8 Books That Will Teach You 95% of What You Need To Write a Kickass Novel

Posted by in Prose on Fire

Writing-Giveaway-Tall-RectangleAt the beginning of this year, I went on a serious novel craft binge and read or re-read nearly 50 books on the art of storytelling. This month, I’m hosting a giveaway of my very favorite storytelling and craft books—yay! If you’ve been struggling to write your book, or struggling to revise it, enter here to win all eight of my favorite books:

http://proseonfire.com/giveaways/novelist/

I’m going to share the “why” behind why I selected each book in a moment, but before I do that, I just wanted to let you know that there are several exclusive, one-time-only, automatic prizes that you can get for doing something as simple as entering the giveaway! You can learn more about them at the end of this post—I promise they are really good and completely worthy of your time and attention!

Now to the good stuff.

8 Books That Will Teach You 95% of What You Need To Write a Kickass Novel

I chose these books on a couple different criteria:

  • Did I get A-ha! moments while I was reading this? I didn’t want to include anything that felt like more of the same, so I only put material that I felt had a fresh take on an old subject on this list.
  • Was the book easy to understand? Some authors take an academic approach to the art of storytelling, which doesn’t jive well with me. If I can’t figure out what to do or how to revise, the theory is worthless to me. I picked the books that felt immediately actionable to me when I read them the first time.
  • Was the book aimed at commercial writers? I’m not particularly interested in literary fiction and most authors trying to go full-time aren’t either. If I didn’t see the underlying marketing genius behind someone’s approach to storytelling, I didn’t bother adding them to this list.
  • Do I refer back to the book regularly? I’ve read almost all of these books multiple times and will continue to do so in the future—I always learn something new and fresh!
  • Is there more where that came from? I looked for authors who had multiple works available, because once I find a mentor I like to stick with him or her for awhile. Not every author on this list has follow-ups, but most do or will in the future!

I also organized the bundle so that it covered all the bases for high-level architecture, plotting, characterization, world-building, and more. (The one area where I still don’t feel I’ve found any solid book on is theme—which is why it’s going to be at the forefront of my own book, Nail Your Story.) I didn’t want a ton of repetition, though obviously there will be some overlap. And there is way more to cover than what’s here, but if you won (or purchased) just these 8 books and followed through on them, you would have a really solid foundation for storytelling that you could totally build your author career on!

Lastly, all these books are books I was already planning to recommend in Nail Your Story. A lot of people have asked me for this book, but the truth is there are already tons of great books out there that will help you outline, finish your first draft, or revise your book. The trouble is wading through them all! But I’m happy to help with my personal recommendations. Here’s the list and why I picked each book:

#1 – Story Engineering by Larry Brooks

Story EngineeringStory Engineering continues to be one of my favorite books on story architecture primarily because Brooks shares what is essentially a 4-act structure that really breaks down what scenes should go where. No book on storytelling is going to be perfect, but this is easily the book that has influenced me the most on the topic. Once you have this high-level framework, you can sink into the specific details using several of the other books in this bundle.

#2 – Take Off Your Pants! by Libbie Hawker

Take Off Your PantsI loved this super simple approach to outlining from Hawker from the minute I heard about it. It’s perfect for plotters or pantsers. My favorite part is Hawker’s practical and easy-to-implement ideas about letting the character’s fatal flaw (and subsequent attempts to overcome that flaw) drive the story forward. She says she got all her ideas from Anatomy of Storytelling, but they all felt fresh to me—not sure we were even reading the same book, really! Additionally, this book is hot, hot, hot on Amazon right now and seems to be helping a ton of people!

#3 – Super Structure by James Scott Bell

Super StructureThis little book is aimed at authors but takes a screenwriting approach to filling in scenes. I liked it because it works for plotters or pantsers and makes it super easy to come up with story ideas for the murky middle section of your story. I’ve heard this book is basically a cliff notes version of Write Your Novel From the Middle by the same author, but sometimes shorter really is sweeter and this gave me plenty of ideas to get started.

#4 – How To Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey

How to Write a Damn Good NovelIf you want a smattering of tips on craft from someone who has created multiple mega-bestselling books, Frey is the guy to listen to. And if you like this book, there are multiple follow-ups, including How To Write a Damn Good Novel II and How To Write a Damn Good Thriller.

#5 – The 90-Day Novel by Alan Watt

The 90-Day NovelSo many writers struggle to write their novel on a consistent basis. The 90-Day Novel gives you a complete framework for making progress on your novel by giving you just one focus per day and helping you keep in touch with your novel at a subconscious level throughout the 3 months. It’s one of the best systems I’ve seen that focuses not on writing a draft as fast as you can, but rather on unblocking yourself and getting past your own fears. I continue to use this system regularly, especially when I’m working on a huge series!

#6 – 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt

45 Master CharactersIf you’re struggling with characterization, you’ll enjoy this book on archetyping by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. It’s much less about the specific archetypes she shares in the book (though those are SUPER helpful and seriously apply to all of your favorite characters) and more about the concept of archetyping. I especially love the idea of the shadow self that every character must have to feel three dimensional. If you enjoy this book, there’s also a follow-up about relationships! It’s called A Writer’s Guide to Characterization.

