I just finished reading Stephen King's On Writing - which is a part CV part How To guide. He specialises in Science Fiction, but most of his advice to wanna-be authors is about style and form which can be applied to crime fiction. He also offers tips on how to keep focused on the job and avoid writer's block and stale characters. It helped me a lot.

So, I was wondering - what was the best How to Write book you've ever read? Why was it helpful? Have you even read one before?

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Alright, calm down gentlemen! I started this thread to get an idea of what people thought, not start a biff! It's nice to know that there are so many different ideas about this, though...
Yes, and you probably could get all you needed to know about writing from reading--voraciously. But I'm with Beth, there are those I can learn from. I like Dwight Swain too. And I like Jack Bickham who was I think, one of Swain's student, Scene and Structure.
Agree. Well conceived "rules" weren't just thought up by a bunch of English teachers sitting around a room. Time has shown that these thing work in a large majority of cases, so they're as good a place as any to start for a fledgling writer.

It's like the "rules" for music composition. "Never write parallel fourth or fifths." Anyone who wonders why just has to listen to harmonies that contain parallel fourths or fifths; they suck. That's not to say there might not be a time when that's exactly the sound you want, so you break that "rule" for the desired effect. That's a whole different thing than breaking it due to ignorance, as the results almost invariably show.
I agree with you Dana.

I'm calm now Jessica. Everyone's position is clear by now, I think. Probably best to move on :)
King's book is good. Right now I am reading NO MORE REJECTIONS, by Alice Orr, and find it interesting.
I enjoyed Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I also enjoyed Stephen King's book when he stuck to writing advice.
Yeah, that part were he talks about wiping his arse with poison ivy. I could have done without knowig that...
I found the parts of Stephen King's On Writing about those little technical bits of writing very helpful, but other than that, I try to avoid most writer's how-to's for fear of them trying to impose a formula on my already formulaic imagination. ;)
I really enjoyed Janet Evanovich's How I Write. It's as lively and entertaining as her novels, with good down-to-earth advice from someone who writes successfully. So many of these books are written by people you've never heard of. I got a lot out of Stephen King's book, and some of the others mentioned in previous posts here. But for the best one, the one I found most stimulating, I'd probably go for Story by Robert McKee.
So are writing books written by writers better or more insightful than HOW TO books written by people who aren't technically fiction writers?
I read the writing part of King's book every year or so, skipping the biography in the beginning. (Though it was much better than I expected once I got into it. He does not spare himself in his criticism.)

I skim SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by Renni Browne and Dave King (no relation) at least once a year. It's a quick and fun read, and has lots of good ideas that are easy to put into practice.
I liked Stephen King's book On Writing. It was funny, sad, and full of truth, as well as hope for those of us going rather slow.

I read it one weekend when I was really, really sick. But it helped encourage me. He has extremely good advise, like 2nd draft = first draft - 10 %. Excellent!

Janet Evanovich's book is helpful too. Her idea is why I started using a teacher's planner for keeping track of characters etc. Works really well.

There are millions out there. Some are great, some are not, but usually you can find some kind of helpful tid -bit. It isn't about the rules, its about the suggestions and the proven systems that you can adapt to make yours, if you wish, and if you don't, you can set it on a shelf and not think about it again, or re-sell it, or send it on its way to a used book store. I usually keep them. Once in a while I have a question and I go back to one of my many resources and the answer is````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````````` usually there.

James Frey also has a book called How to write a Damn good Mystery. It was okay.

Guide to Fiction Writing by Phyllis A. Whitney. One of the best books ever for a writer getting started, who doesn't know anything about writing.


Another good book is writing a selling your mystery novel " how to knock 'em dead with style" by Hallie Ephron.


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