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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The books I most recommend to beginning novel writers are:

The Writers Journey, Christopher Vogler
Goal, Motivation and Conflict, Debra Dixon
The Techniques of the Selling Writer, Dwight Swain
How to Write a Damn Good Novel, James Frey

You can't go wrong with these four guides!
Is that the notorious James Frey?
No, it's not the notorious James Frey. This James Frey is a respected mystery author and writing instructor.
Never read one. Don't want to. Fiction should have no rules.
Correction: I think I skimmed Stephen King. It was okay, but it was his thing.
I have always agreed with Ingrid on "how to" books. I found King's interesting, as I did Terry Brooks' book. But those two, especially King's book, showed more how influences and life experiences helped shape his novels.
Thanks, Clay.

I see this generated a slew of objections. Let's understand that a writer without a knowledge of how language works has no business writing. So grammar and spelling and diction rules are clearly not what I was talking about.
I do enjoy reading about how a writer's life experiences have impacted his or her writing, which is why I enjoyed King's book. And I have no issue with reading a book that spells out grammar or helps with the "business" of writing.

When I was a teenager, I consumed "how to" books, but looking back, wonder where I'd be if I spent that time writing instead of reading about writing.
> Fiction should have no rules.

Is that a rule?
That is an interesting point!
No rules? wow. just think what might happen if there were no rules: present tense in one sentence, past the next. No attributions for dialogue (make the reader guess). No periods at the end of sentences, just whole chapters w/o punctuation.

Stravinsky said it best when asked to write a circus polka for elephants. Tell me how long, tell me how fast, tell me how big the elephants are. Limitations are good sometimes.

Just my 2 cents as a crime writer-musician

p.s. One of the most helpful books I own is Don't Murder Your Mystery, but former editor Chris Roerden. Great for tarting up tired descriptions and lots of other good stuff.


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