My Top 10 Writing Craft picks

Finding worthwhile writing craft books isn’t easy. I look for ones written by authors who have done their research, made mistakes, and are willing to share the highlights. Seriously, a writer only has so many hours in the day, so the “CliffsNotes” style works best for me.

Here are my top 10 resources:

I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post (AF).

#1 GMC: Goal, Motivation & Conflict. (AF) I’m a pantser. Rather than painstakingly planning each detail of my story before I begin writing, I consider plotlines, create authentic characters, and listen to them argue about who needs the most attention. GMC gives clear direction for my stories while working within my natural writing style and keeping my story on track. Amazon or resale stores sell GMC, but you’ll find the best price directly from the author. I purchased the eBook from Amazon (AF), then realized I wanted a hard copy and was happy to support this author. http://www.debradixon.com/books/gmc.html

#2 45 Master Characters: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters. (AF) I have multiple characters in my books, each with distinct personalities. They all wink and have a roguish grin if I don’t know them intimately. I found the author’s examples of characters in films/movies to be most helpful in narrowing down how each personality would respond, speak, and think in a specific situation. I purchased this book through a used bookseller and am pleased I bought the hardback.

#3 The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression. (AF) The entire Writers Helping Writers Series (AF) is fantastic, but the Emotion Thesaurus is a must-have. Conveying emotion, so readers identify with a character is more than using words such as smiled, cringed, and laughed. This book, and the others in the series, helps authors broaden word choice beyond a stale synonym. The authors give examples of physical signals and behaviors, internal sensations, mental responses, associated power verbs, etc. I find the writer’s tip section at the bottom of each page especially helpful.

#4 How NOT to Write a Novel (AF) is a pithy, textbook-style resource with hysterical examples. In my opinion, they geared it to today’s students, and there is some coarse language. A few examples made me blush, and I mostly laughed my way through the exaggerated stories, since they hit too close to home.

#5 Understanding Show Don’t Tell (AF) and Really Getting It. Whether you write in the first or third person, this resource is a game-changer. As an avid reader, I easily recognize how dialog enhances the reading experience. As an author, it isn’t as easy as some master storytellers make it look. Straightforward with easy-to-understand explanations and examples, this book is a must-have resource.

#6 The Story Equation: (AF) How to Plot and Write a Brilliant Story from One Powerful Question. When I receive reviews that say: “I couldn’t put it down,” or “I didn’t see that coming,” or “I feel like these characters are real people,” that would be because of this book.

 #7 The First Five Pages: (AF) A Writer’s Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile… or a reader’s TBR pile, since I’m Indie (Independently) published. The Kindle edition of this is all you’ll probably need.

#8  How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: (AF) The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript. James Scott Bell is my kind of author. If he finds a better way to do something, he takes the time to perfect it, then he shares it.  

#9 7 FIGURE FICTION: (AF) How to Use Universal Fantasy to SELL Your Books to ANYONE   Disclaimer… this book has marvelous information but opened my eyes to a few new genres. If you see the name of a new-to-you genre, trust me, don’t google it.

#10 Desire of my Heart (AF) No. this isn’t a reference book, but it is something I refer to often. Going back and reading your debut novel is an excellent way to improve your writing… and morale. I love seeing how far I’ve come.


If you have a writing craft book you think I’d enjoy, please leave a note in the comments below. I’m always learning and appreciate hearing from you.

Published by Author Heidi Gray McGill

Heidi is an optimist who chooses to find the silver lining in life’s clouds of doubt. She lives with her husband of thirty years near Charlotte, NC. When she isn’t writing, you will find her outside playing with her two grandsons, walking, scrapbooking, reading, cooking, traveling, or finding an excuse to have an outing with a girlfriend.

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