Writing Craft Library

Welcome to my Writing Craft Library. I'd like to share with you a list of books from my shelves that have helped me improve my writing skills over the years. These books don't just discuss the mechanics of writing like grammar and punctuation, but include research aimed specifically at writers on topics like weaponry, forensics, poisons, wounds, fight scenes, dark fiction. Some offer personal insights from well-known authors. There are also books that help with self-publishing.


I write mostly short stories with dark themes, so there are a number of books specifically about short story craft and creepy inspiration. Short stories are a different beast to novels, and an excellent way of honing and tightening your work. I hope these titles help you as much as they have helped me.


I'm always on the look out for books to help me improve my writing, so this list will continue to grow as I do.


Books are listed alphabetically by title.

Armed and Dangerous

Michael Newton



Talk about murder! Inaccurate information about weapons can kill your story before a potential publisher has even finished reading your manuscript. Today's readers of mysteries, thrillers, Westerns, true crime, police procedurals, and romantic suspense are better informed about weapons than ever before. If you think you can slip one past these readers, you're wrong. Dead wrong. You don't have to be a gun buff to need this book. If you care enough about your readers and your craft to strive for accuracy, then this book is your comprehensive source for information on: - The characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages of hundreds of weapons - Which weapons were available during each period of history, including their wars - Weapons favored by various types of criminals and terrorists - Weapons used by law enforcement - Weapons used for hunting - You'll also find a glossary of weapon-related terms and a series of appendices including: - A selective chronology of firearms development - Comparative handgun identification information - Comparative trajectories of rifle cartridges.

Author's Guide to Cover Design, The

Stuart C Bache



In The Author's Guide to Cover Design, Stuart Bache shares ways of making your cover look like a bestseller, teaches the design principles behind concept creation and gives you plenty of tips, tricks, and advice to give your book the best first impression possible. With this guide you will learn how to get the most out of your book cover. From writing the perfect brief and why familiarity theory is so important, to creating ideas yourself and preparing your files for ebook and paperback. This book is not only a guide to cover design, it is an essential tool in your journey to becoming a successful author.

Bird by Bird

Anne Lamott



A step-by-step guide to writing and managing the writer's life covers each portion of a written project, addresses such concerns as writer's block and getting published, and offers awareness and survival tips.

Body Trauma: A Writer's Guide to Wounds and Injuries

David W. Page



Never before has such specialized information been so thoroughly compiled and easily accessible to writers! Each book is written by a professional in their respective field, providing the inside details that writers need to weave a credible -- and salable -- story.

Crime Writer's Case Book

Stephen Wade and Stuart Gibbon



A Straightforward Guide to The Crime Writer's Casebook is an essential research companion for all writers of crime fiction and non-fiction. The Crime Writer's Casebook is unique in that it presents first-hand explanations by Stuart Gibbon, a seasoned London Metropolitan Police detective with over 30 years' experience on the force, with additional commentary from Stephen Wade, a crime historian who has published more than 60 books. The authors work as consultants for crime writers and writing groups.

Deadly Doses

Serita Stevens and Anne Klarner



Part of the Howdunit Series, Deadly Doses is written by a professional in the field. It provides the inside details that writers need to weave a credible - and salable - story.

The Emotional Craft of Fiction

Donald Maass



Veteran literary agent and expert fiction instructor Donald Maass shows you how to use story to provoke a visceral and emotional experience in readers.

Ernest Hemingway on Writing

Larry W. Phillips



An assemblage of reflections on the nature of writing and the writer from one the greatest American writers of the twentieth century. Throughout Hemingway’s career as a writer, he maintained that it was bad luck to talk about writing—that it takes off “whatever butterflies have on their wings and the arrangement of hawk’s feathers if you show it or talk about it.” Despite this belief, by the end of his life he had done just what he intended not to do. In his novels and stories, in letters to editors, friends, fellow artists, and critics, in interviews and in commissioned articles on the subject, Hemingway wrote often about writing. And he wrote as well and as incisively about the subject as any writer who ever lived.

Euphonics for Writers

Rayne Hall



Learn how to touch your readers' subconscious with subtle tricks. Certain sounds have certain effects on the psyche. By using words which include those sounds, you influence how the reader feels. Euphonic techniques are popular in poetry, but seldom used in prose. This guide shows how you can apply them to make your prose fiction sparkle. 

Flash! Writing the Very Short Story

John Dufresne



The history of fiction has been dominated by the novel and the short story. But now a brave new genre has emerged: very brief fiction. FLASH! identifies the qualities that make for excellent flash fiction, demystifies the writing process, and guides writers by exercise and example through the world of the very short story. John Dufresne's characteristic warmth, wit, and humor remind writers of the joy in the creative process, making this a perfect guide for any writer interested in trying a new form.

