A List of Writing Craft books to Help make your Word Shine

We’ve written our first book all by ourselves. The words materialized on the page. It’s a best-seller.  So naïve. The publishers squash our dream of mega sales after multiple rejections. How is that possible?  Could it be we know nothing about creative writing beyond what we learned in English class? Time to get educated. Conferences are not always cost effective for newbies putting their toe in the writing river.

However, there are lots of writing craft books out there by well-established authors who took the time to share their best practices in a book.  I asked a few of my writer friends to tell me their favorite craft books and the response made me want to check out new resources. No matter what you struggle with as you create that manuscript there are books to guide you step by step. Most of the authors mentioned here have multiple writing craft books.   

Books that introduce you to the art of writing

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas

(Donald Maas is the go-to guy for teaching writing excellence.)

Stein on Writing by Sol Stein

(A classic)

On Writing by Stephen King

(another classic)

The Emotional Craft of Writing by Donald Maas

21st Century Writing by Donald Maas

The Art of Fiction by John Gardner

The Irresistible Novel by Jeff Gerke

Story Genius by Lisa Cron

Books that speak to specific areas

Every writer stumbles with some aspect of writing. One of the suggestions below is sure to help.

How to manage your time to write your book

The Chunky Method by Allie Plieter

The flow and structure of your novel

First Pages of Best Sellers-What Works What Doesn’t and Why By C.S. Larkin

Super Structure the Key to Unleashing the Power of Story by James Scott Bell

First Fifty Pages by Jeff Gerke

Write your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell

The Last Fifty Pages by James Scott Bell

Specific areas writers struggle to grasp

Writing Unforgettable Characters by James Scott Bell

Voice: The Secret Power of Great Writing By James Scott Bell

Plot vs Character by Jeff Gerke

The Dance of Character and Plot by DiAnn Mills

Conflict vs Suspense by James Scott Bell

How to Write Dazzling Dialog by James Scott Bell

Writing Deep Viewpoint; Invite Your Readers into the Story by Kathy Tyers

Now you’ve finished your manuscript but do not understand the proper way to edit it. And rewriting is not very appealing after you’ve just sweated over 200,000 words. (please don’t even think about publishing that many words in one tome.)

Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King

Revisions and Self-editing for Publication by James Scott Bell

Murder Your Manuscript By Andrea Merrell

What about author blindness?

27 Blunders and How Not to Make Them by James Scott Bell

Writing with Excellence 201 by Joyce K. Ellis

What to do with your craft books

The key to success in learning the craft of writing when you acquire any of these books—READ them,  DO the exercises. Take the advice and apply it. It is better to buy one book and wear it out, rather than every book on this list, and leave them on your bookshelf. (Guilty.)

Then my last encouragement is to read in the genre you want to write. For example, if you want to write a thriller, read many, and study how the authors construct their stories. Read the best-sellers to discover how and why they are so popular. This applies to non-fiction too. Grab them up and observe the structure of the book. Most are available in e-book if that is your preference. There are hundreds of books available on writing craft. So, take the plunge and see if your writing doesn’t improve exponentially.

Add your favorite writing craft book in the comments.

Want to learn more writerly stuff? Then, please, subscribe to Jubilee Writer before you leave.





Andrea Merrell Shares: Is There Room in the Writing World for You?

Although this blog was posted on The Write Editing before Christmas I feel Andrea Merrell’s insights are spot on as we enter the New Year. A career in Writing is a difficult journey and as 2018 closes it’s easy to get discouraged and doubtful. I hope you find Andrea’s words as inspiring as I did.

Andrea Merrell 2


Is There Room in the Writing World for You?

By Andrea Merrell

It’s hard to know for sure how Mary must have felt the night she was about to give birth to the Savior of the world. Weary, cold, most likely hungry, and going into labor she was surely ready to climb off that donkey and crawl into a soft, warm bed.

But the only words she heard over and over were “no room.”

