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Friday, March 11, 2011

Some of My Favorite Writing Books: A List for Fiction and Screenplays

I've been meaning to make a list of my all-time favorite writing books. It's going to take some time to really review and remember all of the books that have been excellent, but I thought I'd at least start on a few. Whether you do screenwriting or novel writing, I've found ALL of these books have been insightful. Also, if you have any favorites that you thought were helpful but I've missed them, please let me know.

Save the Cat! and its two sequels, by Blake Snyder

Snyder was a successful Hollywood screenwriter who sadly died in August 2009. He had developed a system for writing a story that is amazing; I just love what's he's done here. Snyder starts with a 15 point story progression, then breaks it out into 40 scenes that are ready to write for the screenplay.


The Anatomy of Story by John Truby

This is an intellectual book that needs to be worked through slowly with your story development notebook in the other hand. Truby sticks with the important through line of the story, and especially the all-important changes that MUST occur in your character in order to make the story gripping and resonant.


Writing the Fiction Synopsis by Pam McCutcheon

This book is hard to find, which I never understood because it's so on-target. McCutcheon breaks down writing the synopsis and gives many examples that will help guide you to write a decent synopsis. This book is also helpful if you're simply trying to work out what your story is about. If you want to purchase, I suggest you go to the publisher Gryphon Books for Writers at, since this book is outrageously expensive on amazon.


Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon

Another offering from Gryphon books for Writers at that gives clear instruction for the smaller units of fiction development. Randy Ingermanson and others also talk about the GMC -- a critical concept if you want to write well enough to become published. Again, buy this from the publisher rather than on amazon.


Break Into Fiction by Mary Buckham and Dianna Love

The book that goes along with the workshop taught by these two ladies, different chapters focus on different aspects of the story with templates and worksheets that give thought-provoking exercises to help develop your ideas.


Writing the Breakout Novel and Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass

Maass is a successful literary agent who has deeply studied books that have "broken out" and grab readers. He includes challenging and thoughtful exercises to do once you have finished your first draft -- and believe me, you will NOT finish your next draft for a very long time, but it will become so strong you won't recognize it.


The Dramatic Writer's Companion by Will Dunne

This is an insightful book that puts forth many questions about your work, in different categories, that will help you shape and then refine it. At the end Dunne has a troubleshooting guide called "Fixing Common Script Problems" that gives clues and suggestions to help with bugaboos such as not enough conflict in a scene, or a passive main character.


The Scene Book by Sandra Scofield

Scofield looks at a unit of story construction, the scene, and discusses how to focus it so that it resonates. Step by step instructions, examples, and exercises really guide to write something effective.


Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy

Randy is my hero, and I love everything he writes. Peter Economy is a professional writer, and together he and Randy have created something really helpful here. This book uses a number of Randy's techniques to develop a writing routine, design and finish a novel, and then create a book proposal and marketing plan. Here is inspiring and can-do advice especially for the newbie.

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