At my blog ( today I discussed books about writing that have been useful to me in my career and may be useful to other fiction writers. The list is below. To see why I recommended each one, check out my blog!

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
How to Write a Damn Good Mystery by James Frey
The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler
Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain
Writing the Fiction Synopsis by Pam McCutcheon
10 Steps to Creating Memorable Characters by Viders, Storey, Gorman and Martinez
Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass

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Comment by Joyce Yarrow on July 16, 2010 at 5:34am
You might want to check out Priscilla Long's, "The Writer's Portable Mentor" - invaluable!
Comment by Benjamin Sobieck on July 15, 2009 at 12:19pm
I'll take your word for it, but I'll still probably read it for the autobiography section. I've been told it's good writer porn. I could use some of that during the Big Wait while the full is out.

The one how-to book I really wanted to read will never be written. Although most of what he wrote was non-fiction anyway, Hunter S. Thompson never wrote specifically about writing. I admire his writing a lot. I learned more about fiction from this gonzo journalist than some of my writing courses.
Comment by Beth Groundwater on July 15, 2009 at 9:25am
I agree with Eric that the Stephen King book is best read early in your writing career. I, also, read it after I'd already completed a couple of manuscripts and didn't get much out of it.
Comment by Eric Christopherson on July 14, 2009 at 4:11pm
I'll second Self-Editing as an excellent resource and add a little known gem by a novelist and former director of UC Irvine's writing program, Oakley Hall. It's called "The Art and Craft of Novel Writing."

From Beth's list I own the Maass book (not the workbook), and would say it's overrated but worth a read.

I think the King book, while entertaining, is also overrated, and I rarely refer to my copy. It's definitely for the beginner, and I'd already completed a couple of manuscripts when I bought it.

Among famous crime fiction authors who've written how-to books, I like Elizabeth George's "Write Away." How she develops her characters is very interesting.
Comment by Benjamin Sobieck on July 14, 2009 at 1:09pm
I've heard "On Writing" by Stephen King is one of the best. It's on my list of books to read. I'd place it above most of the "How-To" section at B&N, since King actually published looks of books that weren't how-tos. That seems to be a quality missing with many how-to authors.
Comment by Dana King on July 14, 2009 at 3:23am
I have a good one to add: Self-Editing for Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King (no relation). I pull it out before every last draft as a remnder, and have placed notes in a file on my hard drive to refer to quickly. A quick, entertaining read with a wealth of good stuff in it.

I've seen Maass speak, and read the Breakout Novel book twice. I was far more impressed with his speaking. The book seems to me to be a checklist on how to write books I (personally) wouldn't want to read. I have since read several books whose authors had to have followed his dictums to the letter. I didn;t care for any of them. They tend to be formulaic (not his fault, he warns against it), with the stakes raised to absurd levels, which is somewhat his fault, as much as he oushes it.)

This next is not meant as a criticism of a book I have not read, but it strikes me as somewhat oxymoronic that there's a 171-page book about how to write a synopsis.

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