Top 5 Best Books on Writing in 2012

I keep a running list of all the writing books I’ve read. Here are the ones I got through last year, along with my five recommended favorites:

The 90-Day Novel: Unlock the Story Within by Alan Watt

How to Write a Damn Good Novel, II by James N. Frey

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K.M. Weiland

You Can Write a Novel by James V. Smith, Jr.

Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson

Creating Strong Protagonists by William C. Martell

Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias

Your Screenplay Sucks!: 100 Ways to Make It Great by William M. Akers

Wired for Story by Lisa Cron 

The Essential Guide to Writing a Novel by James Thayer 

And the books that won a spot in my Top Five are . . . 

Screenwriting Tricks for Authors (and Screenwriters!) by Alexandra Sokoloff: I took away some great ideas from this book written by a screenwriter turned author. We’re living in a digital age and the gap is narrower than ever between the pace a reader expects in a movie and what she expects in a book. (Reread Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. You’ll be surprised how much slower it is than you remember.)

Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish with Confidence by Roz Morris: I’m not a big fan of those ra-ra-listen-to-your-inner-spirit books (no offense, Natalie Goldberg). By the end of them I’m thinking, Great, so I’m in touch with my inner writer, now what? I prefer books that give you a little ra-ra, but then go on to tell you how to get your writing butt in gear. This is one of those books.

Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy: My expectations were low for this book (who could blame me with the title?). But this book covers a lot of important ground. My two biggest takeaways were 1) their reassurance that every writer usually serves a long and frustrating apprenticeship; and 2) their explanation of  both what a pitch is and what it is not.

Story Engineering by Larry Brooks: This book has gotten a few lengthy negative reviews (like this one) because the author can come off as repetitive and defensive. I’ll admit that I did have to slog through chunks of it, but Brooks won me over when he opened my eyes to the bare bones of plot structure presented in a way I had never considered before. I wrote an in-depth analysis of how Brooks’ story structure applies to the Harry Potter series.

On Writing by Stephen King: I’ve never read a single Stephen King book (I stay a good aisle or two away from the horror section of the bookstore), but I loved King’s book on writing. It’s interesting, funny, and inspiring (and not nearly as long as his novels!).