Are You a Craft Junkie?

Jillian Kent - author photoGuest Blogger: Jillian Kent


Are you familiar with it?

I’m not talking scrap-booking here. I’m talking about the craft of writing, and I’m going to come right out and say it: I can’t stop buying books on the craft of writing.

I want to learn how to be the best writer I can possibly be, so I turn to the experts for help. And what the heck — I’m an addict.  A craft junkie. I’ve tried to quit buying these books on writing because really, how many how-to books does one writer need?

Webster’s on-line dictionary says this:

CRAFT: Art; skill; dexterity in a particular manual occupation; hence, the occupation or employment itself; manual art; trade.

JUNKIE: Someone who is so ardently devoted to something that it resembles an addiction.

Wondering if you’ve succumbed to this affliction? Let’s find out.

You may be a craft junkie if:

1. You own each of James Scott Bell’s craft books, (Plot and Structure, Revision and Self-Editing, The Art of War for Writers, etc.) Then you begin to doubt yourself and so you go out and buy Try Fear.

2. You want another craft book but decide to download it to your Kindle, Nook, or iPad. You do this in order to hide your addiction from your family. My latest secret binge was The Plot Whisperer, Secrets of Story Structure any Writer can Master by Martha Alderson.

3. You discover that you own three copies of The Writer’s Journey. How did that happen?

4. You MUST buy the entire MP3 of your favorite conference — every year! My weakness is the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference (ACFW).

5. You can’t resist Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Pro Software even if you haven’t figured out how to use it. You own Scrivener, too. And when you get frustrated with both of them, you get out your copy of Writing Fiction for Dummies (Randy again).

6. You can’t get Donald Maas’s voice out of your head: “Make it worse!”

7. You keep Stephen King’s On Writing in your upstairs bathroom and Donald Maas’s Writing the Breakout Novel in the downstairs bathroom.

8. You take on-line classes and always buy the presenter’s how-to book. Let’s see, my latest is Believable Characters: Creating with Enneagrams by Laurie Schnebly.

9. You feverishly check your mailbox and are heartbrokern if new issues The Writer and Writers Digest haven’t arrived.

10. You wake up in the morning saying, It’s okay to write a shi**y first draft, and you reach for your worn-out copy of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.

Any more junkies out there? Is there one book you’ve read over and over again? Or a workshop on CD you listen to a lot? Is there a book on the craft you just can’t bring yourself to loan out?

It’s okay. Really. You’re in good company. Now, repeat after me: Hi, my name’s ___________________ and I’m a craft junkie.

* * *

Chameleon by Jillian Kent - coverJillian Kent is the author of the Regency series, The Ravensmoore Chronicles, published by Charisma House. Book 2 in the series, Chameleon, releases next month and is available now!

Visit Jillian online at her blog:



  1. Samul Watson says:

    I am truly inspired from your immaginative intuition and amazing expressed data, i am happy. Ultimate Muscle Black Edition

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  3. jp says:

    It all started with Sol Stein and William Zinser on my iPod, and now more than 30 books later I, Jennifer Pohl am a craft book addict. There I said it. Whew.

    Second hand books and kindle save me a bundle (and take the guilt out of highlighting.) I have to admit that yes, I’m buying more than one copy in multiple formats. I check my mailbox each day and and get my fix if there’s another parcel waiting. I’m shameless. My husband doesn’t even know how many I’ve bought or where all-the-pocket-change goes. Not many more (I tell myself).

    On it’s way to me is Pricilla Long’s “The Writer’s Portable Mentor”.

    I’ve never consider myself a writer or even wanted to be one till I got whacked-in-the-head with a story that has to be written. My goal this year: to read a hundred books for inspiration while I find the words to write a story nobody else will. Good advice from Heather Sellars in “Chapter by Chapter.” I’m grateful to the generosity writers have shown in each and every one of these books.

    I love Better World Books: they have free shipping and donate a book to someone in need each time I order.

    Do I have a favorite? It’s hard to say. I have stacks to work through and work back and forth between text highlighter in hand (even on the elliptical). I’ve noticed that every time somebody writes a review and says “this is the-best-book- ever” I tend to buy it. So far I haven’t regretted a purchase.

    Happy reading!


  4. Julie Glover says:

    Super-late to this party, but I found your craft book suggestions and the ones in the comments so helpful! I need to grab Self-Editing for Fiction Writers right away. I recently read WIRED FOR STORY by Lisa Cron, and it was a great eye-opener. Definitely worth a read. Thanks, Rachelle!

  5. MaryJane says:

    Hi Jillian,

    I’m so happy to hear that I’m not alone in my craft of writing addiction! I have roughly 25-30 craft books.

    My favorite craft books are: The War of Art, The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell and On writing by Stephen King.

    I rationalize my book buying by knowing that it’s an investment for my writing career. 🙂

    P.S. I admit that I zoomed over to Amazon and bought 2 of the craft books mentioned here. LOL

  6. Ah, yes. I’d say I am!

    My craft “drugs” of choice are:
    – definitely the books on craft, and though I read e-books in fiction, I’ve found I need a paper copy of my craft books
    – real-live conferences & conventions; I still haven’t tired of them
    – Podcasts!

