Better Books for Writers

There are a number of books aimed at writers. Some focus on creating the best possible book sales proposal, some cover invaluable tips on the craft of writing, and others specialize on a particular category of writing (say, screenwriting).

Just as there are innumerable books, there are as many ways to select the right guide for one’s own goals and needs. A general search for “books for writers” on Google is sure to present many options. However, it’s recommended one focus on the particular need at hand: proposals, marketing, publishing, children’s writing, etc.

I conducted my own search recently and came up with a few, representative books that I want to share.

Book Proposals

In addition to reading the submission guidelines for the publishers  (associations, publishing houses, agents, literary journals, etc.) you want to work with, it’s very important to learn industry standards from experts.

How to Write a Book Proposal – Michael Larsen

The author owns a literary agency (check out the Savvy Author section of the website) making him a solid resource of information when it comes to book proposal writing. The book entails the process of developing a viable project and proposal that makes agents and publishers amenable and agreeable to even looking at your particular project. The different chapters cover the subject of your book; the title and subtitle; your selling handle; the book’s special features; the markets, subsidiary rights and spin-offs; mission statement and platform; the promotion plan, partners, and platform; your bio; your book’s effective outline strategies for different kinds of books; making your proposal stand out.

Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write – Elizabeth Lyon

The book’s subtitle is “How to Get a Contract and an Advance Before Writing Your Book. According to Lyon, 85% of all new titles are nonfiction. The book helps authors each step of the process to pitch their nonfiction book idea to the best publisher for it.

This book also features some basic guidelines in developing the book, but also covers important areas such as a literature review to determine your book’s value and possible slot in the marketplace; selling yourself and why someone should buy your book; defining your reader; organizing your book so it’s saleable; the importance of sample chapters in selling your proposal; production details; and promotion channels.

Books on the General Craft of Writing

On Writing – Stephen King

This is one of my favorite books because Stephen King experienced a lot of rejection before being able to hit the ground running in his writing career. He shows us what inspired him and how long the process was for honing his voice and skills. The book is essentially split into two, an autobiography and then guidelines for writers. In his guidelines for writers, he exposes important advice such as the writer’s “tool kit:” a reading list, writing assignments, a corrected story, and nuts-and-bolts advice on dollars and cents, plot and character, the basic building block of the paragraph, and literary models.

The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron

This is one of the leading books on creativity and being an artist. This is a comprehensive twelve-week program to recover your creativity from a variety of blocks, leading you to your true, artistic self empowered by artistic self confidence and productivity. The author’s accompanying website provides very useful tools and additional information to help your growth process.

One of the best pieces of advice involves the morning writing, which aims to stop self-censuring and blocking attitudes and instead, makes writing naturally comfortable and a habitual part of a writer’s day. Another activity that helps writers find their muse once again is artist dates. This entails picking an activity or event each week where the artist can go and experience to feel enriched and happy—therefore reigniting his or her creative juices.

 

Screenwriting Books

Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting – Robert McKee

McKee’s innumerable workshops for newbie screenwriters have inspired many and have gained him a reputation as a leading subject matter expert.  Not only does he help newbies, but he’s also attributed the reanimation of many a suffering screenwriting career (Quincy Jones, Diane Keaton, and John Cleese are a few of his alumni).

McKee’s book focuses on what’s considered to be a prerequisite of the film business, but oftentimes left as the last piece of the puzzle of a filming schedule: screenwriting. He puts into book form what he has been teaching screenwriters for years in his seminar on story structure. McKee is a passionate enforcer of quality writing for the film industry, and wants to provide guiding principles to help release talented writing rather than rehashed how-tos and recipes which limit creativity and innovation.

Making a Good Script Great – Linda Seger

A basic book that reinforces the importance of a solid foundation and creativity in screenwriting—and the importance of story structure. She uses concise examples to enhance each of the basics while adding dimension and helping relate these to the writer’s own needs and make the connection to their own writing project(s). According to the reviews on Amazon.com, this book considered to be an invaluable reference for a few screenwriters (and others in the industry) who got a successful start in the business.

These are but a few examples here and there, and the titles barely scratch the surface of what’s available out there. Where will you begin your search for a great writing toolkit? Make sure your reference shelf equips, enlightens, and stimulates your creativity!

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