. Write Great Fiction – Plot & Structure, by James Scott Bell, is currently on Kindle sale at Amazon for $2.99.


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