  7. Jillian Kent says:

    Hi nuku!
    I don’t think anyone else mentioned Jeff Gerke’s books. Nice addition. And we have ways of making you a hardcore junkie, so beware.

  8. nuku says:

    I can’t say I’m a hardcore junkie, but I’ve taken out dozens writing books from the library countless times. I think the ones I’ve taken out the most are one of those Writing Fiction for Idiots, and something like Writing and Selling Christian Fiction by a popular female author. Also, I recommend anything written by Jeff Gerke. (The Art and Craft of Writing Christian Fiction, the First 50 pages, and Plot Versus Character)

  9. I’m absolutely a craft junkie. I subscribe to too many blogs to read in a lifetime (publisher, author, agent blogs as well as others) and I have at least three craft books on my shelf that never leave. From the Inside Out by Susan May Warren, Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages and Maass’ The Breakout Novel. And then I’ve got about six to ten more than I have partially read and haven’t been all the way through because I learn so much I have to start over again. Vicious cycle. 🙂 I like it though. I also have CD’s of conferences. Oh dear. Thanks for the list. Now I’ll be looking for more trouble out there. Ha!

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Hi Jessie,
      Welcome to the club!I see you have some well known books to add to your dark closet. Just be careful when you open the door, they have a way of sliding out and attacking us. 🙂 May I suggest . . . no I won’t do that to you. :)You are far too vulnerable at this stage.

  10. Heather Hart says:

    This poor author resorts to borrowing writing books from the library and adding them to my wishlist on Amazon… And of course following tons of blogs about writing…

    • Jillian Kent says:

      That’s okay Heather. Those of us who admitted we were powerless over our addiction – that our lives had become unmanageable, sometimes fall off the wagon and sneak out for our fixes. 🙂

  11. Okay, will admit it. I’m a craft junkie…now. After a few years of just writing and not really editing, decided it was time to learn how and do it properly. Of course, during that period of time I’ve been collecting the books, just haven’t really sat down and read them. Bird by Bird, On Writing, The Zen in the Art of Writing. All amusing and interesting. Just went to a writing workshop where an editor said the best books to have are the Great Fiction Series and Self Editing for Fiction Writers. Happy to say I have them. I just finished James Scott Bell’s Revision and Self Editing. Totally blown away. Learned so much and putting it to use with my current revision.

    Plus I just learned about the heroes journey based on Joseph Campbell so The Writer’s Journey will probably be the next purchase.

    Added a few titles to my wishlist from everyone’s suggestions.

    I’m feeding my craft addiction by taking a few online classes this year from Savvy Authors.

    • Jillian Kent says:

      I love all James Scott Bell’s craft books, Robin, and several of his fiction novels. I carry The Art of War for Writers in my purse! I use plot and structure when I start my novels, revision and self-editing when it’s time and now reading Conflict and Suspense and I’m on deadline!

      If you ever get a chance to attend one of his workshops don’t miss it.

      He just makes writing fun!

  12. Lately, I feel like a craft junkie for any book on plotting. Trying to write my first romantic suspense and just can’t seem to figure out where it’s going. So, I keep turning to templates, etc. Does that count?

  13. Leanne Lucas says:

    I love “Story Engineering” by Larry Brooks. Really gave me some valuable insight into structuring my next novel.

  14. HA! So clever, Jill 🙂 Spoken by a true word-smith.

  15. Earlene Luke says:

    I had a closet refurbished with shelves and purchased several book cases, plus a huge filing cabinet plus large notebooks to hold all the “tear-outs” from writing mags…and I’ve got I don’t know how many magazine holders for W & WD mags plus others. Now all I have to do is write the d- – – – – d novels.

  16. Hi, my name is Catherine and I’m a craft junkie! Loved the post, Jillian, and I can soooo relate!

  17. HOLY COW, JILL, this is SOOO cool!! I’m not a “junkie,” but I could be after this incredible resource. I need to print this baby off, girl, so THANK YOU!!

    Hey, Rachelle, thanks for featuring Jill — LOVE her books!!


  18. Jillian Kent says:

    It’s been a great day. Lot’s of fun. Thanks for joining me on this exploration of the craft junkie. Whether you think you are or you think you’re not, you’ve got some great craft books recommended from folks today that you might want to explore a bit further.

    And don’t forget Step 12 junkies

    Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

    Have courage! My name is Jillian Kent and I’m a craft junkie.

    • No need to respond since I am commenting so late. I only hope you find it sometime in the next week.

      I adore your tongue-in-cheek and would love to see you return and discuss how being “any” kind of junkie is bad for your health … being a craft junkie is bad for your work. I was lambasted recently for not being enamored by a “giant” writing expert, workshop icon, agent and writer. I voiced my opinion that so much is being said about how that writers, especially those who are very young and impressionable, seem caught up in the “how to”. Like deers caught in the headlights. How to comes from reading and writing as much as you can. I did buy four books on craft, and consider Stephan King’s more of a memoir. Although he does give some very common sense advice.

