Many fiction writers are self-taught. Agents and publishers do not put all that much stock in creative writing degrees. What matters is that your writing be exceptional. Here are some of the best resources for fiction writers.
The Elements of Fiction Writing series from Writer’s Digest books is magnificent. Each of the books in the series is well-written and concise. They provide excellent examples and can each be digested in a matter of days. The series consists of:
Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham
Conflict, Action & Suspense by William Noble
Description by Monica Wood
Plot by Ansen Dibell
Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress
Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
Setting by Jack Bickham
Dialogue by Lewis Turco
Voice & Style by Johnny Payne
Manuscript Submission by Scott Edelstein
Some of these books may be currently out of print, but you can find new or used copies from many online book dealers.
The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile is written by Noah Lukeman, and it is an excellent resource for writers searching for an agent or publisher, or just now setting out to put pen to paper. The book helps you avoid common manuscript errors, attract the attention of agents and editors, and take your writing to a higher level. The title refers to the approximate number of pages an agent or editor generally reads before rejecting your work. The reasons could be many: a weak opening hook, overuse of adjectives and adverbs, flat or forced metaphors or similes, melodramatic or commonplace or confusing dialogue, undeveloped characters and lifeless settings, and poor pacing. Noah Lukeman’s superb book helps you work through these problems and more.
Finding Your Voice: How to Put Personality in Your Writing is written by Les Edgerton and it is another wonderful resource for fiction writers. Agents and publishers today are looking for unique voices. That means you need to write fiction that is unmistakably yours and yours alone. That could mean breakin’ a few of them grammar rules. Could mean some incomplete sentences. Catch my drift?
I could not live without my Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Okay, maybe I could, but I’d rather not. The book is the ultimate guide to choosing character names, and it offers over 25,000 first names and surnames, as well as their meanings. This is a valuable tool for any fiction writer who has difficulty naming their characters.
If you write or plan on writing crime, mystery, or thrillers, I highly recommend purchasing the following resources:
Writing Mysteries edited by Sue Grafton
Howdunit: How Crimes are Committed and Solved edited by John Boertlein
The Criminal Mind by Katherine Ramsland, PhD
These books will walk you through the crime scene, the police procedures, the autopsy, even into the interrogation room. You will learn about weapons, manners of death, and abnormal psychology. You will even learn a bit about the goings-on at trial inside the courtroom.
Once the novel is written, turn to the Writers Market to find the agent or publisher that seems a good match for you. Writers Market is published in a new edition each and every year.
I am always interested in learning about new and additional resources that other fiction writers have found helpful, so please feel free to leave a note in the Comments section below.