While there is no required reading for this course, I highly recommended the following books for excellent advice on narrative craft and insights into the writing life:
The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know, by Shawn Coyne
This plot-centric book is all about the mechanics of story. Coyne, an editor with more than two decades of experience acquiring and editing novels for major publishers, analyzes what goes into making a story tick.
Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction, by Patricia Highsmith
You don't have to be a writer of crime fiction or thrillers to learn a great deal from this slim, to-the-point guide on creating suspense in fiction. Highsmith's advice on everything from plotting to getting past "snags" is invaluable to novelists in any genre. As a writer of literary fiction, I found that it provided me with a much-needed kick in the pants.
Wired for Story, by Lisa Cronn
Cronn deftly explores the relationship between neuroscience and story, and explains how delivering what the brain wants can make you a better storyteller. This book is about hooking the reader and making them want more. It delves into the science of emotion and provides plenty of nuts-and-bolts advice.
On Writing:A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King
By the time I got around to reading this modern classic by one of the most prolific writers of our time, I'd already published three novels. I wish I'd found it sooner! While King's smart, down-to-earth memoir/writing lesson is a must-read for beginning novelists, fiction writers at any stage of their careers will find much to admire and be inspired by. Consider it a crash course in how to write fiction that people want to read.
According to Friedman, "Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences, they are the ones who keep writing." While the other books on this list focus on narrative craft, Writing Past Dark is the book you'll turn to when you feel gobsmacked by your novel, ready to call it quits (and we all get there at some point).
Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel, by Jane Smiley
A passionate and erudite exploration of the novels that inspired the author, this book is recommended for the serious novelist who is interested in an in-depth analysis of how certain well-known novels work. At the end of the book, you'll find a list of 100 novels that Smiley recommends for readers and writers. At 570 pages, it's a door-stopper, best consumed over a course of a few months.
Have you found a book that makes you a better writer? Please share it in the comments section below.