I can only imagine the other words she heard that night. “Sorry. Filled up. You should have gotten here earlier. Come back another time.” She might have even been told “our rooms are reserved for frequent, high-profile guests.” An earful of discouragement.

Closed sign - artur84

At times we might face that same discouragement as writers—especially after a long journey of conferences, critique groups, appointments, classes, devouring books on the craft … and rejections.


No room. Sorry, that category is filled up. You should have submitted your proposal earlier. Come back another time after you rewrite your novel or come up with a new story. Your genre is not quite what we’re looking for at the moment. Yes, we have spots open, but they’re reserved for our high-profile, well-known authors.

That’s when the Enemy fills our mind with thoughts like: I might as well give up. What’s the point? I’m tired of trying. God must not have called me to do this after all. Maybe He’s even forgotten about me.


That’s when the fight-or-flight instinct kicks in. We either go into hiding or fight for what we want. We might shut down our computers and quit or try to break down the door that has been closed to us. Either way, it’s a waiting game.


So, what should we do while we’re waiting? Just keep on, as they say, keepin’ on. Do what God has called us to do. We should never be tempted to try and promote ourselves. That’s God’s job, and He takes it seriously. He’s also very good at it. We need to look to Him for acceptance and approval, find our significance and self-worth in our relationship with Him. One pastor says, “In God’s kingdom you don’t achieve success on your own, you receive it from God. Let others compete and compare. Just stay faithful in what God’s given you to do—and when the time is right … He’ll come and get you.”

I love that statement “He’ll come and get you.” Just like He came after David as the young shepherd was tending sheep, doing the job he was given to do, while his brothers were striving to be Israel’s next king. God had a plan. He knew exactly where David was and how to find him. When the time was right, God sent for him.

The truth is in God’s kingdom there’s always enough room—for all of us. When we belong to and work for the Creator of the universe, the Master of Creativity, there is never a shortage of opportunities. The venue you have in mind may not be the one He has reserved for you, but it’s there with your name on it—not someone with more notoriety.

As a child of God, He has a plan and purpose for you and for your writing. He knows exactly where you are and how to find you. Trust Him for His perfect timing. He will open doors of opportunity that no one else can. There is more than enough room in the writing world—for you!


Open door - basketman

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I loved the encouragement Andrea brings to my writer’s heart. It is hard to soldier on in our calling as Writers when doors are closing all around. And even when publishers doors open wide and we feel at last we’ve arrive our own lack of confidence can sabatoga our career goals. I’m starting 2019  with a commitment to renew my trust in the Savior to guide me through the next twelve months as I continue to write, allowing him to be in charge.



Busting The Writer Stereotype


When you think of an author which one of these photos fits the stereotype?

Here’s an interesting tidbit from my many years of attending writers’ conferences. Because I don’t fit the normal stereotype of an introverted shy writer, I talk to people. Complete strangers get my attention. I’ve discovered one interesting fact.

We are not cut from the same mold.

Not everyone who is a writer has been creating stories since they were able to pick up a crayon. Another myth busted.

During the course of these conversations with writers, I’ve discovered a few interesting categories.

  • The messengers.

They have one passion. It might be loving God, prayer, abuse, disabilities or a host of other topics. Everything they write focuses on that message. If it’s articles or books, the core theme remains the same. They felt called to share their heart through the written word.

  • The degreed.

These writers have BA, MA or PHDs. Not necessarily in writing or even English. Often they are retired. However, young college students or new graduates are part of this group. Writing for this group is either a new direction or a lifelong dream.

  • Lifelong learner.

Like me, we only have a high school diploma, but we educated ourselves over time and continued to learn what we don’t know about writing well.

  • Underachievers

This group were poor students in school, and English class was not their friend. A few admit to graduating in the bottom ten percent in college. Others only have a GED.

  • Accidental 

Illness or unemployement gave some wouldbe wrtiers time on their hands. So, they gave it a try.

