The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It…Successfully! by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry. If you buy only one writing book this year, make it this one.*
Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway. A few years back I downloaded MFA creative writing syllabi from university websites. They all mentioned Janet Burroway’s book. According to the book’s site, it is the most widely used creative writing text in America. (Hint: if you find the textbook price too much for your budget, try a used bookstore, especially one in a college town. I found a copy for $3.)
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. You might recognize the author’s name from a literary agency. Donald Maass uses years of industry experience to teach writers how to craft breakout potential.
Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook: Writing Exercises to put the Instruction into Action by Donald Maass. Cynical me thought the workbook might be a way to bilk would-be writers into buying the book’s material in a new format. I was wrong. I turn to this book when a scene needs work.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. In this slim book, Anne Lamott directs her wit toward writing and the neuroses of a writing life. There is a chapter titled “Shitty First Drafts.” If that chapter title doesn’t make you want to read the book, you’re not like any writer I know, and I might hate you for being better than the rest of us.
Write Away by Elizabeth George. George gives a methodical approach to writing a novel, plus notes on craft that will appeal to pansters too.
*I work for The Book Doctors; however, I recommended this book long before I began working for them.