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20 Book Recommendations for Fiction Writers and Developmental Editors

I decided last January to make 2023 the year of craft books for me. I'm constantly seeking ways to improve my editing craft and expand my understanding of storytelling, but I wanted to be more targeted in my approach this year. Recently, I reached out to a group of experienced developmental editors, seeking their personal book recommendations for developmental editing books. What I found intriguing was that almost all of their recommended titles were actually targeted toward novelists.

Why did this surprise me? Because copyeditors read books for copyeditors: The Copyeditor's Handbook, The Chicago Guide of Copyediting Fiction, The Subversive Copyeditor, et cetera. But developmental editors—the folks who deal with the big picture stuff in books, including plot, pacing, and character arcs—read books not about editing, but about writing. To learn how to edit storytelling, you need to know how to tell a story.

Therefore, this recommendation list, curated by experienced and well-read developmental editors, is useful for both editors and novelists themselves.

Please enjoy:

  1. Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author's Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development by K.M. Weiland

  2. The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Writing Fiction and Nonfiction by Alice LaPlante

  3. Revision & Self-Editing: Techniques for Transforming Your First Draft Into a Finished Novel by James Scott Bell

  4. The Story Cure: A Book Doctor's Pain-Free Guide to Finishing Your Novel or Memoir by Dinty W. Moore

  5. Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody

  6. Save the Cat! Writes a Young Adult Novel by Jessica Brody

  7. Into the Woods: A Five Act Journey Into Story by John Yorke

  8. Damn Fine Story: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative by Chuck Wendig

  9. An Editor's Guide to Working with Authors by Barbara Sjoholm

  10. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne

  11. Intuitive Editing: A Creative and Practical Guide to Revising Your Writing by Tiffany Yates Martin

  12. The Bestseller Code: Anatomy of a Blockbuster Novel by Jodie Archer

  13. Understanding Show, Don't Tell (And Really Getting It) by Janice Hardy

  14. Write Your Novel From the Middle by James Scott Bell

  15. 7 FIGURE FICTION: How to Use Universal Fantasy to SELL Your Books to ANYONE by T. Taylor

  16. Romancing the Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels by Gwen Hayes

  17. GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction by Debra Dixon

  18. The Fantasy Fiction Formula by Deborah Chester

  19. Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer

  20. The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface by Donald Maass

You can also find this list on Goodreads.

These books cover a wide range of topics, including character development, story structure, and self-editing techniques. Some are for fantasy writers, while one focuses on YA, and another is considered an essential read for romance authors. Jeff VanderMeer's illustrated Wonderbook doubles as a beautiful art piece to display on your coffee table. But most importantly, all of them come highly recommended by developmental editors and are sure to provide valuable insights and guidance to both fiction writers and editors alike.

I've already read a number of these, and I look forward to writing more detailed reviews of them later.

Happy reading and writing!

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