- The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Storytellers & Screenwriters, by Christopher Vogler. – An absolute must-read book for writers of any genre.
- Screenplay by Syd Field. Some people say his work is outdated. I say no because everyone else in Hollywood has built their models upon his. He was the first to articulate story structure into a visual, readable format. In fact, because of Syd’s structure, I was able to overlay Vogler’s structure on Syd’s structure quite easily.
- Writing Screenplays That Sell by Michael Hauge. – If ever you get a chance to attend a Michael Hauge workshop near you, do so!! I’ve attended four now, two of them full weekend workshops, and I learned from this Hollywood professional every time. His credentials are fantastic, and he’s a wonderful sharing individual.
- Screenwriter’s Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script by David Trottier. – I purchased the first issue when it came up. It’s been updated many times since. You’ll want the most current version because Hollywood does change format from time to time.
- The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats. Part I: The Screenplay by Cole/Haag. This first part is for the big screen. This second volume is for the small screen, television. The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats. Part II: Taped Format for Television.
- Making a Good Script Great by Linda Segar. – Linda is an expert script consultant and offers great advice.
- Teach Yourself Screenwriting by Raymond G. Grensham – This book repeats what so many others teach in their books, but it does it in a visual way. My copy is riddled with Post-Its, which is always a sign that the book is a keeper. This book actually taught me how to create spreadsheets of my characters, counter-characters, and various elements of plots.
- Gaffers, Grips, and Best Boys by Eric Taub – If you truly want to learn about the business of film-making, this is the book to have on your shelf. You’ll learn who all those people are behind the camera and those who are involved in obtaining a script and getting it produced. Even though a movie begins with a script, there are many people involved in the various steps toward production.
- How to Adapt Anything into a Screenplay by Richard Krevolin – There aren’t many books about adaptions and this one is one of the two best that I’ve found so far.
- The Art of Adaptation: Turning Fact and Fiction into Flim: How to Transform Novels, Plays, and True-Life Stories into Screenplays by Linda Seger – This book is the second of the two best books on adaptations, and all of Linda’s books are great…an added bonus.
If you want to write screenplays, you’ve got to read them. There are available online and for free. These are some I recommend:
- A Few Good Men – a must read!
- Pulp Fiction – another must read!
- The Martian – I loved the book & the movie both!
- Any book by Donald Maass. My first introduction to Donald was with his The Career Novelist: A Literary Agent Offers Strategies for Success. That’s the book that told me that becoming a writer isn’t about one book; instead, it’s about writing ten books before a writer gets noticed. Sue Graton’s ABC mysteries is a case in point. He’s gone on to write more how-to books and each one is current, relevant, and important. I haven’t finished reading them all…yet. They’re in my to-be-read pile.
- How to Write Killer Fiction by Carolyn Wheat – She refers to the four-act model that Syd Field introduced (really three acts but with the second act broken into two parts). This book actually builds on Syd’s, in my opinion.
- Writing for Story by Jon Franklin – This book taught me how to write a three-word summary of any story. From those three words, I then could write a one-sentence summary or logline easily.
- Verbalize by Damon Suede – “Bring stories to life & life to stories” is the byline and he tells you exactly how to do it.
- “Deep POV–What’s So Deep About It.” The Editor’s Blog. – If you’re having problems understand POV from Deep POV, this article provides excellent examples of both so that you can see the difference.
- “Why First Person POV is NOT Deep POV.” Writers in the Storm blog. – This is an excellent posting that differentiates between the First Person Central (Narration) POV, and the First Person Peripheral POV.
- “3 Action-Reaction Misfires That Flatten Your Writing.” Writers Helping Writers blog. – A fantastic blog about missed opportunities to create reader engagement. I was hooked from the get-go reading, “When characters fail to react to what’s happening around them, it’s as if nothing is happening at all. A snappy line of dialogue goes nowhere if it doesn’t get under someone’s skin.”
- “10 Examples f Author Intrusion in Deep POV, How to Fix It.” Writers Helping Writers blog. – Wonderful examples of how to fix author intrusion descriptions that are telling into either Deep POV, dialogue, or action. By Lisa Hall-Wison.
- Janice Hardy’s Fiction University blog. This blog is a treasure chest of “nearly 3000 articles” from a teacher of writing and other special guests.
- 101 Words – A website of flash fiction, where you can subscribe for more, along with information on how to become a volunteer or submit your own stories.
