A comprehensive source for locating the following reference tools is the Writer’s Digest Book Club—www.WritersDigestBookClub.com


Plotting Your Novel

I recommend The Snowflake Method for Writing a Novel by Randy Ingermanson. http://www.rsingermanson.com/html/the_snowflake.html Randy’s generous website contains help for writers at all levels, and includes links to his Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/ , and his marketing advice website http://www.madgeniuswriter.com/

Excellent writer and regular fiction contributor to Writer’s Digest Magazine, James Scott Bell has penned a classic: Plot & Structure, Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot that Grips Readers from the Start. http://www.jamesscottbell.com/.

Author, Brandilyn Collins, writes an informative blog packed with writing advice http://www.forensicsandfaith.blogspot.com  The entries on plotting are excellent. In fact, any subject she tackles related to fiction is worth studying. She also maintains a Web site http://www.brandilyncollins.com about her suspense fiction career. While there, be sure to check out her miraculous healing testimony!

The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction and Nonfiction and Getting it Published, by Pat Kubis and Bob Howland contains an excellent section on plotting reversals, complications and catastrophes, but this book is recommended reading for all aspects of writing.

First Draft in 30 Days, a Novel Writer’s System for Building a Complete and Cohesive Manuscript, by Karen S, Wiesner covers every aspect of novel building.   The book contains multiple worksheets you can incorporate, adapt, or employ in full. Of note regarding plotting, Ms. Wiesner’s preliminary outline section includes models for preliminary character sketches, setting sketches and research list, plot sketches, summary outlines, and miscellaneous scene notes.

Twenty Master Plots and How to Build Them by Ronald Tobias. A self-explanatory title.

The Writer’s Journey, Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler. This book includes excellent step-by-step instruction in understanding a hero’s journey, structuring plot, and building believable characters.

Story, Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee is, as the title proclaims, a screenwriter’s guide, but it includes an excellent discussion of the mythic structure, scenes, crisis, climax and resolution, etc. This is highly recommended for addition to the serious fiction writer’s library.





Brandilyn Collins has penned a book based on her experience as a student of drama entitled, Getting Into Character, Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors.

Many authors recommend using an online Myers-Briggs Personality Test to build characters.

For visualizing your characters, you can find stock photos on www.gettyimages.com and www.photos.com and in magazines.

The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction and Nonfiction and Getting it Published, by Pat Kubis and Bob Howland is an all-inclusive and excellent writer’s manual.

Personality Plus, How to Understand Others by Understanding Yourself by Florence Littauer includes a Personality Profile Test you can use to identify your characters’ best and worst traits (and your own!).

A Woman’s Guide to Personality Types, Enriching Your Family Relationships by Understanding the Four Temperaments by Donna Partow.

Careers for Your Characters, A Writer’s Guide to 101 Professions from Architect to Zookeeper by Raymond Obstfeld and Franz Neumann

The Writer’s Digest Sourcebook for Building Believable Characters by Marc McCutcheon

The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edelstein contains profiles of human behaviors coupled with corresponding personality traits.

You can get house plans from your local builder, magazines, or from Dover Books.

For popular baby names listed by the decade, check out http://www.babycenter.com/babyname

Name Your Baby by Lareina Rule includes origins, meanings, nicknames, and famous namesakes.


Show Don’t Tell

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King is an excellent all around must-read for dedicated fiction writers. This book contains an easy to understand discussion on “Show Don’t Tell,” along with innumerable ways to tighten and strengthen your writing.


Point of View

The easiest to understand and most concise description I’ve discovered on this important topic is found in The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction and Nonfiction and Getting it Published, by Pat Kubis and Bob Howland.



Writing Dialogue, How to Create Memorable Voices and Fictional Conversations that Crackle with Wit, Tension and Nuance by Tom Chiarella



Used by editors and recommended for questions about style The Chicago Manual of Style is an expensive investment that can be found at most libraries.

William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White’s The Elements of Style is a classic must-read.

I keep Webster’s NewWorld Guide to Punctuation—All the Rules You Need to Know to Punctuate Correctly handy at all times.

Write Right!, A Desktop Digest of Punctuation, Grammar, and Style by Jan Venolia has sold over 500,000 copies and is easy to read and understand even if you’re grammar-phobic. What I like about this one is that it includes tons of writerly quotes for examples.

The Writer’s Digest Grammar Desk Reference, The Definitive Source for Clear and Correct Writing by Gary Lutz & Diane Stevenson.

The Christian Writer's Manual of Style by Bob Hudson & Shelley Townsend

http://www.grammarcheck.com GrammarCheck tips for improving your writing and grammar skills. Be sure to sign up for the grammar newsletter!

http://www.grammarnow.com GrammarNow provides answers to your grammar and punctuation questions


Fiction Favorites-- Books on the craft I’d label as “best-ever” (besides the ones noted as such above).

The Plot Thickens by Noah Lukeman

The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman

Writing the Breakout Novel and accompanying workbook by Donald Maass

How to Grow a Novel by Sol Stein

Stein on Writing by Sol Stein

Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

Getting the Words Right: How to Rewrite, Edit & Revise by Theodore Cheney

The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them) by Jack Bickham

Write Tight, How to Keep Your Prose Sharp, Focused, and Concise by William Brohaugh

One of my critique partners, Vickie Phelps, has co-authored two writing books: Writing 101, a Handbook of Tips and Encouragement for Writers http://www.booklocker.com/books/661.html and How to Write for the Christian Marketplace http://www.writersweekly.com/books/65.html

How to Write (and Sell) a Christian Novel: Proven & Practical Advice from a Best Selling Author by Gilbert Morris is written from an author’s perspective

The Complete Guide to Writing & Selling the Christian Novel by Penelope J. Stokes, Ph.D. has been penned from an editor’s perspective, though Ms. Stokes is also an accomplished novelist.

One of the most entertaining books I read when I began writing was The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction by Conrad Barnaby and the staff of the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference.

Romance Writing (and Pitching Your Novel)

The Art of Romance Writing, Fully Revised and Updated (2004) by Valarie Parv, a romance writer who has sold more than twenty million copies of her books internationally. This engaging book contains step by step writing checklists and marketing information that includes ways to pitch and sell your novel to an editor in ten minutes.

Writer’s Market Guides—published annually, these invaluable resources list contact information for publishers and their manuscript needs.

Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide http://www.stuartmarket.com

Writer’s Market from Writer’s Digest Books.

The American Directory of Writer’s Guidelines, compiled by Phillips, Klassen and Hall

Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents ____ (year): Who they are! What they want! How to win them over!  by Jeff Herman

Writer’s Magazines

ByLine     http://www.bylinemag.com/

Writer’s Digest     http://www.writersdigest.com/

The Writer http://www.writermag.com/wrt/

I’ve found back issues of these at the used bookstore, and my local library sometimes provides copies on the give-away table.

The American Christian Writers group http://www.ACwriters.com/ publishes The Christian Communicator magazine and Advanced Christian Writer newsletter.

Writing ezines are available online at the following Web sites:

http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/html/afwezine.html and


http://www.glassroadpr.com/   A Christian Public Relations firm run by former Westbow Press publicist, Rebecca Seitz.

Website Design:

http://www.pulsepointdesign.com   If you’re looking to build a Website to showcase your skills, check out PulsePoint Design. This company is run by the former editor of Focus on Fiction magazine as a service to Christian authors. I can highly recommend her services since Kelli Standish, the founder, is my webmaster.


Fiction Writing Resources

by Pamela Dowd:

Pamela Dowd - Author and Speaker


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