Monday 31 October 2016

7 Must-Have Writing Craft Books

With Marilyn Forsyth

Image courtesy of Giphy

Writers all have a favourite craft book (or two, or ten *grin*) that has helped us along our journey towards publication. Here are the faves of the Breathless group.


The book I've chosen is The Mental Game of Writing by James Scott Bell.

Writing is a mental game (goodness knows my muse often refuses to play fair) but Bell breaks it down into manageable chapters, covering topics such as Burn Out, Stress, Inspiration, Speed, Envy, and many more. He gives some great advice and warns of the many pitfalls a writer can fall into. I was pleasantly surprised by this book and will refer to it when necessary.


If you are a perfectionist writer (I’ll admit to being one of those), always editing and re-editing in search of the perfect word/s, and you want to break out of that never-ending cycle I recommend this reference book to teach you how to silence your inner critic and let your muse embrace creativity so you can get on and write the book!

Inspired Writer: How to Create Magic with Your Words by Bryan Hutchinson reveals in an easy-to-read format how to embrace your creative side and embrace it with a passion that will not let you go as you write. Wonderful, helpful advice.


Writing Screenplays That Sell: The Complete Guide to Turning Story Concepts into Movie and Television Deals by Michael Hauge is my favourite writing craft book. Even though this book is written for the screenwriter, it works for writers in all genres. In it, Hauge (screenwriter of some of the best Hollywood movies of all time) details not only how to develop your story but also how to emote it, make it believable, and how to make viewers/readers absolutely love it! His 3 act structure makes it all so simple. Check out his website Story Mastery for more tips and tools.

Michael’s website:


The Art of Romance Writing by Valerie Parv is my favourite "how to" book. Valerie begins with a spirited defence of Romantic Novels then goes on to summarise some of the diversity within the genre. Her clear, articulate, engaging writing style enables her to impart important information while empowering her readers.


I love Writing Romance by Vanessa Grant. She manages to make everything seem simple and clear about romance writing, and gives excellent suggestions and tips. This one was published some years ago, but it still resonates with me. She gives examples from her own work that illustrate every point. She talks about everything from planning your book to selling it, and also explains the romantic sub-genres. Everything here to make a start, then continue on writing to fulfil your dreams!


I like Editing Made Easy by Bruce Kaplan.
This book is a practical guide for writers and editors. It explains adjectives, turning nouns into verbs, words to avoid, how to avoid word confusion, punctuation, plural traps, getting to the point, and also gives an editing checklist for when polishing your manuscript. English classes were a while ago so this book serves me in that it is a reminder of the basic rules of writing.


Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook is a brilliant writing course in a book. He covers Character Development, Plot Development and General Story Techniques with a stimulating exercise at the end of each chapter. I particularly like his 22 steps to create a book outline. It’s suitable for writers with either a work-in-progress or a completed manuscript. (PS: Although it’s an adjunct to Writing the Breakout Novel, you don’t need to have read it to gain from the workbook.)

Do you have a favourite writing craft book? At Breathless we're always on the lookout for great books to add to our professional library so please feel free to add your favourite craft book in a comment.

Love to Love receiving my first sales statement from Harlequin MIRA. HUGE thanks to all my lovely readers!

Love to Laugh at Halloween creativity.

Love to Learn about Making Facebook My Friend with Sarah Hood (an RWAus OWL course). Sarah has a wealth of knowledge about marketing and the course was very helpful. Follow this link to her website


  1. Great post Marilyn, I need to get reading some of these books! Always fascinating to see what other people relate to; creativity is so personal. I also love 'The Writer's Journey' by Christopher Volley. He gives clear up to date examples, mainly from film, and makes everything seem so easy! Will be fascinated to see other suggestions.

  2. Christopher VOGLER I mean! Sorry, my phone defaulted with the spelling...

  3. Lol. Don't you hate Autocorrect! I knew who you meant, though, Malvina. Vogler's book is definitely a must-have on every writer's bookshelf. I'm looking forward to seeing other people's suggestions, too.

  4. Oh I have some of these and I don't have others - looks like I'm off to get some more craft books. Is there such a thing as too many?

  5. No such thing as too many, Cassandra (even when you're already published). I have a heap on my bookshelves and choosing just one to recommend was really difficult.

  6. Thanks for the mention! The people on that course we so sharing and upbeat .. loved being involved with them.

    1. The course was really worthwhile Sara. We all certainly got our money's worth. Now to find the time to implement all the things I learned. :)

  7. What a fabulous idea for a post, Marilyn. I now have a whole lot of "how to" fiction writing books I'm longing to read. Thank you.

    1. Hi Sharon. So glad you got something from the post. I've read most of the books mentioned but there are a couple that I must look into as well.

  8. Great post, Marilyn. So many great craft books available, each with wonderful advice, and then you come across that one that seems to speak particularly to you and wham, you finally fully understand. And that one book becomes a favourite.

    1. I know what you mean! That's what I found with Maass's Workbook, although I must add that most of the craft books I have on my shelf are recommendations from fellow writers and they are all damn good for varying reasons.

  9. Ooh, love craft books and I hadn't heard of a couple of these. Must investigate further. My two faves are Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

    1. Hi Anna! Lovely to see you here, as always. Judging by your photos, your trip to Canada was sensational.
      Thanks for the recommendations. I've heard really good things about Bird By Bird. Will definitely check it out.

  10. Thank you for featuring my Writing Romance as a "must have" in your October 31 blog. Storytelling is my passion and I'm honoured to be mentioned in such a great list of "must have's"

    Donald Maas, Michael Hauge and James Scott Bell all reside in my library, and I'll definitely be looking for some of the others now.

    I particularly enjoy James Scott Bell both as a writer and a speaker. He has a variety of interesting ways of looking at things that resonate with me, and some very useful strategies.

    If I had to pick only two writing books I would choose Christopher Vogler's "Writer's Journey" because I believe the hero's journey is at the very heart of storytelling. But I also need my collection of craft books. For clarity of writing and touching bases with essential grass roots basics I go back to Jack Bickham's "Writing and Selling your Novel" and "Scene and Structure." Sometimes I reread Bickham's mentor Dwight Swain who wrote "Techniques of the Selling Writer."

    For clarity of writing and clear insight into craft I admire Jack Bickham and James Scott Bell, and ... well, I could go on and on.

    Thanks again for making my book a part of this great list.


    1. Hi Vanessa! Your book is a classic and more than worthy of being included in this list. Thanks so much for your further recommendations, too. We'll look into adding those to our Writing Group library. Many thanks for stopping by.


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