- Every Day Fiction: bite-size stories for a busy world – Stories you can read, subscribe to its newsletter, or submit your own stories.
- The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi – This book has become my all-time favorite go-to book when creating characters. Why? Because all of us, including our characters, have secrets that are born from a wound so deep that it drives our actions and thoughts. Many stories lack this character wound, thus the characters become one-dimensional.
- Archetypes: A Beginner’s Guide to Your Inner-Net by Caroline Myss – This book demonstrates ten different archetypes.
- The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes & Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LeFever, Sue Viders – This book has a few more archetypes than the previous book, but this book also provides examples of the archetype from the hero and the heroine, providing movie or book character examples.
Writing Gothics / Psychological Thrillers / Mysteries
- “How to Write a Thriller,” from MasterClass. I can’t say enough about the classes offered by MasterClass. So many experts and I’ve learned from them all.
- “3 Writing Lessons on Suspense From Alfred Hitchcock,” by Ken Miyamoto from ScreenCraft, April 8, 2019. – Hitch was the absolute best in his day on how to create suspense.
- “How to Write a Compelling Psychological Thriller Novel,” by Kat Clay, May 4, 2022. – Not only great writing tips but also suggests half a dozen of the best thrillers, like Shutter Island, Rosemary’s Baby, Rebecca, and Gone Girl. Clay states, they’re “psychological for a reason.”
- “How to Outline a Thriller Novel: Using the Three Act Structure,” by Savannah Gilbo – She’s a developmental editor and book coach, offering multiple pages, with each page focusing on a different aspect of writing thrillers, including conventions and obligatory scenes.
- “How to Write a Thriller Step By Terrifying Step,” by Cailean Steed, Jericho Writers website. – What I particularly like about this article is that it talks about the difference between thrillers, mysteries, and suspense. The three genres have similarities but they’re not the same. Additionally, there’s a list of different kinds of thrillers and a list of popular mystery tropes.
- “How to Write a Thriller,” by Rachelle Ramirez, from her rachelleramirez.com website. – A developmental coach, she provides fantastic tips on what needs to be in a thriller, including a list of must-have obligatory scenes, a list of conventions to be used, and a list of Thriller subgenres. Be sure to check out her other pages, including the how on how to tell the difference between the horror and crime genres.
- “Shapeshifter: A Literary Term Defined,” by Judy L. Mohr, Black-Wolf Editorial Services website. – This page by far is one of the best explanations I’ve read about creating a character who shapeshifts psychologically, rather than the traditional physical shapeshifter characters we’re used to. Mohr writes thrillers and other genres and is a developmental editor and writing coach.
- “Gothic Literature: A Guide To All Things Eerie,” by Jodie Robins, Jericho Writers website. – This page is awesome in that it defines what a Gothic is, lists the key ingredients of a Gothic, provides a list of key tropes, key themes, motifs, and provides a list of the most influential and popular Gothics of all time.
- “Escape Tropes,” from TVtropes.org website. This list of links is extensive!
- Writing Gothic Fiction, by Rayne Hall – A short read, loaded with everything a writer needs to write Gothic fiction. A must-have for any writer of thrillers and Gothics.
- Writing Scary Scenes, by Rayne Hall – Another short read but loaded with great writing tips for writing scary stories.
- Writing & Selling Your Mystery Novel, by Hallie Ephron (sister to screenwriter Nora Ephron). – A bigger book than Hall’s books, but this book is excellent for a beginning writer as it talks about how to choose a title, how to revise, how to come up with your premise, and other lessons a new writer would find helpful.
- “How to Write a Fantastic Plot Twist,” Brianne Hogan, Final Draft blog, Spept 26, 2023.
- “Plotting a Romance Novel: Really Useful Links by Amanda J Evans,” n.d., Writing.ie blog. https://www.writing.ie/resources/plotting-a-romance-novel-really-useful-links-by-amanda-j-evans/
- “Writing the Romance Novel: The Seven Story Beats,” 2008 April 28, Kaye Dacus: Humor, Hope, and Happily Ever Afters blog. https://kayedacus.com/2008/04/28/writing-the-romance-novel-the-seven-story-beats/
- “Write Romance? Get Your Beat Sheet Here!” 2012 November 1, Jami Gold blog https://jamigold.com/2012/11/write-romance-get-your-beat-sheet-here/
- “Using the 12 Stages of Physical Intimacy to Build Tension in Your Fiction,” Jenny Hansen, March 7, 2012, Writers in the Storm blog. I remember hearing Linda Howard when she first presented these 12 stages of physical intimacy that came from Desmond Morris’s work at a Romance Writers of American conference in the 1990s. That workshop was a huge aha moment for me.
