For many first-time or beginner fanfiction writers, there is often an overwhelming passion to write but sometimes an equally overwhelming feeling of, “How do I do this?” or even “There seems to be so much to this whole writing thing, where do I start?” While jumping right in is often the first impulse, taking some time to assemble some solid writing resources will result in a higher quality initial draft and greater overall satisfaction with your initial attempts. Even if you’ve been writing a while, guidance from top writing resources can help you perfect your craft or untangle your thoughts if you run into writer’s block.
The following list is a compilation of my top writing resource picks for fanfiction writers:
15. Elements of Style by Strunk and White: Writing is communicating and that means having a handle on the mechanics like punctuation, tenses, possessives, and pronoun use will give you power over written language. This classic grammar guide is short, easy to read, and helpful, and it will make sure your writing is well organized and correctly structured.
14. 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt: Not only is this book a great beginner’s introduction into character archetypes and traits, it’s also a great reference for mythical characters as well. It’s easy to read and well organized, a great reference especially for beginning writers.
13. Chapter After Chapter by Heather Sellers: I’ve noticed that many creative types, while often extremely protective of their work, can also feel insecure about its quality. This small dose of doubt can stop a writing project in its tracks. To avoid that, read this book! Heather Sellers gives great motivational activities to keep you writing and focused on finishing that fanfic!
12. Steering the Craft by Ursula LeGuin: If the name Ursula LeGuin doesn’t ring a bell for you then you need to read more fantasy! She is a famed fantasy writer, and in this book, she gives some great exercises and insight into two areas that are often neglected in other writing tomes: voice and rhythm. She also has some killer writing exercises in there so don’t pass this one up!
11. On Writing by Stephen King: Yes, THAT Stephen King. The very same Stephen King that has been giving me nightmares with stories like Salem’s Lot and Cujo for years. But when Stephen takes a break from weaving his tales of paranormal horror, he gives some incredible insight on writing in this memoir. Definitely up there on the must-read list, after all, who better to learn from than one of the greats?
10. Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell: Plot is the skeleton upon which you drape your lush worlds and your super developed characters. It is what holds your story together. Learn how to craft a strong plot to lay the foundation for a solid story structure with this handy book.
9. 20 Master Plots by Ronald Tobias: Speaking of plotting, this is a handy reference when trying to figure out what kind of plot you want (or maybe to write from a new plot structure you haven’t tried yet). This book incorporates the elements from most major story types with tips and features for each one. I learned about story structures I hadn’t even heard of once I picked up this book. For the fanfic writer looking to create a unique story, this is a great way to change it up.
8. The 3 A.M. Epiphany by Brian Kiteley: Sometimes even the best writing reference books have exercises that get a little stale and repetitive. Not so with this one! Brian Kiteley does a great job of keeping your imagination twisting and turning with highly engaging exercises in his book.
7. The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference by Andrew I. Porter, Donald A. Wollheim, and Frederik Pohl: A must-have resource for any writer who wants to write fantasy novels. This book has two subsequent reference manuals that go with it, but I find this one to be the most helpful. It goes over establishing magic systems, gives tips on world building, and comes with a super handy glossary too!
6. Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edelstein: Studying human behavior is a great way to keep your characters multi-dimensional whether they’re canon or completely new. This reference guide deals specifically with human behavior and traits. It also comes with some character archetypes.
5. Naming the World by Brett Anthony Johnston: If practical writing exercises are what you’re looking for, then Naming the World is exactly what you need. Having used this book myself in my collegiate writing career, I can say that it has helped me produce some of my best and richest work. You won’t find any clichés in here. This will challenge you to think more deeply about your work, but it’s so worth the effort.
4. Wabi Sabi for Writers by Richard R. Powell: Mechanics is one thing, but the ability to think like a writer, to form emotions into words? That can be really difficult. This book helps you channel the passion you have for favorite characters and stories and use it to create something unique, emotionally powerful, and beautiful. Richard references a lot of Confucian philosophy and Basho the famous haiku poet, so it would definitely resonate well with fanfiction writers who focus on writing fanfics of their favorite animes!
3. The Art of Fiction by John Gardner: Understanding the simple principles of good writing will give you an incredible foundation in creating some awesome fanfic. John Gardner can help you easily either transition from being fanfiction reader to fanfiction writer or help you evolve your craft to the next level.
2. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott: As writers, the last thing you need is someone patting your head and telling you that writing will always be kittens, flowers, and rainbows. Not only does Anne Lamott respects the craft by being honest about it, she also imparts valuable writing wisdom in a humorous and often irreverent way.
1. The Anatomy of Story by John Truby: While the book is geared toward screenwriters, you won’t find a more unique approach to understanding the core elements that create truly remarkable plots, characters, and stories. The advice in this book is absolutely invaluable for writers at any level. Absolutely a must-have for your writing resource shelf!