Ghost Writings: A Ghost Story Guide

Deborah Bennison



Who were the great ghost story writers? Why did so many leading literary figures attempt the genre with varying degrees of success? Who were the female ghost story writers, many now unjustly neglected, who made such a huge contribution to the genre? Between 1820 and 1950, a period known today as the golden age of British ghost fiction, the traditional ghostly tale was adopted as a mainstream literary form by many of the foremost writers of the era, reaching a level of mastery that many believe remains unmatched to this day. 

How Not to Write Bad: The Most Common Writing Problems and the Best Ways to Avoid Them

Ben Yagoda



Offers a guide for crafting sentences and paragraphs that are both effective and interesting and that combine clarity with correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

How to Write a Novella in 24 Hours

Andrew Mayne



Andrew Mayne, star of A&E's Don't Trust Andrew Mayne and ranked the fifth best-selling independent author of the year by Amazon UK, presents insider advice from marathon writing to how to create a professional book cover in just ten minutes.

How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript

James Scott Bell



There is one sure-fire way of improving your novel "fast." You may know the fundamentals of how to write fiction. You may be more than competent in plot, structure and characters. But if your dialogue is dull it will drag the whole story down. On the other hand, if your dialogue is crisp and full of tension it "immediately" grabs the reader. And if that reader is an agent or editor, sharp dialogue will give them instant assurance that you know what you're doing as a writer. Writing a bestseller or hot screenplay is no easy task, but dazzling dialogue is an absolute essential if you want to get there. The best part is, the skills of the dialogue craft are easy to understand and put into practice. #1 bestselling writing coach James Scott Bell has put together and expanded upon the dialogue lectures from his popular writing seminars. In "How to Write Dazzling Dialogue" you'll learn: What fictional dialogue is ... and isn't The 11 secrets of crafting memorable dialogue The 5 essential tasks of dialogue 5 ways to improve your dialogue ear 4 can't-miss methods to increase conflict and tension in any dialogue exchange The top 10 dialogue issues, and how to resolve them You'll also see dazzling dialogue in action with examples from hit novels and screenplays. Don't sabotage your chances of selling your work to readers or publishers because the dialogue is unexceptional. Dazzle them with what the characters say. "How to Write Dazzling Dialogue" will give you the tools to do it.

Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them

John Yorke



We all love stories. But why do we tell them? And why do all stories function in an eerily similar way? John Yorke, creator of the BBC Writers' Academy, has brought a vast array of drama to British screens. Here he takes us on a journey to the heart of storytelling, revealing that there truly is a unifying shape to narrative forms - one that echoes the fairytale journey into the woods and, like any great art, comes from deep within. From ancient myths to big-budget blockbusters, he gets to the root of the stories that are all around us, every day.

Line by Line: How to Edit Your Own Writing

Claire Kehrwald Cook



The complete guide to self-editing, illustrating the most common problems with hundreds of before-and-after examples.

The Making of A Story

Alice LaPlante



An introduction to the fundamentals of creative writing, both fiction and nonfiction, takes aspiring writers through each stage of the creative process, from initial idea to final manuscript, accompanied by examples of short fiction and essays.

Master Lists for Writers

Bryn Donovan



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.

Mastering Showing and Telling in Your Fiction

Marcy Kennedy



You've heard the advice "show, don't tell" until you can't stand to hear it anymore. Yet fiction writers of all levels still seem to struggle with it. There are three reasons for this. The first is that this isn't an absolute rule. Telling isn't always wrong. The second is that we lack a clear way of understanding the difference between showing and telling. The third is that we're told "show, don't tell," but we're often left without practical ways to know how and when to do that, and how and when not to. So that's what this book is about.

My Grammar and I (Or Should That Be Me)

Caroline Taggart and J. A. Wines



My Grammar and I offers amusing examples of awful grammar, while steering you in the direction of grammatical greatness. Taking you on a tour of the English language through the minefield of rules and conditions that can catch you out, from dangling modifiers to split infinitives, it highlights the common pitfalls that every English language user faces on a day to day basis. Refreshing everything you should have learnt at school and more, My Grammar and I is informative yet entertaining - an ideal buy for any English language enthusiast.

Negative Trait Thesaurus, The

Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi



So how can writers figure out which flaws best fit their characters? Which negative traits will create personality clashes and conflict while making success difficult? Nothing adds complexity like character flaws. Inside the Negative Trait Thesaurus you'll find a vast collection of flaws to explore when building a character's personality, advice on building layered and memorable characters from the ground up, an in-depth look at backstory, emotional wounds, and how pain twists a character's view of himself, and his world, influencing behavior and decision making, a flaw-centric exploration of character arc, relationships, motivation, and basic needs, tips on how to best show a character's flaws to readers while avoiding common pitfalls, and downloadable tools to aid writers in character creation.

