Monday, 11 December 2017

5 Non-Fiction Books About Writing Fiction

In November 2015, I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time. For those who don't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it happens in November. The challenge is to write at least 50,000 words of a novel during the month, and if you do, you win! You don't win anything tangible, but trust me, knowing you've made it to the finish line is all the prize you need.

Since then, however, I haven't touched my work. The Word document has sat nestled in its folder on my desktop gathering dust (pixels?) and watching sadly whilst I click anything but it. That doesn't mean that my novel hasn't been on my mind, though - I've thought about it so much. I know it needs a lot of work, and I know it isn't finished. The reason I haven't touched it isn't because I got bored, or because I didn't know what to do with it, but simply because I told myself that I mustn't start working on it again until I'd finished my A Levels, which have taken up most of my focus for the last year.

Like I said, though, that didn't stop me from thinking about it. Thinking isn't the same as actually writing! That's okay, right? It didn't stop me from shopping, either. I bought a couple of books about the writing craft, and was gifted a few more on birthdays or at Christmas. I've said this before, but at some point in my early teens, I stopped wanting to be a writer, which had previously been my ultimate life dream. I lacked confidence, and being someone who struggles to write at length and always has done, I couldn't see myself ever being able to write a full-length novel no matter how much I wanted to. With NaNoWriMo 2015, the dream came back. I proved to myself that I could do it.

So, whilst I couldn't actively work on my novel, I could still try to improve my writing in the meantime. There are so many books on writing out there, and I know from scrolling down the Amazon search results that it's seriously overwhelming, so I thought it might help some of you if I shared the ones I thought looked best!

Complete Creative Writing Course by Chris Sykes

'The only comprehensive creative writing title on the market that goes beyond introducing the basic genres to offering a complete journey along the writing path, including material on editing, redrafting and polishing a piece of work. Featuring the unique workshop exercises to encourage readers to hone their work rather than just progressing through a number of exercises. Takes the reader from complete beginner or committed amateur to the point you've completed, edited and redrafted your work and are ready for publication.'

Master Lists for Writers by Bryn Donovan

This book does what it says on the tin: it contains master lists for writers on characteristics, plots, names, and more. To some of you, it will seem genius. To others, it'll seem downright lazy. I think it's brilliant, because it can be used either as an ultimate guide, where you find something you like and stick it in your novel, or you can use it as inspiration to get you out of a writing slump. 'Write faster...write more! Master Lists for Writers makes 'show, don’t tell' a lot easier and helps you figure out your story more quickly. In this book, you’ll find:

• lists of phrases for describing facial expressions, body language, gestures, physical appearance, and emotions
• 175 master plot ideas, including romance, high-stakes, family, and workplace stories
• lists of words for writing action scenes and love scenes
• inspiration for figuring out character traits and quirks, backstories, occupations, motivations, and goals
• lists for describing settings and writing dialogue
• lists of good character names for contemporary stories... plus medieval England, Regency England, Wild West, and WWII settings
• and more!

Whether you’re writing novels or short fiction, screenwriting, or any other kind of storytelling, Master Lists for Writers is a rich source of inspiration you’ll turn to again and again. This book contains adult language.'

Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan

'Writing strong descriptions is an art form, one that you need to carefully develop and practice. The words you choose to describe your characters, scenes, settings, and ideas--in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction--need to precisely illustrate the vision you want to convey. Word Painting shows you how to color your canvas with descriptions that captivate readers. Inside, you'll learn how to:

  • Develop your powers of observation to uncover rich, evocative descriptions.
  • Discover and craft original and imaginative metaphors and similes.
  • Effectively and accurately describe characters and settings.
  • Weave description seamlessly through your stories, essays, and poems.

You'll also find dozens of descriptive passages from master authors and poets--as well as more than one hundred exercises--to illuminate the process. Whether you are writing a novel or a poem, a memoir or an essay, Word Painting will guide you in the creation of your own literary masterpiece.'

The Writer's Idea Book by Jack Heffron

'Writers will jump start their creativity with over 500 unique idea-generating prompts, from clustering to role-playing to automatic writing, that get the words flowing.'

Get Started in Writing Young Adult Fiction by Juliet Mushens

Juliet Mushens is a publishing queen and certainly someone who knows what they're talking about, so if you're looking to write YA, this needs to be at the top of your shopping list. 'This is an authoritative and engaging introduction to writing young adult fiction for the complete beginner. It will help you understand how the genre works, the big do's and don't's - as well as giving you the inspiration and motivation you actually need to write. Written by a leading literary agent who knows what it takes to make it in this market, this book will give you the advice and tips you need to stand out. An essential book for anyone hoping to emulate the success and addictive qualities that characterise books like The Hunger Games, Twilight, Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars.'

I can't wait to get stuck into all of these properly, and to get back to work on my 'novel' - there's certainly a lot to do...

Do you have any book recommendations when it comes to non-fiction about writing?


  1. Great to read a post from you again. You did the 50,000 ! I was nowhere near - I hope that when you can you work ( and it is work ) on finishing your novel - even if the 1st novel is not published I hope you send it to me - and try again and if necessary again until you see your books on sale ! You are a fighter and although it may take a long time I am sure that one day we will see your published work.

  2. I find it very hard to know whether 'How to Write' books are actually useful or not, so thanks for this post! Master Lists and Word Painting look particularly excellent :)

  3. Stephen King's On Writing is wonderful, even if you're not a fan of his work. He talks a bit about his process and a lot about facing rejection and coming up on top anyway. Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing is fantastic as well; lots of material on how he generates ideas and how he gets them onto paper. I also like Writing Down the Bones for shorter bits of wisdom and I have a few others on my to-read list. I just always have to keep in mind that advice is only as good as the use you put it to.

  4. Hi Amber,

    I would like to say you have been a huge inspiration for me. Your blog has shown me how I can improve in many different ways and I don't mean to self advertise but I have recently started my own blog called AdviceFromMyLife - and I would love if you could read it and give me some advice on how to improve. Writing is truly one of my passions and helping others is one to so on this one I do both. All I can say now is keep up the great work and inspiring others.