There are so many amazing resources out there for writers. In this article, we walk you through our favorite books on writing along with some other resources we’ve found helpful.
The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne
The Story Grid was developed by editor Shawn Coyne to analyze stories and provide helpful editorial comments. It’s like a CT Scan that takes a photo of the global story and tells the editor or writer what is working, what is not, and what must be done to make what works better and fix what’s not.
The Story Grid breaks down the component parts of stories to identify the problems. And finding the problems in a story is almost as difficult as the writing of the story itself (maybe even more difficult.)
Buy at StoryGrid.com or on Amazon.
Mindset and Work Ethic
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
A succinct, engaging, and practical guide for succeeding in any creative sphere, The War of Art is nothing less than Sun-Tzu for the soul.
What keeps so many of us from doing what we long to do?
Why is there a naysayer within? How can we avoid the roadblocks of any creative endeavor—be it starting up a dream business venture, writing a novel, or painting a masterpiece?
Craft of Writing
The Story Grid Annotated Edition of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by Shawn Coyne
The Story Grid editing method in action, from start to finish.
The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
The Heroic Journey explored and explained, by the screenwriter who brought Campbell’s ideas to Hollywood.
The Heroine’s Journey by Maureen Murdock
Explores archetypal journeys from a different perspective, relying on myth and folktales.
The Virgin’s Promise by Kim Hudson
A different take on the heroic journey that also explores a different archetype.
Story by Robert McKee
A classic for storytellers of every medium. Even though it was published in 1997 and focuses on film, Story is one of the foundational texts on story theory.
The Anatomy of Story by John Truby
Truby’s focus is on helping writers become great storytellers. Even though he focuses on film, the principles he outlines are compatible with the Story Grid methodology and applicable to novels.
A Practical Handbook for the Actor by Melissa Bruder et al.
This is the go-to resource for literal and essential action, and analyzing a scene.
How Fiction Works by James Woods
Comprehensive discussion of narration, point of view, detail, and character in fiction.
Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody
An adaptation of Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. It applies Snyder’s storytelling theory for film, to novels.
Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman
This book was originally recommended to us by Steven Pressfield. Its focus is on the commercial bestseller and there’s some useful information about point of view and scene development.
Mastering Suspense, Structure and Plot by Jane K. Cleland
The ideas in this book don’t exactly align with the Story Grid concept of narrative drive (mystery, suspense and dramatic irony), but they do compliment it nicely. Plus it includes interesting examples from novels.
Aristotle’s Poetics: A New Translation by Anthony Kenny
Aristotle’s Poetics is a must-read for serious writers. It’s fascinating that his ideas still hold true today.
Invisible Ink by Brian McDonald
Some of the clearest, most straightforward and useful insights into the use of subtext in building plot and character.
Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias
Iglesias is a film industry veteran who specializes in evoking an emotional reaction in readers (since all scripts are first read by a studio executive). The concepts in this book are exactly in line with Story Grid principles, but they’re viewed through another lens. In other words, it shows writers (of novels and screenplays) how to use storytelling tools specifically to generate empathy for the protagonist and hook readers emotionally.
The 21st Century Screenplay by Linda Aronson
An excellent resource for examining, understanding options within the STRUCTURE leaf of genre clover.
Into the Woods: A Five-Act Journey into Story by John Yorke
Examines story structure and the historical, philosophical, scientific, and psychological journey to the heart of all storytelling.
Write Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell
All about the midpoint shift / mirror moment for the protagonist, great intro into story structure anchored by the midpoint.
Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole
Excellent resource for writing stories for middle grade and young adult audiences.
Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer
Useful and beautiful book that explores writing speculative fiction from where to get your ideas and worldbuilding to drafting and revision. The book includes lots of exercises to apply to your own work in progress, and the examples in “Approaches to Style” are particularly useful when trying to find your authentic voice.
Forms of the Plot by Norman Friedman
The basis for Shawn Coyne’s internal genre categorization
Point of View in Fiction by Norman Friedman
A comprehensive discussion of point of view options.
Masterclass Online Seminars
There are many A-List authors interviewed here, but of particular value are lessons by Neil Gaiman, Aaron Sorkin and Margaret Atwood. There’s a little something to be gleaned from all the writing classes, and also from the masterclasses from actors (re character development) and directors (re global story structure, emotional engagement etc). For example, Ron Howard has a terrific bit on how he handled Dramatic Irony in Apollo 13.
Brandon Sanderson’s Creative Writing Lectures
These videos come directly from Sanderson’s courses at BYU and are designed to help beginning writers who want to become professional writers of science fiction and fantasy.