  • Second language.

I’m always impressed when I meet writers who’ve mastered English and are able to articulate well on paper. Their determination to get it right is admirable.

This is not an exhaustive list.

No comparing

The point is there is no formula of what qualifies someone to take on writing as a career. Our differences give voice to our writing. Each individual journey has the same destination: publication. Whether it takes us a day or years to reach publication, it tastes as sweet.

Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others on the same journey. Because I never went to college, it’s easy to let tendrils of inferiority surround my self-esteem when in the presence of the degreed. Then I remind myself we’re two different breeds of wordsmiths, and I enjoy their company and our exchange of ideas.

The best place to look when you get a bit discouraged is your heart. It’s not about fitting into the perfect stereotypical mold. It’s not about degrees or loving English. It’s not even about being a shy introvert who loves being alone with words. Rather, it’s the call you feel on your heart. The need to put words on paper even if they aren’t very good. The passion to change lives. And the willingness to persevere.

I’m sure you’ve figured out the photos are all writer friends of mine. Not a stereotype among them.

Tell me about your writing journey. I’d love to hear about it.

And if you’d like to receive this blog in your email subscribe in the right column. 🙂


Author Andrea Merrell Shares Editing Tips

Andrea Merrell Photo 10The toughest part of writing a manuscript is editing it into shape. Reshaping our baby when we feel it is perfect and the best it can be is a very emotional thing.

I’ve asked Andrea Merrell to join me and discuss some tips from her book Murder of a Manuscript: Writing and Editing Tips to Keep Your Book Out of the Editorial Graveyard.

Andrea, I wish your book had been available when I started this writing journey. Your tips would have made it so much easier. This small book is power-packed. Tell me why you wrote it and how you chose the content.

Thanks, Cindy. It’s an honor to be with you today. Murder of a Manuscript basically evolved out of all the notes I use to teach workshops at writers’ conferences. As new writers, we have to start with the basics. Even as seasoned writers, we sometimes need a reminder of the little things that can send our manuscripts to the editorial graveyard. My book is not an exhaustive guide on every single thing a writer needs to know. Instead, it is intended to be a quick, easy-to-read-and-navigate guide to help writers understand what agents, editors, and publishers are looking for. Like you, I wish something like this had been available when I first started my own writing journey.

My favorite part was your honest confession of how you put together your first book as a naive novice. Please, share it with my readers.

This was my first major faux pas as a new writer. I had put together a story that was sure to be the next best-seller. J My manuscript was 14 pt. Comic Sans, single-spaced, and filled with words in all caps, bold, and underlined. It was loaded with exclamation points and thoroughly sprinkled with clichés. I had designed my own cover and even used colored paper. Sure that I would wow the ladies at my first-ever critique group, how embarrassing to find out all my hard work screamed “Newbie!” Thankfully, the leader of the group lovingly and patiently explained to me that everything I had done was unprofessional and would be immediately rejected. She, along with the group, pointed out the correct way to format, along with all the things not to do. It was a learning experience I will never forget and will always be extremely thankful for—especially since I was headed to my first writers’ conference.

Why did you decide to add a recap section?

So many times when we read, especially a nonfiction book, we see things we want to remember and/or find again. I tend to underline, star, or highlight passages to refer back to, but with the new wave of e-books, this is not possible. The recap section is meant to sum-up each chapter with bullet points that, hopefully, the readers will remember. This is where repetition is helpful.

You’ve dedicated a whole chapter to what you term “little foxes.” Explain those.

In the Song of Solomon (2:15) we read about how the little foxes are ruining the vineyards. While the larger foxes were able to reach the fruit, the smaller ones resorted to chewing on the bottom of the vine so it would fall to the ground. That way they could easily reach the fruit. The problem was that the vine was ruined. As writers, we need to watch out for those little foxes that ruin our chance for publication. We tend to see the larger critters invading our manuscripts, but it can be all those pesky little typos, grammar glitches, and incorrect usage that derail our project. This is why editing and proofreading is key. If an agent, editor, or publisher can’t get past all the little foxes in your manuscript, they probably won’t invest the time to fall in love with your story.