      Read every day, writer every day. Put all the books away, use Strunk & White to learn grammar, break rules of grammar and get a good reader, get six good readers … and then get back to work. That sums up his book and he did it without one single reference to “creating conflict” or how to put “tension” in every chapter.

      Heesh … being OCD I am thankful that this is one addiction I avoided.

      Hello, my name if Florence Fois and I am not a craft junkie 🙂

      • Jillian Kent says:

        Hi Florence! I found you.
        I do not like the idea of anyone being lambasted by a “giant” or anyone for expressing your opinion. That’s just not healthy and very rude.

        There is a danger to all of us and the young aspiring being so caught up in the “how to” that you get paralyzed by the process. On the other side of that I think there is sometimes a motivational issue and that some writer’s don’t write because they don’t want to write, and there’s all kinds of excuses. I have a few myself. But I think having those “how to” books there can get some writers past that.

        Now, I’ll go out on a limb here, Florence and suggest that once every year or two you buy a new craft book that sounds appealing to you. Or get it out of the library and just spend sometime in your own personal mini workshop. I think those kinds of adventures into craft can help any of us.

        So glad you like my sense of humor. And speaking of our health. I coordinate a column at

        I’ll have an article for this next month on The Resilient Writer. Hope you’ll check it out.

  19. JulieS says:

    I don’t know if I am a craft junkie but I do own books dedicated to writing, grammar and word/phrase origins.

    Three books I own that aren’t mentioned here are “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” by Lynne Truss; “Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel” by Hallie Ephron; and an Australian one – “The Writing Book” by Kate Grenville.

  20. Linda Hatton says:

    Guilty as charged. And my Nook makes it so easy! (Late night purchases are so exciting.) 😛

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Watch out for those late night purchases, it’s a sign that you’re hiding your addiction and those of us that are really good at it are so familiar with the routine. 🙂

  21. Yup. A bookshelf upstairs is 75% full of craft books and I have a Rubbermaid tub full in the basement. I need a bigger house to serve my addiction!

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Oh Melanie,
      You’re certifiable girl. Now I have a tough question for you. Which would be your top three? 🙂 Let me know.

      • Collectively, the Maass oeuvre would be at number 1. I couldn’t decide between them; each was a revelation. Terry Brooks, Sometimes the Magic Works, is more of an autobiography, but because he’s one of the foremost novelists in my genre, I really got a lot out of his story. Since I view life as process, the magic worked for me 🙂
        Third would be Natalie Goldberg’s Writing down the Bones, because it was the first book on craft I read (way back when).
        There are so many more clamouring at their heels (Ursula K. LeGuin, Jane Yolen, Heather Sellers, Oriah Mountain Dreamer …)!

  22. Robyn Echols says:

    I belonged to the Writer’s Digest Book Club for around twenty years and gave it up several years ago. I am still hoarding most of my craft books and find myself occasionally cracking open the covers. Just when I think I have kicked the habit, I fall off the wagon and purchase another.

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Hi Robyn!
      This sounds so familiar to me. “Just when I think I have kicked the habit, I fall off the wagon and purchase another.” Welcome to the club. 🙂

  23. I have a core group of writing books that I own, but in the interest of space (since we have books overflowing everywhere) I’ve kept the writing craft books to my favorites. This bunch does include three by James Scott Bell (Art of War for Writers and the other two from the WD group) plus Hooked by Les Edgerton. That’s one of my all time favorites.

    : )

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Hi Beth!
      One of my writing buds bought me, Hooked by Les Edgerton. So glad to hear it’s one of your favorites. I haven’t yet read it and now I’ve gone looking for it in the piles. 🙂 Thanks so much!

      • The nice thing about great craft books like ‘Hooked’ is that they’re not only a gold mine of incredible information, but they’re entertaining to read as well.

        Les Edgerton is amazing at clearly defining exactly why a hook works or doesn’t work and why experienced writers sometimes break the rules but still make their hooks work because of they way they handled them. I honestly believe this little blue book is a must have for any writer who wants to hone the craft of “hooking” a reader. Phenomenal.

  24. Hi, my name’s John and I’m a craft junkie! King’s “On Writing” in print, audio and Nook. Just got “Bird by Bird” this week in paperback. Have copies of Bell’s books and many others. (Curse you Writer’s Digest Books!)

    As for “The Writer” and “Writer’s Digest” mags, I get them by electronic subscription so I don’t wait in the rain by the post box, I just refresh my email constantly waiting on the notification the new issue is available! Didn’t I hear that “Poets & Writers” magazine was available for Nook subscriptions?

    Where’s that dang e-reader when I need it!!! Oh my…

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Oh John,
      You’ve got it bad. I feel for ya. I just have to have the hard copies of Writer’s Digest and The Writer. Electronic will not do for me. I think it’s because of spending so much time in front of a computer screen. Welcome to self-help 101 where everyone’s a craft junkie and some of us are in more need of intervention than others.