- Writing Creative Nonfiction, edited by Carolyn Forché and Philip Gerard – I taught creative nonfiction classes at Western Michigan University, two summers in a row, and this was the textbook I used. An anthology, it provided students the opportunity to different writers in different genres and styles of writing non-fiction. If you’re not sure what type of nonfiction writing you want to do, this book can help you discover your passion.
- Best American Essays – Every year this book is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and each year the book has a different big-name writer as its editor. If you really want to learn how to write great creative non-fiction, these are the books to read. They teach by example. Two outstanding essays for me:
- “A Sudden Illness” by Laura Hillenbrand, 2004 issue – an essay where she reveals how she wrote Seabiscuit despite her debilitating chronic fatigue syndrome, where she wrote just a few sentences every day.
- Joyous Volandoras” by Brian Doyle, 2005 issue – an essay about hummingbirds.
- “The Structure Isn’t the Holy Grail You’re Looking For,” by Lisa Cooper Ellison. This article is one of the best I’ve seen on how to choose what the memoir is about and how to build it.
- The Elements of Playwriting: How to Write Stageworthy Plays, Develop Your Theatre Sense, Create Theatrical Characters, Shape Plot and Dialogue, and Find the Resources to Get Your Play Produced, by Louis E. Catron – This book is a true nuts-and-bolts type of book, especially for the beginning playwright.
- The Best American Short Plays – This book is produced every year, coming out in September along with all the other Best American books: Best American Short Stories, Best American Mysteries, Best American Essays, Best American Science and Nature Writing, Best American Travel Writing, and more. A great book to see what’s current in playwriting and how published plays are formatted for this publisher.
The Business of Writing
- Looking for an agent? Check out this website, Literary Rambles, owned by Natalie Aquirre.
- Writers in the Storm – a blog recognized by Writer’s Digest as one of the “top 101 blogs for writers.”
- The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Freidman – As I wrote in my review of this book, if I was teaching creative writing again, this would be a required textbook. If you think being a writer is just about writing the book, think again. Any writer should thoroughly know the business before trying to sell or self-publish their book. To not know the business means you could be taken advantage of.
- How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen. – One of the best books on how to write a book proposal. This book has been updated since its first release.
- Negotiating a Book Contract by Mark L. Levine – written by an attorney, this a “guide for authors, agents, and lawyers” regarding contracts, rights, copyrights, revisions, options, sales, clauses, and so forth. A small book, but an important one.
- Guerrilla Marketing for Writers: 1000 Weapons for Selling Your Work by Jay Conrad Levinson, Rick Frishman & Michael Larsen – I don’t keep many marketing books on my shelf, but this book is one of them. So many ideas, so little time.
- Sell Your Book Like Wildfire: The Writer’s Guide to Marketing & Publicity by Rob Eagar – This book has become a favorite go-to book, particularly regarding online marketing.
- “How to Secure Early Endorsements (Blurbs) for Your Book“ by Penny Sansevieri – A fantastic article that tells you how to find those endorsements and where to get them.
- “8 ‘non-sleazy’ upselling techniques to sell everything except your soul” by Erin from MailerLite articles – Going down to the middle of the article is the subtitle, “The Best Ways to Upsell Using MailerLite,” and what follows is pure gold. Great recommendations on different ways MailerLite can make a difference for you as a writer and in connecting with your mailing list readers.
- “Debunking the Myths of Developmental Editing“ by Tiffany Yates Martin – a blog posted on the Writers in the Storm: a blog about writing. A blog awarded by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers. She starts with the myth of “You always need to hire a developmental editor,” and goes from there. A must-read for all writers, in my opinion.
- “Authoring Chaos Step 17: Contracts” Elle M Drew blog, by Elle M Drew – a blog post not to be missed by anyone in any business, especially those who do business with others and without a contract. In doing so, you become a target. Drew’s advice is excellent as is The CLAUSE, which no contract should be without.
- “Critiques – How to Get Them, How to Receive Them” by Diana Stout, MFA, Ph.D., Writers in the Storm blog.
- “Self-Publishing Companies: Pros & Cons (+13 of the Best),” by Bella Rose Pope, Self-Publishing School website, Mar 2, 2023. This entire article is outstanding. Every indie author/publisher should read it.
