Great Books on Storytelling

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I know writers who don’t read books about the craft of writing. But I’m not one of them. I’ve always been able to absorb stuff from books and apply it. That might be my superpower.

It’s why I am a voracious reader of books on the craft of writing. Because I want to deliver the best books I can and I know I can pull stuff from these books that will make me a better writer.

One thing I’ve complained to my crit partner about is the lack of books on the macro level of storytelling. Books that teach you how to tell a story. I’ve read lots of books that focus on a specific element or aspect of storytelling–but always on the micro level. They never talk about the forest. Always the leaves and the trees.

Of course, being the extraordinary being that she is, my crit partner, Kat Bender, recommended two books to me. I finished them this spring. They were excellent books on the macros of storytelling. What needs to be in a story and why. Seriously, if I could only read two books on craft–these would be it.

 

vogler

The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers 3rd Edition by Christopher Vogler

The Writer’s Journey is the best writing book I’ve ever read on story structure. This book takes a macro approach to writing and has given me new perspective and insight into storytelling. As I was reading, I could feel it shifting my approach to writing. Giving me a new lenses through which to examine my novels.

This book is like a comprehensive writing workshop. I tackled 10-15 pages a day. There was so much in those pages, I wouldn’t have wanted to read it faster. I wanted to absorb the details and grasp the key points by taking my time with them.

I highly recommend this book for writers who want to take their storytelling to the next level. I know I’ll be referring back to the archetypes and steps of the hero’s journey as I work on my future novels.

 

cron

Wired For Story by Lisa Cron

One of the best books on writing out there. So many books focus on micro things, but this stays big picture and walks you through the things you have to do to tell a compelling story that readers respond to. I read a chapter a night and it was like taking an online class. Amazing insight.

I feel like I have a much better grasp of what a story needs to do and be and why. The perfect read to follow The Writer’s Journey. I am incredibly lucky to have such an awesome crit partner who recommends such great books and helps me grow as an author. This is a must read for all authors.

 

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38 Responses to Great Books on Storytelling

  1. I like reading craft books too. Someone gave me the excellent advice to read a chapter or so of a craft book before every writing session to get my brain in the right place, so I have slowly been working through my shelves of books. I’ve read The Writer’s Journey and plan to read it again soon. I think I will get even more out of a second read. I will put Wired For Story on my TBR list. Thanks for telling us about it.

    • That’s very cool advice. I tend to read a chapter at night before bed. I like just enough to think over without overwhelming my mind. That’s definitely one to read and reread. Wired For Story is really a great way to look at story and understand what readers need from a story. 🙂

  2. Carrie Rubin says:

    Thanks for some more recommendations. I try to always be reading a book on the craft of writing, but like you, I only read a small portion a day. I like to highlight and reread sections so they really sink in. I can spend a long time on just a few pages!

    • These were some of the best I’ve read on story structure. So many focus on revision techniques or character development or building conflict–all really important skills but they are very micro. I can’t absorb that much technique all at once unless I’m in an immersive workshop. Reading craft books with a highlighter is a terrific technique. Sometimes I will only read 5 pages if they are really filled with stuff. 🙂

  3. These sound like great tools Kourtney, I’ll be sure to add them to my ‘to read’ list.

  4. These sound good. I used to read and read and read books about writing, then stopped. Too much fluff – but you’ve found some solid titles. Will look for them.
    Reading a bit at a time is the best way. The brain needs time to ponder and examine from all angles a new bit – and time to integrate so the information becomes useable.
    (so easy to highlight print for return visits…will be difficult for me to give up print on paper…it’s the holding)

  5. Amy Reese says:

    Thanks for the recommendations, Kourtney. I’ve written them down. They both sound excellent.

  6. Gwen Stephens says:

    Thank you, thank you! I’m a huge fan of craft books too, and I could certainly use some big picture storytelling pointers.

    • You are most welcome! I’m so glad my crit partner introduced me to them. I’m surprised there aren’t more books on the big picture stuff. I mean making beautiful leaves and trees is important, but what if the forest is awful? 🙂

      • Gwen Stephens says:

        Love the analogy – it really works here!

        • Thanks! I like cliche twists. 🙂 And it’s so true. What if you have perfect sentences and gorgeous paragraphs, but the book as a whole isn’t working?

          • Gwen Stephens says:

            Well, I’m an easy sale. Just popped over to Amazon and downloaded Wired for Story. Should make a great beach side read when we leave for vacation this weekend! I’m also taking the laptop along so I can continue chugging along on my daily word count goal for Camp NaNo. Thanks again for the recommendations; this one looks like a winner!

          • LOL. It’s a terrific book. I really felt like I took a workshop with it. The writing style is very conversational and easy to grasp. Hope you have a great vacay! Go you with Camp NaNo. 🙂 Hugs!

  7. diannegray says:

    I must plead guilty here of not having ever read a book on the craft of writing, Kourtney. This is something I will get into one day! 🙂

  8. EllaDee says:

    I checked both books out on Amazon, and they do look great. Your description “writing workshop” about the The Writer’s Journey is particularly appealing, as I find that format productive. I’ve added both books to my wish-lists 🙂

  9. Lori D says:

    Thank you for sharing these, Kourtney. As a writer, I’m always looking to improve. Also, there are two people in our writer’s group who have the smaller details down. But, their overall stories are breaking apart. Thanks, again.

    • Glad you liked them! Yeah, it’s funny how much stress is put on the details when we are learning craft but the big picture stuff is rarely addressed. 😦 Hope these are helpful!

  10. Aquileana says:

    Hi Kourt…

    Vogler’ s “The writer’ s journey” reminded me of Joseph Cambell’ hero’ s journey, as explained in his book “The hero with a thousand faces”…
    I am now thinking that the creative process involved in writing can be easily related to some of the stages of the hero’s cycle…
    Thanks for sharing these reviews.
    Best wishes and I hope you keep on enjoying your summer over there. Hugs, Aquileana 😀

    • Vogler studied with Joseph Campbell. His book is supposed to be much more accessible than Campbell’s. 🙂 I have Campbell’s on my to read list too.

      Thanks!
      Hugs,
      K

      • Aquileana says:

        I didn’t know that… Truly interesting then…
        Campbell’s “The Hero with a thousand faces” is a wonderful book. You’ll enjoy that one.
        Hugs , dear Kourt,
        Aquileana 😛

        • It really is. Vogler used the concept for screenwriting and novels and I’ve heard his book is easier to grasp. Campbell is definitely is in the tbr pile.
          Hugs,
          Kourtney

  11. Mayumi-H says:

    Very cool recommendations, Kourtney. Thanks! I see so many books “on writing” that focus on the selling portion of it, these days, it’s nice to get a good rec for one that focuses on the part that (I think) is most important: storytelling.

    • Thanks. Selling is important but only after we’ve gotten the storytelling and all the craft down. 🙂 If the storytelling isn’t there, the selling is unlikely to happen.

  12. I always like reading new books on craft. It’s hard to absorb it all but a few ideas from each on can be a big help.

    • Me too. I’ve found a chapter a day is best–treating them like an online class helps. They are chock full of useful info and it can’t be read like a novel. It’s too much.

  13. jmmcdowell says:

    These look like really helpful books, Kourtney. I’ll add them to the tbr list. 🙂

  14. Thanks Kourtney for telling us about these books – I will have to check them out!

  15. TBM says:

    I love to read books about writing and I hadn’t heard of these yet. thanks for the introduction.

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