  25. Jill,

    You seriously had me laughing out loud!

    I’m a craft junkie because I own James Scott Bell’s Conflict and Suspense along with all those other titles. How could you miss that one?!?

  26. Jill W says:

    Great post, Jillian! It prompted me to count the number of craft books I currently own. Gulp…32. This addiction must be broken! Plot & Structure is definitely my favorite.

    • Jillian Kent says:

      I just had a very scary thought, Jill. What are the number of craft books we’ll have in another twenty years? I now understand the whole e-reader thing. So we can hide out addictions from our friends and family.

      • Jill W says:

        Ahhhh…great idea, Jillian! I have been resistent to an e-reader, but now you have given me something to think about. 🙂

  27. Hi, Jillian. Nice to find you here, but… Oh. My. Goodness! I’ve written similar blog posts suggesting that at some point aspiring authors have to stop reading about writing and actually write. I would never have put myself in the junkie category, BUT I see a bit of myself in every single one of your points! That’s scary! I have an overflowing shelf of craft books but I also have a number of completed manuscripts. That’s my excuse. 🙂

    The duplicate in my stack is Jane Yolen’s TAKE JOY. The one I won’t part with right now is Jessica Morrell’s WRITING BETWEEN THE LINES. So much good stuff!

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Hi Carol!
      It’s so easy to slip over the edge into junkieville. One minute you’re a normal human writer and the next thing you know your family is planning an intervention. You try to explain that it’s not that bad, it’s not what they think, but they just stand there, with their arms crossed and shaking their heads. And then you hope they don’t see the box from Amazon hidden by the mailman on the front porch. 🙂

    • Jane Yolen wrote a craft book?

      Now I’m in trouble.

      • Mary, TAKE JOY: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO LOVING THE CRAFT is a Writer’s Digest book, published in 2006. It’s my regular “go to” book when I need a dose of positive reinforcement.

  28. Oh wow, I’m not as bad as I thought! I’m mostly drawn to articles, though, and have dozens bookmarked for reference. After seeing #7, however, I am now contemplating putting a few craft books in my bathroom…

    And Maass’ “make it worse” suggestion is frequently in my head. I end up killing lots of characters as a result, and then people wonder if I enjoy it a little too much.

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Make it worse does not come naturally being a counselor, Kristin. I sometimes have difficulty separating my jobs when i don’t get enough sleep. My students look at me kind of weird when I say, “Why don’t you try to make it worse?” Hmm. That could work for exposure/response therapy. 🙂 Getting a little punchy here.

      • Ha, I bet! It’s something that takes getting used to. I remember with my first novel or two, I loved my characters and just wanted to be nice to them. However, once I learned to make things worse, I found it always gave my characters things to do! Of course, there are lines. You don’t want to make things so much worse that they can’t be overcome.

  29. Cyd says:

    I’m so much of a craft junkie that as an addition to my ever-growing collection of print and electronic books (including most of those listed here), I pursued certification as a copyeditor (which comes with its very own collection of print and electronic books). 🙂

  30. Whew! I’m officially NOT a crafty junkie– oops, craft junkie; if only because I can’t afford to buy all of those books. Hvae I taken mosty of them out of the library or borrowed them from friends? Did I know every book mentioned in the post?


    Do I read writer blogs everyday?


    Am I thinking about nabbing a copy of McKee’s book on structure with the B&N giftcard that’s currently burning a hole in my purse?

    Guilty. You know, Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ maybe the gateway craft book of all time.

    Peace, Mari

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Oh Mary, Mary. Stephen King’s On Writing. I think I enjoyed the audio version even more than the paperback.

      And you know what they say about writer’s who carry gift cards to any bookstore on their person.

      Yep. Your friends are all writing their own book called, The Fine Art of Pick-Pocketing or maybe they just say, “thank you Mary, I’ll hold that card for you while you look for your keys.” 🙂

  31. Lisa Marie says:

    Alas, I’ve been through my “craft junkie” phase. 🙂 Currently, I’ve graduated to “word hoarder.” I have a penchant for dictionaries, thesauruses (thesauri?) and other books that help me expand my vocabulary. Latest catch: “The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English: A Crunk Omnibus for Thrillionaires and Bampots for the Ecozoic Age.” 🙂

  32. Matt Jones says:

    Love it! I wish I could find audio craft books so I could listen during my day job!

  33. Cathy says:

    What if you went to the trouble of tracking down Stephen King’s out-of-print “Secret Windows”?

    Oh yes, I did.

    Actually, I’m not too bad. But I did, before reading a first-draft chapter to my hubby, automatically refer to it as a “shitty-first draft.” Afterward, perplexed, he said, “That wasn’t shitty…?”

    He’s very sweet.

  34. Susie Klein says:

    That’s me! I need an intervention!!

