This week I have a very special guest, Angela Ackerman. Angela is a good friend of mine and the creator of a fantastic website--The Bookshelf Muse. Angela and I not only share a first name--we also share a fabulous agent,Jill Corcoran!

Angela's amazing reference book--The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression is my all time favorite tool for writing.

Here is a list of Angela's top six books for writing

Angela at The Grand Canyon
I think we’ve all read craft books that really hit a note--ones that either bring about a single epiphany or open our eyes to how we can improve our writing on a large scale. I am thrilled to share the 6 books that really helped my writing. Each one is filled with highlighter marks, sticky notes and freehand underlining. If you are in the market for a good craft book, please read on.

Description (Monica Wood) People who know what The Bookshelf Muse is all about might be surprised to find out that at one point, description baffled me! I didn’t know how to pick out only the important details and then convey them in a compelling way. This difficulty led to the Setting Thesaurus, a sensory description guide for Fiction Settings. Description is a must-have for all writers. It focuses on different aspects of description at every level, and has lessons that both new and advanced writers can benefit from.

On Writing (Stephen King) This book came when I hit that Magical know the one, right? The ‘I know enough about writing now to see... just how much...I DON’T know.’ Yes, that frozen, hollow moment when it feels like we’re trying to dig a hole to china with a teaspoon, and not even a good one. More like the plastic kind that come with takeout, sealed up with a napkin and the rest of the cutlery. If there’s ever a time a writer decides to throw in the towel, it’s here. So I turned to King, who is a master at so many things, but a real guy too, someone you could imagine sharing the hot dog cart’s umbrella with as you snarf down lunch in the rain. He came from the most humble of beginnings, and I very much wanted to know what he thought of the writing path. This book did not disappoint. Equally helpful and inspiring, On Writing was a beautifully autobiographical journey to author hood. Filled with smart advice, every writer should read it.

Writing The Breakout Novel (Donald Maass) Pumped up by King’s book that I could actually DO THIS WRITING THING, I started paying attention to critique partners more closely. They told me my conflict was good, but there needed to be more tension. Huh? Wha? Conflict, tension...weren’t they the same? I asked around and my brain latched onto the word, micro tension. Small tension? Didn’t I want bigger, better? Wasn’t that the problem, that I needed more tension, not bits of it? Undeterred, I got my hands on Breakout Novel and learned exactly what micro tension was, and the power it carried. Oh my, what an amazing book from someone who knows the craft. Do yourself a favor--if you don’t have this book, get it.

Self-Editing For Fiction Writers (Browne & King) Finally, I’d gotten the story on the page. WOOT! It was a good story too--I was happy with it and thought others would be too. Of course, written once (or even twice, three or five times) isn’t enough. If was time to rub off the rough edges, large and small, and bring out the beauty. Self-Editing is the single best book I’ve found on the subject, and to this day, is my revision bible.

Save The Cat (Blake Snyder) Even after securing an Agent and braving the submission waters, I still had more learning to do. (Truly, does the learning ever end? I hope not, because I love it!) I felt my plotting was solid, but something was still off. I didn’t have total confidence that the right things were happening a the right time. I kept hearing about this screenwriting book as a great structure tool, so I snagged a copy of Save The Cat. *cue light bulb* It was magic. Here, in the screenwriter’s world, I found a tool that could really help me with my fiction’s structure. This amazing book is helping to turn my plotting and pacing from good to great.

Writing Screenplays That Sell (Michael Hauge) On a total high from peeking inside the world of screenwriting, I bought a few more books on the subject. And oh, if light bulbs flashed for Save the Cat, angels sung during Writing Screenplays. Hauge and Snyder were speaking the same language, but while STC was more about dramatic story structure, Hauge was showing the character angle of motivation and arc. You know how every writer has an Achilles’ heel? That one craft weakness that supersedes all others? Mine happens to be characters. So this book was literally a godsend. I was lucky enough to take a workshop this past year from Hauge, and he’s just as dynamic and illuminating in person as in the book. Your turn! Which craft books came along at key moments on your writing journey, boosting your craft? Let me know in the comments! 
Angela Ackerman is one half of The Bookshelf Muse blogging duo, and co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression
Listing the body language, visceral reactions and thoughts associated with seventy-five different emotions, this brainstorming guide is a valuable tool for showing, not telling, emotion. She lives in Calgary, Alberta, in the shadow of the Rockies, with her crazy (and therefore awesome) family, dog and one slightly zombie-like fish.
6 comments on " "
  1. I have read a few of these books, and I agree--they are so good for helping my writing! I hope to get my hands on the ones I haven't read, too! Thanks for this!
    Anyway, just popping by your blog from Operation Awesome and I've decided to follow you here too!
    What's in a Name?

  2. Hi Jessica, I hope you enjoy the books that are new to you. I love each one of these, and how they helped me in a different way. :)

    @Hi Susan! Thanks for stopping in!

    @Angie, thanks for the invite to post! I love writing craft books and it's great to be able to share some of my favorites!

    Happy writing, all!


  3. Thanks for stopping by Jessica and Susan! :)