New Hart's Rules

Anne Waddingham



New Hart's Rules is a brand-new text that brings the principles of the old text Hart's rules for compositors and readers at the University Press (first printed in 1893) into the 21st century, providing answers to questions of editorial style for a new generation of professionals.


Note: This style guide is for writers who use British English. If you write in American English, Strunk and White's Elements of Style is the alternate.

On Editing - How to edit with confidence and elevate your writing

Helen Bryant



Writing is a magical hobby and form of expression but getting words on the page is not the same as finalizing material which you are happy to send out and share. This book is a complete toolkit which will help you to tame doubts and insecurities and engage with your internal critic in order to assert control over your manuscript and elevate your writing. Written by the team behind one of the world's most successful literary consultancies, Taming the Crows will show you how to master the art of self-editing--perhaps the least understood but most vital skill in the writer's toolkit.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Stephen King



In 1999, Stephen King began to write about his craft -- and his life. By midyear, a widely reported accident jeopardized the survival of both. And in his months of recovery, the link between writing and living became more crucial than ever. Rarely has a book on writing been so clear, so useful, and so revealing. On Writing begins with a mesmerizing account of King's childhood and his uncannily early focus on writing to tell a story. A series of vivid memories from adolescence, college, and the struggling years that led up to his first novel, Carrie, will afford readers a fresh and often very funny perspective on the formation of a writer. King next turns to the basic tools of his trade -- how to sharpen and multiply them through use, and how the writer must always have them close at hand. He takes the reader through crucial aspects of the writer's art and life, offering practical and inspiring advice on everything from plot and character development to work habits and rejection.

On Writing Horror: A Handbook by the Horror Writers Association

Mort Castle (ed.)



New and classic advice and tips from some of the best names in the field are featured in this guide for writers seeking authoritative instruction and inspiration on writing and selling horror.

Penguin Guide to Punctuation, The

Robert Lawrence Trask



Effective and easy to follow, this step-by-step guide will dispel the mysteries of punctuation and prove an invaluable aid to writing clear English.


Note: This guide focuses on British English.

Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction

Patricia Highsmith



The book is as unusual as you might expect and hope for from Patricia Highsmith. An elegant creative writing guide, it’s also a goldmine for anyone hoping for insight into The Talented Mr Ripley – and its author.

Positive Trait Thesaurus, The

Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi



Inside The Positive Trait Thesaurus, you'll find a large selection of attributes to choose from when building a personality profile, real character examples from literature, film, or television to show how an attribute drives actions and decisions, influences goals, and steers relationships, advice on using positive traits to immediately hook readers while avoiding common personality pitfalls, insight on human needs and morality, and how each determines the strengths that emerge in heroes and villains alike, information on the key role positive attributes play within the character arc, and how they're vital to overcoming fatal flaws and achieving success.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition

Renni Browne and Dave King



Hundreds of books have been written on the art of writing. Here at last is a book by two professional editors to teach writers the techniques of the editing trade that turn promising manuscripts into published novels and short stories. In this completely revised and updated second edition, Renni Browne and Dave King teach you, the writer, how to apply the editing techniques they have developed to your own work. Chapters on dialogue, exposition, point of view, interior monologue, and other techniques take you through the same processes an expert editor would go through to perfect your manuscript. Each point is illustrated with examples, many drawn from the hundreds of books Browne and King have edited.

Sense of Style, The

Steven Pinker



What is the secret of good prose? Does it matter in an age of digital media? In this witty, mind-expanding book about the art and science of writing well, Steven Pinker shows that good style isn't just about rules - it's about empathy, coherence and adding beauty to the world.

Short Circuit: A Guide to the Art of the Short Story

Vanessa Gebbie



Short Circuit fills a real gap in the text book market. Written by 24 prizewinning writers and teachers of writing, this book is intensely practical. Each expert discusses necessary craft issues: their own writing processes, sharing tried and tested writing exercises and lists of published work they find inspirational.

Short Story Writer's Toolshed: Your Quick Read, Straight-to-the-Point Guide to Writing and Selling Short Fiction, The

Della Galton



Originally written as a series for Writers’ Forum Magazine, this snappy, no-nonsense guide has been expanded, amended and updated. Using new examples from her own published short fiction, Della Galton takes you from 'story idea' to 'final edit', and demonstrates how to construct and polish the perfect short story, ready for publication.