  35. I have almost every book you listed above and all of the symptoms you describe, but . . . hmm . . . I don’t know for sure. Help me, doctor. I started creating a written inventory of all the books I own on writing craft – a really neat chart in Word that I can sort by title, author, publisher, and category – but I quit when I reached 227 (still had two more shelves full to go, and have bought about, I think, twenty more since then). And that’s just hard copy — doesn’t count (yet) the ones that I have in ebook form on my Kindle and/or iPad. Or the podcasts or MP3s (2011 ACFW conference, anybody?) I have for listening in my car or when I run. Or the dozens of writer blogs I subscribe to.

    Does that make me a craft junkie?



  36. Glenn says:

    In the ’90’s, I bought Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King. It turned me from a dog-paddler into a swimmer. I still refer to it occasionally.

    Recently I bought Stephen King’s On Writing and have to say that, although it is an entertaining memoir, I wouldn’t recommend it as a course to better writing.

    I think every aspiring writer needs to read at least one good “how to” book, and then concentrate on reading the type of books they want to write – assimilate and replicate – repeat as necessary!

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Hi Glenn,
      I think writers need more than one “how to book.” This is because I think if you don’t have a lot of experience it’s good to read 3-4 to see who you connect with and who you can most easily learn from.

      • Glenn says:

        I agree; which is why I said “at least one”. I found the book I needed first time around, but it never hurts to seek more advice.

        However, there must come a point where you are getting those books because you just like to read about the craft – not because they are making you a better writer. Admission is the first step to recovery – LOL!

  37. Tonia Harris says:

    My name is Tonia, and I’m a *proud* craft book junkie. It’s like dark chocolate, I know there should be a balance somewhere, but I’m convinced it’s good for me. 🙂

    Reading Finding Your Voice now and I keep two Donald Maas books in the bathroom-just in case. On Writing stays by my bed.

    Happy to meet other addicts.

  38. Heidi Murphy says:

    I have two Strunk’s Elements of Style plus a whole shelf of other helpful books on writing…:o) Does that qualify me?

  39. Thanks, Jillian for your comprehensive list of craft books…now I have more to collect! My floor is full of craft books and novels that I have yet to read…someday…

  40. Jill says:

    I kept all the books from my CW degree, and I’ve bought a few others, too. But I have to admit I read them once each and have never had the urge to reread or buy another one. For a long time, I had this “pick a card” writing program, in which I would draw out a card. I could do the prompt on the card, and/or search through the twin section in the book for more advice. It was kind of fun. I gave it away, though, and don’t remember what it was called.

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Jill, love your name. 🙂 I’d encourage you to pick a book from the ones listed that calls to you and see how it may inspire. There are so many good ones now. So many choices.

      • Jill says:

        I always wished I could be a Jillian, though, instead of plain ol’ Jill. I’ve already read a lot of the books on your list, but not all of them. Are you trying to get more people addicted, or what? 😉

  41. Jude Bown says:

    The doors are locked, windowshades drawn and I’m sitting in a darkened closet behind a stack of… [gasp] to leave a reply… [sniffle] oh dear… Stelllllla

  42. The most important thing if you are a writer is to write. The more you do it the better you get. The second most important thing to do is to read; I used to only like nonfiction. Now I love novels. Well written novels can inspire a better craft.

  43. Ann Bracken says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned Orson Scott Card’s book on Characters and Viewpoint!

    I’m a newbie, so just starting my collection. I now have all the books mentioned written down for distribution to my children who keep asking what to get me for mother’s day. 🙂

  44. Jillian, thanks for the kind words. You are a woman after my own heart. Whatever success I’ve had I owe to great books and articles on the craft, coupled with the discipline of writing each day and applying what I learned. That’s the key. You can’t just study. But you also can’t just write if you’re repeating common mistakes.

    I still love to read books on the craft. We want our brain surgeons to keep on the medical journals. Writers should, too, with the added benefit that if we make a mistake nobody dies (except in our books).

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Hey Jim, Mentor Extraordinaire!
      I learned half this stuff from you! 🙂

      Loving Conflict and Suspense! What’s next?

      Thanks for be willing to teach.

    • Hi,
      My name is Laureen and I’m a writer-craft junkie.

      After reading this post, I’m glad to know I’m not alone.

      I’m also glad to read the names of a few new books on the craft.

      But James Scott Bell’s books on writing-craft will always be my favorites. His Plot and Structure took me from “I want to write this novel, but I don’t know how!” to “Oh — I can learn how!” I loved The Art of War for Writers. And I’m currently reading Conflict and Suspense. I can’t wait to work through Revision and Self-Editing next.

      Thank you, James Scott Bell!

      • Laureen, thank you for your thoughts. You are definitely not alone. Glad to have you in our world.

      • Jillian Kent says:

        Hi Laureen,
        That’s what I love about Jim’s craft books too. You really can learn and I dealt with naysayers for years that made writing so complicated. Jim’s teaching all over the place this year. You should go to his website and see if you can make one of the workshops.

  45. Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird has a permanent spot in my writing bag.

