Over the last one year, I have been reading a few books on writing fiction. For guidance on writing non-fiction, I found an excellent book. But so far I have not found one comprehensive book that covers most of the required topics in the art of writing fiction. So I recommend three books, each good in a specific aspect of fiction-writing. However, if you want to read only one book, go with the second book mentioned below.
1. Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee.
This book maybe intended for screenwriters, but is an excellent reference for novel writers, as well. This is THE BOOK if you want to understand how to evolve the overall structure (plot outline) of your story/novel. It mostly deals with the broader/global aspects of the story and gives many relevant examples from popular movies. Extremely well written and engaging, this book is a must-read.
2. Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time by Jordan Rosenfeld.
This book deals with the specifics of what is to be written in . . . each scene! Think about it – your story is actually multiple scenes woven together. There are many types of scenes and each has its own considerations. Writing these individual scenes effectively constitutes your novel, and that is what this book explores. The examples given from popular novels are appropriate and effective. This is the best resource to learn the nuts-and-bolts of writing fiction.
3. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Brown and Dave King.
There was a time when I thought editing was proofreading. No, there is much more to editing than proofreading, and this book outlines them all very well. Written by two professional editors, this book, I feel, is a must read for all authors, as it will help us to write better fiction from the editor’s point of view. I think authors can read this book once they finish the first draft, but it will also be useful to read it before writing that novel. This book will save some work/time for the editor, and if you’re charged by the hour for editing, some money for you, as well!
PS: These recommendations are only from the books I have read, and found useful.