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Books for Writers and Illustrators

There are dozens of print books and ebooks on the market aimed at both new and experienced writers. To help you choose, here are some I have found useful myself. 

Market Guides
Writing for Children
Writing for Animation
Plot and Story Structure
General Writing Books
Self Publishing
Marketing

 Market Guides   
If you are aiming at the UK children's market, you definitely need a copy of The Children's Writers and Artists Yearbook. In addition to listing children's publishers, agents, film companies and masses of other useful addresses, it has a wide range of articles on writing and illustrating for children. These don't just deal with the creative process - they also cover the practicalities of contracts, copyright, public lending right and tax. Absolutely indispensable for children's writers and illustrators. (updated annually in August)
Buy The Children's Writers and Artists Yearbook from Amazon

If you want a market guide that covers writing for adults as well as writing for children, you'll need The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook which covers all sorts of writing. There's a selection of useful articles, comprehensive listings of relevant contact details and a subject index to help you find your way around. If your budget is tight, you may find a copy in your local reference library. Ask if you can't see it - apparently some librarians keep them behind the counter.
(updated annually in August)
Buy The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook from Amazon  

Writing for Children  
Writing for Children
by Linda Strachan
(A&C Black)
This is an excellent guide to writing for children, both for complete beginners and for those with some experience. It starts with a thorough examination of the many different areas children's writers can tackle, and it's particularly good to see chapters on writing non-fiction and writing for the primary educational market as these two areas are too often ignored. The author then continues with a useful guide to writing and plotting before moving on to how to submit your work. But she doesn't stop at the moment when your manuscript is accepted. She also covers post-acceptance issues, including the publishing process, self-promotion, school events and working with an agent.
As an added bonus, the text is interspersed with quotes and advice from a wide selection of children's authors who are writing today so the book is packed with useful, up to date information.
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The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children
by Nancy Lamb
(Writer's Digest Book)
This is an excellent book on storytelling, packed with insight into the writer's craft. It covers everything you need to know to write great fiction, including plot structure, viewpoint and characterisation. The clear explanations include useful examples as well as hints on spotting why something doesn't work and tips on avoiding common pitfalls. I particularly liked the concept that we make a promise to our readers at the beginning of the book and must keep that promise at the end. As Nancy Lamb is American, UK readers may not know all the titles to which she refers but this doesn't detract from the book's usefulness to both novice and experienced writers.
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Write a Children's Book - and Get It Published
by Allan Frewin Jones and Lesley Pollinger
(Teach Yourself)
Written jointly by an author and an agent, this book provides an interesting insight into how the world of children's books works and what editors don't want to publish. ("I never want to see another project based on talking vegetables and/or traffic cones!") With information on working with illustrators, writing faction, dealing with rejection and publicising your book, it is a useful book for beginners and for those further on. However most complete beginners would need more help with the actual nuts and bolts of writing and plotting than is provided here.
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Write a Blockbuster - and Get It Published
by Lee Weatherly and Helen Corner
(Teach Yourself)
Although this book is about writing in general, I've included it here because the information it contains is very relevant to writing for children and one of the co-authors is a successful children's author herself. The book is divided into two sections. The first, by Lee Weatherly, looks at creating your book. This is packed with excellent advice on plotting and creating characters but, for me, the most useful part was on the one about actually writing the story down. It has the best explanation of 'show don't tell' that I've seen and the suggestions for making your writing more active were really useful.
   The second section of the book is by Helen Corner, creator of the Cornerstones Literary Agency. It deals with the business side of writing - creating a submission package, getting an agent and being published. There is also has a useful chapter that looks at other routes to publication, including book packagers and self-publishing.
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Writing for Animation
How to Write for Animation
by Jeffrey Scott
(The Overlook Press)
With so many children's authors wanting to write for animation, it's great to see a book on the subject at long last, especially one as good as this. Jeffrey Scott has an impressive list of credentials in the business so you can be confident his advice is sound. In the first section of the book, he gives an overview of the animation process and how the writer fits into the team. In the second, he looks at developing a story from an original premise to a finished script using an episode from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as an example. I found this extremely useful as his method of plot development opened up a new way of working for me.
    He also looks at developing new series and, although he stresses that this is hard for a beginner to do successfully, he shows how to create a presentation and series bible. The third section deals with selling your script and, although his advice is based on the American market, it is easily adaptable to the UK. It's particularly good to see a whole chapter on breaking into animation without an agent. At the end of the book is an extensive glossary which explains animation jargon to newcomers. Altogether a very useful read.
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Plot and Story Structure
Plot and Structure
by James Scott Bell
(Writers Digest Books)
There are quite a few books that try to explain how plot works, but this is one of the very few that really show you how to tackle the process of plotting. My own copy is dog-eared from frequent use, and it has definitely helped to improve my writing.
Starting with a quick look at plot structure, James Scott Bell rapidly moves on to ways to find ideas and develop them into a strong story. The book is packed full with useful advice and exercises to trigger your creativity and help you find ways to strengthen your plots. Highly recommended, whether you like to plot in detail before you start writing or prefer to dive straight in and see where your characters lead you.
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Story  by Robert McKee
(Methuen)
As the name suggests, this inspiring book is purely about creating a really good story - one people will remember long after they've finished it. It talks primarily about writing screenplays, but don't let that put you off. The principles you'll learn here apply equally well to children's novels.
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The Writer's Journey
by Christopher Vogler
(Michael Wise Productions)
Some of the most enduring stories are the ancient myths so it's sensible to try to learn from their success. In this book, Christopher Vogler looks at the structure of mythical tales and how we can use that structure to add strength to our own plots. He uses films to illustrate his points, but these are equally applicable to books.
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 General Writing Books    
Description and Setting
by Ron Rozelle
(Writers Digest Books)
Don't be fooled by the title of this book. It's not about writing poetic descriptions of sunsets. It's about drawing your readers into your story and bringing your characters alive. Using well-chosen examples, the author explains how to cut the clutter from your story, explores the issue of showing rather than telling and shows how to use all your senses when creating scenes. She also looks critically at the tools you can use - including adverbs, metaphors, cadence and punctuation - and shows how to use them for best effect.
    This is a useful book, both for experienced writers and those who are just getting started. I found it helped me see what I was doing right, as well as showing me ways to improve.
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From Pitch to Publication
by Carole Blake
(Macmillan)
Written by a top agent, this book takes you through the business side of writing, including understanding the book trade, negotiating a contract and understanding royalty statements. Although Carole Blake talks exclusively about adults books, her information and advice is equally relevant to children's publishing. She includes hints on finding and working with an agent but, if you haven't got one, this book will help you cope alone. It's a bit out of date now, but still useful.
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Self Publishing
Self Printed - The Sane Person's Guide to Self-Publishing
by Catherine Ryan Howard
Until recently, self publishing was considered the poor relation to being published by the traditional route. But the arrival of ebooks has changed all that. Now self-published ebooks are becoming best sellers, and many authors are taking the independent route from choice rather than desperation. If you're thinking of joining them, you'll find this book useful. Catherine Ryan Howard's detailed advice on publishing and marketing is easy to read and based on her own practical experience rather than airey-fairey theory. I find I'm constantly dipping into it for ideas.
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Marketing
Tweet Right - The Sensible Person's Guide to Twitter
by Nicola Morgan
All authors are told to use Twitter to build their web presence and hopefully to push up their sales. But getting started with Twitter is harder than it sounds. After a couple of false starts, I bought this book, worked through it step by step and found myself tweeting with confidence.
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