  46. Adam Sexton’s Master Class in Fiction Writing: Techniques from Austen, Hemingway,and Other Greats is getting dog-eared. I also loveloveloved Linda Seger’s Making a Good Writer Great.

  47. Jeanne T says:

    I don’t own a lot of craft books, but I dream of buying more. 🙂 Hello, my name is Jeanne Takenaka, and I’m a craft junkie in the making. Loved reading the list of great craft books. Guess part of my budget will be going toward buying more of them. 🙂

  48. Zan Marie says:

    Oh, no! More craft books for my “I Want That One!” list. Thanks, Jillian, I needed more craft books. ; )

  49. Leslie Payne says:

    Where does my local CJA group meet?
    I’m ready to admit my addiction, so long as I don’t have to clean off my bookshelves.

  50. Okay, now I know I’m a craft junkie.

    I go back to Brandilyn Collins Getting Into Character frequently.

    I’ve got many of the ones you mentioned, and I’ve got a POV book on it’s way from Amazon. So I’ve got to admit I’m a junkie.

    Fun post, thanks for sharing!

  51. Lanny says:

    Yes, I too am a writing craft junkie. Let me suggest one more book in my arsenal: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing a Novel,” by Tom Monteleone.

  52. Beth K. Vogt says:

    Now, see what you did, Jillian? I had to read your entire list and figure out what I was missing. Scary thing is, I’m not missing much on that list. My name is Beth K. Vogt and I am a craft junkie.
    I would add to that list a whole slew of Susie May Warren’s My Book Therapy books, especially The Book Buddy, which I use to plot out my novels. The whole “what’s my character’s Dark Moment, lie, wound” kind of thing. It’s so bad that my family is starting to understand the lingo.

  53. Nope. I do own, and have read, King’s and Maass’s books. But I figured a couple things out a while ago:

    1. You become a successful writer by reading books on writing about as fast as you become a carpenter by reading books on woodworking.

    2. There’s a profitable industry out there that’s hoping to sell books by telling me they’ll teach me how to sell books. It’s kinda like those “get rich quick” books where the first suggestion is “write a get rich quick book.”


  54. Cathy West says:

    Oh my. Yes. The sad thing is, I can read those books over and over and over, and still feel I know nothing. Of course, logic tells me this isn’t true. But sometimes I believe it is. So I buy another book in the hopes of finding something new, something I’ve not yet tried. Something that will make me a better writer. Truth is, none of those books can do that. Yes, they can assist, point, teach and direct, but they cannot light the fire that is the story inside of me. The danger I have found is that if I rely on them too much, they can put that fire out.
    And # 10? Oh, yeah. So feeling that lately. 🙂

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Pick 3 of your top tips from your craft books, Cathy, and just focus on those for awhile. See if that helps. When all else fails remember this first:

      Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

      Peace out!

  55. Amy Boucher Pye says:

    I have to admit I have nearly 100 of these books, but my justification is that I’m in the biz and a good chunk of these I bought many moons ago when I was doing a course in publishing.

    Has no one mentioned William Zinsser’s _On Writing Well_? I haven’t read it in years but remember loving it. Equally William Goldman – _Which Lie Did I Tell?_ and _Adventures in the Screen Trade_. Lawrence Block’s _Telling Lies for Fun and Profit_ was good too.

    I love writer’s memoirs too. Eudora Welty’s _One Writer’s Beginnings_ is fab, and I enjoyed Abigail Thomas’s more recent memoirs.

    I should really de-clutter some of these books… Think _The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing_ which was published in 1989 could possibly be out of date?

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Amy, you do my heart good. William Zinsser, YES! And did you read my answer to Sue about denial. 🙂
      Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

  56. carol brill says:

    and let’s not forget Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones,”or
    Janet Burroway’s “Writing Fiction”–it was my bible for years.

  57. Sue Harrison says:

    I’m definitely a craft junkie, no doubt about it! I own a shelf full of how-to writing books and just yesterday downloaded another to my ebook reader. I do have a good excuse though. I bought most of those books when I was teaching college classes on creative writing, and I still do a lot of writing workshops, so I’m entirely justified.

    At least that’s what I tell myself and my husband and my friends and…

    Great post Jillian!!

    • Jillian Kent says:

      I believe we may need to have a discussion about denial. 🙂 But hey, we can go straight to Step 10:Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. 🙂

  58. Well, I think a trip to the craft store is on my day timer ( a paper thingie..found in vintage stores). Although, when I read this post title, my FIRST thought was “no, but I am an expert at antique refinishing and I own two different kinds of palm sanders and want another Dremel.

    Time to go shopping!

  59. What a funny, clever post! I have to admit, my hubs commented the other day, “Are you actually reading that copy of Bird by Bird, because it’s been on the back of the toilet for like a year.”

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Hi Heather!
      Glad you are enjoying this post. And I can’t think of a better place for your copy of Bird by Bird. Anne Lamott would be honored. 🙂

  60. wordsurfer says:

    I’m a thwarted craft junkie. I’m tempted by craft books, and although I haven’t read most of the ones you mention, I have heard of them and thought about reading them. Usually, however, I’m so broke that they don’t quite make the top of the priority list.