Short Story Writer's Workbook: Your Definitive Guide to Writing Every Kind of Short Story, The

Margaret James



Do you want to write short stories, but aren't sure where to start? This authoritative guide will steer you through every stage of your writing journey. We discuss competition, commercial-magazine, one-thousand-worder, flash and micro fiction, explaining how every kind of story works, what you need to consider, and how to achieve competition and publication success. 

Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story

Ursula K. Le Guin



A revised and updated guide to the essentials of a writer's craft, presented by a brilliant practitioner of the art Completely revised and rewritten to address the challenges and opportunities of the modern era, this handbook is a short, deceptively simple guide to the craft of writing. Le Guin lays out ten chapters that address the most fundamental components of narrative, from the sound of language to sentence construction to point of view. Each chapter combines illustrative examples from the global canon with Le Guin's own witty commentary and an exercise that the writer can do solo or in a group. She also offers a comprehensive guide to working in writing groups, both actual and online. Masterly and concise, Steering the Craft deserves a place on every writer's shelf.

Stein on Writing

Sol Stein



Professional secrets from a renowned editor, prize-winning author, and award-winning instructor make this book the #1 practical choice for fiction and nonfiction writers of all levels of experience.

​Story Grid: What Good Editors Know, The

Shawn Coyne



The Story Grid is a tool 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.)

The Story Grid is a tool with many applications:

1. It will tell a writer if a Story "works" or "doesn't work."

2. It pinpoints story problems but does not emotionally abuse the writer, revealing exactly where a Story (not the person creating the Story...the Story) has failed.

3. It will tell the writer the specific work necessary to fix that Story's problems.

4. It is a tool to re-envision and resuscitate a seemingly irredeemable pile of paper stuck in an attic drawer.

5. It is a tool that can inspire an original creation.

Successful Self-Publishing

Joanna Penn



Do you want to successfully self-publish? There are thousands of new books being published every day, but many self-published books quickly sink to the bottom of the pile. Many authors are frustrated because there are so many options for self-publishing, and they don't know which one to choose or what will be best for their book. Others spend thousands of dollars to publish and end up broken-hearted with the result. But it doesn't have to be this way. I've spent the last seven years self-publishing bestselling fiction and non-fiction books and in 2011, I left my day job to become a full-time author entrepreneur. I've made lots of mistakes along the way, but through the process of self-publishing 17 books, I've learned the most effective way to publish and market your books. In this book, I'll share everything with you. The book includes: - What you need to know before you self-publish - Why self-publishing an ebook is a good idea - How to format an ebook - Exclusivity and going direct - How to self-publish an ebook - Why self-publish a print book - Print-on-demand will change your life - What you need to know before you print - How to self-publish a print book - What to do if you want help with the publishing process - After self-publishing - How much does it cost to self-publish? - How do you get paid when you self-publish? - Book marketing principles - How to market fiction - How to market non-fiction Plus, links to more useful resources.

When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It

Ben Yagoda



Introduces the nine parts of speech in the English language, with guidelines on how to use adjectives, adverbs, articles, conjunctions, interjections, nouns, prepositions, pronouns, and verbs appropriately.

Where Nightmares Come From

Clive Barker, Joe R. Lansdale, Ramsey Campbell



The art of storytelling in the horror genre, taking an idea from conception to reality--whether you prefer short stories, novels, films, or comics.

Writing Dark Stories

Rayne Hall



Learn to haunt your readers with powerful, chilling tales. Make their spines tingle with anticipation and their skins crawl with delicious fear. I Disturb their world-view and invite them to look into the dark corners of their own souls.

Writing Fight Scenes

Rayne Hall



Learn step-by-step how to create fictional fights which leave the reader breathless with excitement. The book gives you a six-part structure to use as blueprint for your scene. It reveals tricks how to combine fighting with dialogue, which senses to use when and how, how to create a sense of realism, and how to stir the reader's emotions. 

Writing Short Stories: A Writer's and Artists Companion

Courttia Newland and Tania Hershman



PART 1 explores the nature and history of the for essential guide to writing short fiction successfully.
PART 2 includes tips by leading short story writers.
PART 3 contains practical advice- from exploring your characters to beating writers block.

Zen in the Art of Writing

Ray Bradbury



Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a land mine. The land mine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces back together. Now, it's your turn. Jump.  Zest. Gusto. Curiosity. These are the qualities every writer must have, as well as a spirit of adventure. In this exuberant book, the incomparable Ray Bradbury shares the wisdom, experience, and excitement of a lifetime of writing. Here are practical tips on the art of writing from a master of the craft-everything from finding original ideas to developing your own voice and style-as well as the inside story of Bradbury's own remarkable career as a prolific author of novels, stories, poems, films, and plays. 

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