- “No One Wants to Steal Your Book,” Brevity Blog, March 5, 2020. Excellent article about why you don’t need to worry about someone stealing your book and publishing it themselves.
- “How to Write a One-Page Synopsis“ by Steve. Writing Academy Blog. A perfect example of how to write a synopsis.
- “The Complete Guide to Query Letters” by Jane Friedman, Jane Friedman blog, Updated December 18, 2022. Everything you need to know about writing a query letter.
- “Your Manuscript Has Been Edited By Top Professionals–But You Still Get Rejected. What Gives?” by Allison K. Williams, June 14, 2023. Jane Friedman blog.
- “Amazon Editorial Reviews: Are You Using This Incredible Section?” by Dave Chesson (of Publisher Rocket), July 13, 2020. Jane Friedman blog.
- “How to Write a Catchy Blurb in 3 Steps,” by MasterClass, last updated Sept 2, 2021. MasterClass website.
- “Why I’m Not Scared of AI As a Professional Writer,” by Krystal N. Craiker, ProWritingAid blog on ProWritingAid.com website.
- “Book Reviews: 4 Steps to Validate Your Work,” by Hannah Jacobson, Writers in the Storm blog, September 22, 2023.
- “How to Get Your Book Published,” Anne R. Allen’s Blog…with Ruth Harris. n.d.
- Writing for Publication: Road to Academic Advancement by Kenneth T. Henson – A great book for finding topics, organizing and deadlines, avoiding errors, communicating with editors, and more. An easy-to-read and easy-to-understand text. While for academics, it’s not written in that typical dense academic style.
- How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing by Paul J. Silvia, Ph.D. – Academics read a lot and they are expected to write a lot. The problem though is that not all academics are writers. Even if they are writers, not all writers can write fast. This book helps all of these types of writers.
The Craft of Writing / How to Become a Better Writer
- “When and how to self-edit your book,” The Fussy Librarian, October 20, 2023 – A fantastic article about why you want to self-edit, and various elements you’re reviewing when you edit your own work.
- “6 Questions To Go Deeper With Subtext in Fiction,” Lisa Hall-Wilson, Writers in the Storm blog, November 22, 2023. A fantastic article that looks as the use of power as a subtext tool.
- “Cultivating Creativity with Writing Contests in 2023,” Writings in the Storm blog – The best part of this article is the section mid-way through the article, entitled, “Tips for Finding the Right Writing Contest for You.” Various questions you need to ask yourself to determine if this is the right contest for the work you want to submit.
- Authors Publish Magazine – A weekly newsletter that rotates its theme, always with a list of markets taking submissions–some paying, some not, but it’s a great way for a new writer to build a portfolio (It’s how I started!). Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, etc. Also, they provide a list of agents who are looking for clients. Publishers looking for books and from writers who don’t have an agent.
- Tina Radcliffe’s Writer’s Inside Edition – A monthly newsletter that includes publishing news, upcoming contests, conferences, Twitter pitches, workshops & webinars, writing organization, what publishers are seeking, and more. I met Tina through her writing class about submitting short stories to Woman’s World magazine, one where she’s published nearly a dozen short stories. You can subscribe by going to her website here.
How-To Tutorials on Creating Promotional Ads & Campaigns
- “Tutorial: How to Create Your First BookBub Ads Campaigns,” by Shaulee Shah, BookBub Partners Blog, March 16, 2023. An easy-to-follow tutorial.
Miscellaneous Tips and Help
- “Eight Tips to Google Like a Pro.” – A fantastic graphic that shows you how to conduct a search so that you get better results.
- Not finding qualitative search responses? Try Google Scholar.
- “How to Make Your Writing More Sensitive–And Why It Matters,” by Melissa Haun – An article recommended by a fan who said, “This guide really helped me understand how one can enhance interaction by creating a safe and inclusive environment for communication. When writers are mindful of the reader’s emotions and experiences, they can establish a sense of trust and empathy. This can encourage readers to engage more deeply with the content and feel comfortable sharing their own thoughts and feelings.” Thank you Emma for this recommendation!
- “7 Tips for Writing a Book Review,” by Tina Radcliffe, Tina Radcliffe website. – This blog post is one of the best I’ve seen for tips on how to write a book review, particularly because she states that “reviews are about the book, not about the reader.” Excellent advice.