Writing Craft Books: What They Are and Why They’re Useful
Show of hands, who here has read a writing craft book?
If any of you are like me when I started writing, then you might not even know these existed. However, any of you who have read some, please leave a comment mentioning your favorite writing craft book. That would seriously be awesome.
Anywho, do you know why writing craft books are useful? Well, it’s because they can tell us what makes a good story come together. Everyone has heard about plot and characters, and quite a few probably are familiar with story and scene structure. But do you know why those pieces work?
Inside writing craft books, the authors go into depth about why certain aspects of story-telling work, hopefully with examples, and why wrong applications don’t. Just how art books detail how certain techniques, like color theory, work for artists and how music theory books help musicians discover why certain keys sound right together, writing craft books help authors further their writing knowledge.
So many people, myself included, recommend that you read in your genre so that you can learn to write better. This is still very sound advice. Reading like that helps you to know what is expected in that genre by readers. However, unless you’re just naturally good at knowing how story works, then you‘ll need a bit of instructing as to why it works and how to implement it.
However, there are hundreds of writing craft books out there.
How do you pick which one?
Well, if you’re going to learn about writing, why stop with just one writing craft book? Artists don’t have only one book or class on art. Musicians don’t have just one book on music theory. And how many of you had only one math book throughout all your schooling?
Not all of those books are redundant. Sure, a few of them have some of the same basic info, but there is always a different focus. For instance, a book written by an editor and a book written by an author with the same topic in mind will inevitably be different because of their life experiences and what they know works based on their positions in the industry. Yes, many of their suggestions will overlap. It would be worrisome if they didn’t, but there will always be some nuances that one mentions that the other never even comes near. Even books written by one author usually have a slightly different focus on the aspect of story-telling/writing.
This, in itself, is actually a great thing for you. If every writing craft book had the exact same information, the exact same “rules” in it, then no book ever written would truly be unique. Part of what gives our stories their unique voice is how each of us interprets the “rules” of story and how we subsequently break them.
There are so many tried-and-true methods of writing in the world, and not all of them will work with the story you are trying to tell or work with who you are and how you think and write. That’s one of the reasons why I highly suggest getting more than one writing craft book, for fiction and non-fiction. Even if there’s not one book that on its own works for you, it is highly possible to take the suggestions from a bunch of different books and put them together in a way that works best for you.
On that note, there is one book for sure that I will recommend. That is The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. In the big push on showing vs. telling, this book helps you go miles further than before. Inside there is a rather extensive list of emotions and the physical and mental responses or signals related to each emotion, plus a few more details or suggestions on how to integrate those descriptors into your scene.
Just about every writer I know has used and recommended this particular book. And I must say that I was highly impressed by the depth of knowledge that the authors of this guide have given to us. It honestly surprised me how easy it was to use too.
On top of that book, I have about seven other writing craft books that I am slowly, but steadily making my way through. Though these are more in regards to story structure, I know that they have already helped me to improve my story by leaps and bounds.
You know how, when you’re watching movies, you can kinda predict what’s going to happen? Well, after learning more about story structure and other aspects of scene writing, that ability has gone up, but so has my understanding of why certain scenes in movies play out the way they do. It does get quite a bit annoying, especially when I rant to family members about how a scene should have been instead that would have improved the entire movie (in my humble opinion :P). But it is also quite fun. If you can predict how a movie will play out that made millions of dollars because of how many people went to see it, then you are just as good of a writer as the screenwriters and director. That’s something worth thinking about.
Have you read any writing craft books? If so, what’s your favorite one?