#7 – The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne

The Story GridShawn Coyne is one of the most fascinating editors in the industry right now and shares his complete playbook from over 20+ years of teaching and editing the bestselling authors of our time. The Story Grid is an approach as rigorous as Larry Brooks’s story engineering frameworks, so if you appreciate that style of outlining, you’ll love the story grid method Coyne shares in this tome as well.

#8 – Storyworld First by Jill Williamson

Storyworld FirstStoryworld First serves as a checklist for everything you need to include in your story in terms of world-building. While this book is most relevant to fantasy and sci-fi writers, it’s still incredibly useful for understanding the various societies, organizations, and entities in your story, even if you are writing in a contemporary setting. I also loved Jill’s voice and personal story, and I think you will relate to it too!

Enter the Giveaway and Get Instant Prizes!

If you’ve been struggling to write your book, or struggling to revise it, enter here to win all eight of my favorite books:

http://proseonfire.com/giveaways/novelist/

I wanted to let you know that I’m not just giving away these books, but also tons of automatic prizes and bonuses that aren’t available anywhere else on the website or email list. These include:

#1 – My First Five Pages Scorecard (Awarded Instantly, Just For Entering!)

Struggling with the opening of your novel? I have a virality scorecard that I’ve used on both my own books and with clients for the past several years. The scorecard helps you rate the first five pages of your story (about 1000 words worth) on 10 goals that are critical to hooking your readers from the get go.

You can use the scorecard to rate your own work, or you can send it to your critique partners and beta readers to see what they think too!

You’ll receive the scorecard completely free when you enter—it’s awarded instantly and will show up in your email inbox immediately.

#2 – A 90-Minute Call on Nailing Your Story (Only 15+ Verified Entries!)

One thing I noticed as I read all these books is that the information you need to draft or revise your story is already out there—but organizing all of that information into a comprehensive framework is next to impossible! Every book uses different terminology and emphasizes different importances or focuses. Very few books discuss the relationships between different parts of your story. For example, how do you go from your theme to your characters (or vice versa), so that those work together rather than in opposition of each other?

My upcoming book Nail Your Story (originally titled Nail Your Outline) is focused on relationships between different parts of your story and also provides a unified theory of storytelling framework so you can be sure that your entire story is working at a high level. It will be perfect for plotters and pantsers and will help you at any stage of the writing process, from outlining to drafting to revisions.

On this 90-minute call, you’ll not only get an early draft of Nail Your Story, but I’ll also go over some of the material with you and open up the floor to any questions you have on the topic. And I’ll stay on the line until all questions are answered, so you can bring specific issues you have with your story to the call.

To get an invitation to this special one-time call, all you have to do is get 15 or more entries to the giveaway! During the giveaway I’ll be sharing chapters from my new book, and at the end of the giveaway we will verify entries and send out invitations to everyone who qualifies.

#3 – A Special Audio Presentation on My Top Tips To Get Started With Dictation (Awarded in Mid-August, Just For Entering!)

Dictation is a tricky subject and one of the pieces of feedback I’ve received on my book, Write BetterFaster is that, “Dictation doesn’t work for me.”

Well, the truth is that dictation is not the future—it’s the present—and it’s only going to become more prominent in our society as the technology goes mainstream. Authors who want to compete and stay in business must get comfortable with all sorts of new technology coming down the pipeline, and dictation is no exception!

There was once a time when handwritten pages were the only way to write a novel—then came the typewriter. In just the last 30 years, computers have become the primary tool for capturing stories for printed books and ebooks. The next step is dictation, and smart authors are producing faster than ever by adopting early.

Like any new technology, it’s not seamless to transition over to exclusive or partial use; however, there is a way to make it less painful! This audio presentation will walk you through my best strategies for making the transition—and yes, we’ll start with baby steps and work our way up.

To get this special audio presentation, all you have to do is enter the giveaway! This reward will go out starting in mid-August.

#4 – A One-Time-Only Webinar on the Behind-the-Scenes of My Business as of September 2015 (Top 50 Entrants ranked by # of verified entries)

On my blog, I talk a lot about masterminds and mentoring and several of the experiments I’m launching in my writing business at the moment. This webinar is going to take you behind the scenes of my business so you can see how to make massive, rapid progress on YOUR writing goals.

I don’t think there are a ton of “secrets” in this industry, but I do think there are authors following the playbook and authors who have no idea the playbook even exists. I’ve spent so much time on my systems this year, and it’s seriously paying off, especially in terms of setting me up for the next year or so of writing. I’ll be sharing my frameworks, planners, and more on this webinar, plus getting super transparent about sticky topics, like exactly how much I’m making and where it comes from, how much I’m spending, and all the shortcuts I’ve uncovered along the way.

Just a few months ago, I thought it took a ton of time (years and years) to become a successful, full-time fiction author—but now I think that the right author with high dedication and a huge focus on mindset can go from zero to full-time in less than a year by following a fairly straightforward playbook. I’ll talk about that more on the webinar too!

To get a ticket to this exclusive webinar, all you have to do is be one of the Top 50 entrants in the giveaway (as ranked by # of verified entries). At the present, there are not even 50 entrants total—so it’s totally doable for you! I’ll be updating you on the rankings throughout the giveaway.

Remember, you can enter below if these prizes excite you!

http://proseonfire.com/giveaways/novelist/

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