Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide From Story Creation to Publication, by Ann Whitford Paul (Writer's Digest Books, 2009) Of the many how to books on picture books, I've found this to be the most useful and practical. Ms. Paul walks the reader through the development of a picture book, from the initial decisions (the story's central question, point of view, compelling main character, conflict) to the nitty gritty of drafting (beginnings, acts, themes, show don't tell, endings). She includes additional great advice on revising and marketing one's work.
YA/Middle Grade Books
Writing Irresistable Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers, by Mary Kole (Writer's Digest Books, 2012). Mary Kole's book sets forth the key elements to successful writing for young adults and middle grade readers. Using examples from current and perennial best sellers, Ms. Kole provides an overview of the kidlit market, the mindset of the middle grade and YA reader, and emphasizes the importance of the Hook, or a marketable big idea. She then delves into the nuts and bolts of good writing, including beginnings and endings, developing great characters, plotting, word choice and voice, among other topics.
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print, by Renni Browne & Dave King (Harper Collins 2004) While the best way to improve your writing is to learn from an expert editor or critiquer, the authors give concrete tips on editing one's own manuscripts, using real manuscripts as well as writing exercises. It was from this book that I really learned the Show, Don't Tell rule, and from there, I learned more about characterization and exposition, point of view, proportion (don't over describe, but don't cut important passages), dialogue mechanics, interior monologue, beats, emphasis, voice, and more.
One Year to a Writing Life: Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer's Art and Craft, by Susan M. Tiberghien (Perseus Books Group, 2007). Divided into twelve lessons, one per month, this book walks writers through exercises that will help sharpen skills and expand their repertoire. She covers journal writing, personal essays, opinion and travel writing, short stories, folktales, poetic prose & prose poems, memoirs, and specific topics like dialogue and working with imagination and dreams.
Other perennial writing favorites include Stephen King's On Writing, and Strunk & White's Elements of Style. What are some of your favorite craft books?
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