Category Archives: How-to

Resources for new writers

We critique based on current recommendations for good writing of genre fiction found in articles, books, conferences, and courses. Each of us study good writing outside of the critique group by reading and studying how-to books, articles and blogs, attending conferences, and taking courses and workshops. We’ve found the following sources helpful and readily available. (Many are available to borrow from us from our group library.)

Overviews of novel writing (some of them with exercises/plans):

  • The Essential Guide to Writing a Novel: A Complete and Concise Manual for Fiction Writers by James Thayer
  • The Everything Guide to Writing a Novel by Joyce and Jim Lavene
  • How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling  by James N. Frey
  • The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall
  • Writing the Breakout Novel (and workbook) and/or The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass
  • The 90-Day Novel: Unlock the story within by Alan Watt
    (though 90 days is unrealistic for most of us)
  • The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray and Bret Norris
  • Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer

Genre specific overviews:

  • On Writing Romance: How to Craft a Novel That Sells by Leigh Michaels
  • How to Write Romances by Phyllis Taylor Pianka
  • How to Write Killer Fiction: The Funhouse of Mystery & the Roller Coaster of Suspense by Carolyn Wheat
  • How to Write a Mystery by Larry Beinhart
  • How to write Historical Fiction by Roberta Gellis
  • Orson Scott Card’s How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • Deborah Chester’s The Fantasy Fiction Formula (helpful despite its misleading title)

Essentials (from Writers Digest’s The Elements of Fiction Writing series):

  • Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
  • Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham
  • Beginnings, Middles, and Ends by Nancy Kress
  • Conflict & Suspense by James Scott Bell
  • Description by Monica Bell


Blogs and websites including but not limited to:

If plotting is a particular weakness, try:

  • James Scott Bell’s  Plot & Structure
  • Robert McKee’s Story
  • Martha Alderson’s The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories and site
  • Story Physics: Harnessing the Underlying Forces of Storytelling by Larry Brooks and site

Writer’s Digest Magazine (available by subscription or in local bookstores) Back issues can often be checked out from the public library

For genre-specific self-education, members are encouraged to also join and participate in the activities of other national and local writing organizations as appropriate:


Workshops, classes, courses:

Updated April 20, 2023

Header Photo: Ithaca, NY courtesy of the talented Paul Joran