Lucky 7 Books About Writing in the 21st century

Let’s get one thing straight—I don’t preach everything these writers have included in their guides, but I’ve found a lot of value in each of them, some more than others. But hey—it’s NaNo—so I thought I’d share my faves.

The other reason for this list is because, when I first started looking into writing novels (I wrote my first in 2006, which I consider quite late, since I basically haven’t stopped writing since around 1996), there were not that many books on the practical skills used in writing novels available in Croatia. (When I say ‘not a lot’, I mean one: this baby.) The offline (and in Croatian) offer hasn’t changed all that much to this day, but—lo and behold—I can now afford to grab awesome, often quite cheap books by actual modern writers (that is, people who’ve published a lot of fiction after 2010 and onward) who talk about the actual modern writing—due to e-book distribution.

The books on this list, then, are not books about the writing craft—I haven’t been reading those for a long while, substituting it instead with awesome writer blogs and reader osmosis—but the publishing craft. Or, the skills you could use to actually make your novel publishable and readable. (Oh, yes—brace yourselves, because books about editing are coming to my blog, and they’re coming soon. Once I find the strength of character necessary to accept the fact that editing is going to be a big part of my life in the next few years.) I’m very pleased to note that some of them have been published as recently as a few months ago, which is, in my book (oh, dear, said Threepio), an absolute perk.

You won’t learn how to publish a novel these days from a book. (Well, unless you start with How to Rock Self Publishing, that one’s pretty extensive.) You’ll learn that from combining everything you can get your greedy writing eyes on—books, articles, podcasts and YouTube shows. But you just might learn a thing or two about formatting and marketing your novel and getting it out there.

I’m also not big on outlining, since I’ve ditched it a few years ago in search of speed and reducing writer’s block. I plan and I dream and I brainstorm a lot, it just never really gets jotted down in the form of an outline. If that’s your jam (and a lot of prolific writers swear by outlining!), go for it!

Oh, and in case it wasn’t obvious—this list is all about indie (/self) publishing. Because I’m both a niche writer and a niche reader, and I’ve been reading almost exclusively indie published fiction for years now and I honestly don’t care.

How to Rock Self-Publishing by Steff Green (Steffanie Holmes)

I first stumbled upon Steff Green in an interview she did for the Self Publishing Formula podcast, where she spoke about writing reverse harem and publishing it, with quite a good success, through Amazon. She’s now one of my “but if she can do it, I can do it” people (you know, those people you have to talk about to your friends and family when they think you’re bordering on insane for starting your own indie press and working primarily on e-books). This book, as a guide, covers pretty broad ground for its small size. It’s more of a starting point, though, than letter of the law, but I’d wager it’s a good place to being when you’re doing your research.

Irresistible Blurbs by Siri Caldwell

I’ve read this book pretty recently, in my search for better cover copy for my first novel in English, Johnny’s Girls. I liked the tone—rather fun—and definitely took quite a few examples to hand.

How to Write a Novel in Ten Days by Dean Wesley Smith

Okay, so—I stumbled upon this book (or its blog version, back in the day) because my werewolf editor extraordinaire Rantalica marked it as read four times or something on Goodreads. From that point onward, I’ve read most of what Dean Wesley Smith’s written on writing (yup, including his blog—those were the days, lemme tell ya, before I exhausted his backlog), and I’ve found one awesome, albeit weird perk—his writing is the most motivational thing I’ve found so far. Not because he puts things plainly, although I do like his demystifying approach. Not because I agree on everything with him—writing still holds a little more magic, to me, I reckon. But because, each and every time I start reading something he’s written on writing, I get this unstoppable urge to write, and then, well, I go and write. It’s a one way ticket to motivated-writer-land, to me, and I love it.

How to Write Pulp Fiction by James Scott Bell

After reading this one, somewhere around the time I read aforementioned DW Smith’s articles on pulp speed, I expected a lot more from the other books James Scott Bell has out on writing, but they never seem to deliver, for me. Luckily, this one was great—short, motivational and to the point—and it did wonders for my self-esteem. (I write a lot faster than many writers I’ve met so far, and sometimes, that can be a bad thing. Well, until you start researching the romance market. Heh.)

The Freelance Writer’s Survival Guide by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

(Remember those writing articles I’ve mentioned before? Rusch writes the best damn writing business blog I’ve found so far—even though I’m just a beginner, I always like to read ahead, and repeat the subject matter. It’s how I learn.)

I read this book in its online, little-less-edited blog version—and I’ve already re-read several parts in the past few years since discovering it first. It’s more about handling (and managing) yourself when you’re working for yourself, than the writing business, precisely, but it’s priceless. Rusch doesn’t skimp on the hard parts, especially in the transition area.

Writing Myths by Kristina Adams

Sometimes you need to know you’re on the right track, alright? That’s the way I felt quite a few times while writing this book. It’s written in short, palatable sections, which makes it great for busy weeks. Also, it’s incredible how stupid things we writers can do. (But it’s an awesome pack to be in, that’s for sure!)

Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes

From what I gathered, this book is controversial in the romance writing community, but it was a first for me, and I really thought hard about my own structure after reading it. If you’re oblivious to novel structure like some of us are, and you’re committed to writing romance, this just might help get you started on the right track. I planned a two-couple trilogy right around the time I was reading it, and it was fun. (Unfortunately, there’s a series I need at least four more books to write in first…)

Good luck!


Photo by Kat Stokes on Unsplash.