    I own, and adore, Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, though. I turn to it every time the doubts creep in and it always, always helps.

    • Sara says:

      I just bought Writing Down the Bones! I like how you can open to any chapter or read start to finish.

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Writing Down the Bones is great! Get thee to a library!

      • wordsurfer says:

        Not so easy – living in Germany, for some reason these kinda books are not readily available here. Also not at university libraries, which is where I was before. But I’ve started a list and trying to decide what to get for my birthday Amazon voucher!

  61. KBR says:

    Am I a craft junkie? When I can’t sleep I get up, put on a pot of chamomile tea (supposed to help you sleep) and read On Writing or Bird By Bird. Since they’ve been thoroughly read, I open at random now and still find them riveting.

  62. John Sauvé-Rodd (London UK) says:

    No, I am not a craft junkie. I own *not one* book on writing. I do collect what writers say about writing, from newspapers mostly, and only Dutch Leonard’s tips have stuck. But being a late starter (62 when I began writing seriously) I subscribe to what the Australians call The JDI approach (Just Do!)I figure that if I have stories in me (people say so) and I can tell a good yearn (ditto) then the task is essentially to get it out of me and down on paper. So far so good. I find I have a natural discipline, least that’s how it looks. Thanks again Rachelle and followers for an entertaining post that I read over here in l’il ol’ Engerland.

    • Jillian Kent says:

      I’m so envious that you are in the U.K. and I’m not since I write during the Regency era. So much I want to research in person and haven’t been there since 1976!
      You must go read what I wrote to Neil above and I would love to hear some of Dutch Leonard’s bits of wisdom. We can all learn from each other. Did I tell you that’s where craft books come in?

      Just one, John. You must have at least just one. Just Do It! 🙂

      • John Sauvé-Rodd (London UK) says:

        Dutch Leonard wrote 10 rules in the NY Times 2001:
        1 Never open a book with weather.
        2 Avoid prologues.
        3 Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
        4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
        5 Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
        6 Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
        7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
        8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters. (note from John: I disobey this sometimes)
        9 Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
        10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

        Full article:

        Still raining here in Lunnun Town. England Swings Like A Pendulum Do.

        • Jillian Kent says:

          I love this. Thanks for sharing, John. That #10 is so subjective. I guess that just means leave out the boring parts. 🙂

          • H.G. Ferguson says:

            Ever since Leonard penned this, for some unfathomable reason everyone thinks these “rules” apply to every single genre in existence. They work very well indeed for the hard-bitten, gritty modern stuff Leonard writes. They are, however, rotting death to historical novels, speculative fiction, science fiction, and dare I say, horror. It also astounds me that the same person who pontificated ex cathedra that ANY verb other than “said” is “the author intruding” also claimed that it is permissible to break the rules of the English language to move the story along. And this is NOT the author intruding? Why are these rules the RULES? Because Leonard said so. Writers today should think for themselves. weigh all things judiciously and not repeat these mindless mantras across the board. Leonard’s way is not the only way, and certainly not the best way for every single genre.

  63. Neil Ansell says:

    I must admit I’m the opposite – I have an aversion to these kinds of books and have never bought a single one. Rather I just read lots of great books and learn by osmosis.

    • Sara says:

      That’s so funny! That’s always been my philosophy too! I actually just bought my first “craft” book, “Writing Down the Bones.” As I’ve always been an osmosis learner, it’s definitely different to read this kind of how-to, but I’m enjoying both the different way of learning and the book itself.

      • Jillian Kent says:

        Osmosis is just the beginning, Sara. Now take a deep breath and think what else is tempting me today. Try it. You’ll like it.

        • Sara says:

          LOL. I guess if “Writing Down the Bones” is the gateway, then “On Writing” and “Bird by Bird” would be next steps down the junkie path? 😉

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Oh Neil,
      I hear you BUT I can’t impress upon you enough what a great book on the craft can do for your writing. In my own little junkie way I encourage you to buy one book (or get it from the library) from all the ones you will find mentioned here today. JUST ONE! YOU CHOOSE!

      Okay, I know I’m enabling but I just can’t help myself. Think about it.

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Jump below. I think I hit the wrong reply. So sorry.

      • Neil Ansell says:

        Ok Jillian, if I was to try just one book, which should it be? I should say that osmosis has served me pretty well – I am a full-time writer with no other income.

        • Jillian Kent says:

          I don’t know if I can bear the pressure, Neil. Let me think.

        • Jillian Kent says:

          I couldn’t do it. I can’t narrow it down to one. You’ll have to pick. But these are three I would pick for you. That’s not too bad. So, in no particular order:

          Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King

          Stein on Writing, by Sol Stein

          Plot & Structure, by James Scott Bell

          Study them on-line and see which you like best and then go for it. 🙂

  64. BK Jackson says:

    LOL! I can sooooo relate. And I compulsively by them even though I know the best writing training is simply writing book after book.

