Craft Books: Writing Resources

I landed my first fiction developmental editing client this past March, after being open for nearly two years and primarily working on technical copyediting projects.

After taking part in the Editorial Freelancer Association’s “Fiction Developmental Editing–Beginner” course late last year, I had already had it in my head that I should maybe start reading all these craft books I’d been collecting since July 2021 when I opened my metaphorical business doors. Landing this project certainly made that a top priority.

It’s one thing to be able to say I know the generalities of developmental editing, that I instinctively understand the basic concepts that go into the entire process. It’s another to realize that there’s actually much less “editing” during the process than you’d think.

Developmental editing is all about helping an author—independent, self-publishing, or traditionally published—organize their story in the most effective manner to make the biggest impact on their ideal readers. In order to do that, one has to know about the craft of writing itself. This week, I’m sharing two books I’ve finished since accepting that client.

I mean, what better way to learn the principles of fiction writing than on the job, amirite??

Structure Your Novel by K.M. Weiland

Weiland’s book was the first craft book I’ve read cover-to-cover since I became a freelance editor, and if I could recommend any book for first-time fiction authors—and even those more experienced authors—to add to their own libraries (and read front to back!), it would be this one.

In the opening pages, she states something that is both profound and simplistic: “Structure is not formulaic. […] Structure is only the box that holds the gift. What that gift may be is as wildly varied as the wrapping paper that hides it.”

From there, Weiland covers ten basic steps authors should follow to create a unique, impactful story. From the opening line to the final sentence, she packs in information on how to approach each part of your book. By learning these steps, you can see how a story goes from a spark of an idea in an author’s head to a complete manuscript waiting to go through the editing process.

The Secrets to Creating Character Arcs by John S. Warner

If structure is what organizes your story, characters are what bring it from just being words on a page to crystal-clear images in your readers’ minds. Warner kicks off his depth and breadth of fiction writing knowledge with an overview of what he calls the “Holy Trinity”: plot, structure, and characters.

However, “all stories, no matter how extraordinary their plotline or structure might be, are only successful when they have characters that your readers can connect to.”

While there are countless books covering the first two tenets of this holy trinity, Warner focuses on how to create well-rounded, realistic, individualized characters. Everyone thinks that only applies to the protagonist and antagonist characters (including me prior to this book). Instead, he stresses that authors should put just as much thought into supporting and minor characters as they do their main character(s).

 It’s great to plot out your book, to figure out the best way of organizing it to make that impact you want, but characters are what drive that plot home into the heart of your readers. Warner uses 174 pages to take you into the minutiae of how to build not just the characters, but the kinds of character arcs that will keep your readers’ attention and leave them no choice but to follow the journey on which you’ve placed your characters one word at a time.

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