Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Writing Craft Books You Need On Your Shelf

my brain on storytelling

Inspired by this post by Sarah Allen, "Tips for Editing Your Manuscript from a Real-Life Editor," as well as an email from a writer-friend asking about reference books on the craft of writing, I've put together a list of craft books that have each had a profound impact (at one time, and often ongoing) on my storytelling and craft skills. 

I hope you'll find them useful!

[Ed. note: for me, the best way to learn was always through application. I would literally sit with one of these books propped open with one hand and a working manuscript in the other.]

“Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder is a great resource for plotting (you’ll notice it’s a book on screenwriting – screenwriters are some of the more talented storytellers of our age). 

“Story” by Robert McKee, which is more philosophical and less cookbook, but still vitally important.

Another is  I love “Emotional Structure” by Peter Dunne – I keep waiting for him to write another book, but he never does! 

“A Dash of Style” is wonderful for understanding the art of punctuation.

“Style: Clarity and Grace” is fantastic for taking your writing craft to the next level.

These next two are from Donald Maass and James Scott Bell, two of the masters at the StoryMaster’s conference I attended in Nov 2013... which I HIGHLY recommend – most writing conferences are a complete waste of money. This was worth every penny.  


I’ve been writing for six years, and lots of novels, so I’ve picked up lots of little things along the way. But each of these books make a distinct impression at one time or another.

Now go forth and make great art!


  1. You know it's dangerous to talk about books on writing in front of me ... especially when I only have four of the seven books.

  2. Great stuff, Susan! I've read a couple of these. Oldies but goodies I loved were Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird," Stephen King's "On Writing," Natalie Goldberg's "Writing Down the Bones" and "Writer's Mind," and "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Renni Browne and Dave King.

  3. Thanks, Susan! I have three of those, but hadn't heard of some of the others.

  4. Great that you included Story in this list. I read it around five years ago and still remember some of the great things I learned.

  5. Thank you!! Was fortune enough to attend Robert McKee's workshop! What a high!


Erudite comments from thoughtful readers