    And some craft books are better than others. But I figure slowly but surely, I’m absorbing tidbits of wisdom from each one and being a junkie has brought me a long way from where I was in 2004.

    And for the record, I love Writing the Breakout Novel and JSB’s craft books best. They give you the most bang for your buck. But there are tons of other great ones out there too. My shelves are bulging.

    And by the way–ditto to the person who commented about having paper AND Kindle copies….

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Fancy meeting you here, BK! You said, “And I compulsively by them even though I know the best writing training is simply writing book after book.”

      Writing is the way to perfect your craft, but in my humble opinion, whether it be through absorption, osmosis, etc. we must study to improve as well.

      Have you bought JSB’s Conflict and Suspense yet? 🙂

  65. I’m obviously not a craft junkie. Some of these books I have not heard of. I do own Bird by Bird and the Donald Maass Breakout novel and have read the Stephen King. But even though I don’t have all those mentioned, I have a few others not mentioned, so maybe I am a craft junkie. I think it’s a good thing that no matter how long we’ve been writing,we are always looking to improve.Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle is one of my favourites.

    • Jillian Kent says:

      You won’t believe this, Dalle, but, Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle is currently on it’s way to my mailbox. I hadn’t even heard of it before and it looked great so I entered the craft junkie sphere and BOUGHT IT!

  66. Hi, my name’s Rachelle and I’m a craft junkie. 🙂
    I have several of those books, and my brother even picked up a big stack during his library overflow sale to help me add to my collection! I love Bird by Bird and for basics– I love Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. It’s one of the first ones I recommend to aspiring authors.

  67. Eileen Cook says:

    Complete craft junkie. I ADORE with a white hot passion Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. If you don’t have this book you are missing out.

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Hanging my head in shame, Eileen. I do not own, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Will remedy that soon.

      Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings. 🙂

  68. Mary Curry says:

    Hi Jillian,

    How about, you already own the craft book, but it’s free this week on Kindle or Nook so you download it again just so it’s always handy?

    Yup, craft junkie here.

  69. Haha! I have every single one of these! I must be a junkie, too!!

  70. AmalieB says:

    I think I may have danced right over the line between junkie and addict. In the past 18 months I’ve probably bought close to 30. And I also have read all the ones at the library not written in the dark ages(or before 1990)…

    Writing for Emotional Impact by Karl Iglesias is my current favorite. I even put up a gushy nerdgasm fangrrl review on my blog. I need help! 😀

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Whoo! Whoo!

      I think it’s time for hospitalization. 🙂
      Repeat after me, Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

  71. I’m a recovering writing craft junkie. It’s been awhile since I’ve read one, but a couple years ago, I almost fell down the steps at the library because I couldn’t see around the stack of writing books I was carrying to the check-out counter.

  72. Jan Cline says:

    Oh boy, I just counted and I have 26 books on writing. I think that puts me in your club. It’s hard to stop buying them when there are so many good ones. But if we have to be junkies with something I guess this isn’t so bad!
    Jan Cline

  73. Jenny says:

    I certainly find books on craft (especially Stephen King’s On Writing and – yep! – Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird) inspiring. There’s a few times when you’re in the middle of a piece and go-go-going that it’s helpful to have the Ones Who Have Gone Before remind you to press on and do the work.

  74. Hi, my name’s Nicole and I’m a hopeless craft junkie.

    I own three copies of Snyder’s Save the Cat–one for me and two to loan.

    I revisit Heather Seller’s Word after Word and Chapter after Chapter books monthly.

    I plan vacations around NaNoWriMo and writer’s conferences.

    My RSS feed is 90% writers and agents blogs.

    I am absolutely a craft junkie.

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Welcome to my self-help group. You’re one of us!
      Did I tell you and the gang I have a day job? Must be off. Will be back later.

      Until then, repeat after me, “We admitted that we were powerless over the lure of books and that our lives had become unmanageable.”

  75. Guilty, guilty, guilty! I LOVE books on the writing craft. The last one I just read – and LOVED – was Monica Wood’s DESCRIPTION. It really opened my eyes to the subtle ways we can weave description into our stories. I found it to be one of the most useful writing craft books I’ve ever read (and that’s saying something considering my shelf!).

    • Jillian Kent says:

      On no, Melissa. I don’t own DESCRIPTION! I can already tell that I’m going to be spending time on line discovering new ways to JUNKIFY. 🙂

  76. I have to admit that I have several books about the craft of writing, including Stephen King and Anne Lamott’s books. I also really like Natalie Goldberg’s books, especially Writing Down the Bones. I also have to admit that seeing all of these other titles makes me want to read them too, but I must resist my urge to click on over to And yet…

    • Jillian Kent says:

      Okay Neurotic,
      Here’s what you do. Instead of buying you order about ten through your local library. Then you bring them all home and bask in the way they look on your coffee table, dining room table, and bedside table. Then the danger begins. You open one and you discover the urge to underline or highlight. Okay. So you’ll just buy that one and the madness begins. 🙂

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