As a self-taught writer, I learned from the best: by reading, analyzing what I was reading, putting into practice the activities suggested, and by deconstructing various writings to determine what make those works great writing. Many of my lessons came from how-to books and it is these books or people (in the know) that I recommend here.
Screenplay by Syd Field. This was probably one of the first books I read about screenwriting, which taught me the importance about plotting. This was the book that had me creating storyboards for all fictional work, including novels and short stories.
The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. One of the most important book’s I’ve read to date about plotting. Vogler took Joseph Campbell’s ideas and created a template that I have adopted and merged into a number of other templates. I saw Vogler’s model as a more elaborate extension of Field’s model. I still return to it from time to time.
Creating Unforgettable Characters by Linda Seger. First published in 1990, I yet to find a book that beats this one for creating unforgettable characters. Without a great character, there is no story, and Seger showed me how to dig deep into a character’s soul.
Writing Screenplays That Sell by Michael Hauge. Anything by Hauge is awesome! I first met Michael at a weekend seminar that I attended. That seminar changed my writing forever and ratched my skills up so fast, I was breathless. We told him we wanted a book. This 1988 book is one of my prized go-to books still today.
Writing for Story by Jon Franklin. This little book taught me how to write a three-word logline. It was this book that taught me how to create an elevator description of my story. And it was this book that taught me the skill so well (because I practiced!) that I was able to send scripts to Hollywood production companies based on my cold calls.
More suggestions to come.
Have a book you’d like to recommend and why it’s so good? This is not going to be a list where you promote your own books–you can do that on your own webpages. Instead, this is a list of books where a new or struggling writer can turn for help.