You’ve listed additional resources at the end of your book, which is so helpful. If you could recommend only one, which resource would it be?

That might be a nearly impossible question to answer. As an editor, it’s essential to use the CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style), the CWMS (Christian Writer’s Manual of Style), and the AP Stylebook. These are considered industry standard. I think as a writer, my two favorite go-to books are Polishing the PUGS by Kathy Ide (now Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors) and The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Straus. My favorite online resource is Grammar Girl and her “Quick and Dirty Tips” (http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl). I would also encourage your readers to visit and subscribe to www.TheWriteEditing.com. As editors, my friend Alycia Morales and I share information once a week that is helpful to writers. We have a guest post once a month by a well-known author or editor, and we love to do book giveaways.

Andrea, there are so many books out there about self-editing and how to write. If a writer read them all (okay, realistically a few) on the many subjects of writing well would they still need to hire an editor?

Yes, yes, and yes. J When we’re going through our own work, we’re too close to the story. Our mind knows what is supposed to be on the page, but our eyes can skip over obvious errors. After we’ve read something over and over, we can become blind to what we’re reading. Carefully proofing and editing your work is essential, along with feedback from a critique group. But editors are there to help make your words shine. This is more important than ever now that self-publishing is the new trend. We need to make sure we are putting out the best products available, especially in the Christian market.

I’m confident I know the answer, but I’ll ask what others are thinking. You’re an editor so you didn’t hire an editor for your books, right?

Yes, absolutely. I would never have a book published without using a good editor. I think every editor would say a hearty “Amen.” We’re all fallible. I always say even the best editor needs an editor.

I’ve appreciated our time together. Before you go, please tell us about your other books and upcoming projects.

Praying for the Prodigal is my five-year journey with two prodigals. My son and daughter both took a dark path at the same time, and my husband and I experienced our own personal hell. The purpose of this book is to share what God taught me during this time, and to help restore hope to those who are going through this crisis. There is advice from my former prodigals, along with thirty days of prayers and Scriptures to help parents, grandparents, and guardians battle for the souls of their prodigals.

My short story, The Gift, is part of the Christmases Past Series and the Kindle version is available on Amazon for only ninety-nine cents. It is the story of a young couple’s journey through pain, loss, healing … and an unexpected gift.

There are three novels in various stages that are begging to be completed, but my next book is Marriage: Make It or Break It. I share many things I’ve learned in forty-plus years of marriage that can bless or crush a relationship. I also talk about how our basic temperament and love language can affect our relationships, the difference between the way men and women think, and how to pray for yourself, your spouse, and your marriage.

If you’d like to hire Andrea to edit your manuscript, you can contact her through her website: www.AndreaMerrell.com or e-mail her at AndreaMerrell 7 @ gmail (dot) com.

Murder of a Manuscript 2small

Andrea Merrell is Associate Editor for Christian Devotions Ministries and Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas (LPC). She is also a professional freelance editor and has been a faculty member at various writers’ conferences, including:  Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, The Asheville Christian Writers Conference (Writers Boot Camp), the CLASS Christian Writers Conference, and Write2Ignite. Andrea has been published in numerous anthologies and online venues. She is a graduate of Christian Communicators and a finalist in the 2015 USA Best Book Awards. Andrea is the author of Murder of a Manuscript: Writing and Editing Tips to Keep Your Book Out of the Editorial Graveyard, Praying for the Prodigal, and The Gift. Andrea has a passion to help writers sharpen their skills and polish their prose. To learn more, visit www.AndreaMerrell.com or www.TheWriteEditing.com.


Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog if you’d like to receive it in your email when new posts are ready.