I have to start with On Writing by Stephen King. It was one of the first books 'on writing' that I discovered and definitely one of the best. When I first found it I skipped straight to the 'toolbox' section, where Stephen explains - as only Stephen can - how he crafts a manuscript and his views on vexed questions such as adverbs. While we are on that subject, I will just say that although I try to keep the adverb count fairly low in my stories, there is still something to be said for Stephanie Laurens advice to keep some, because women love to know HOW the hero does things (passionately, tenderly, aggressively, reverentially - makes a big difference to a kiss, doesn't it?). Getting back to Stephen King, it was extremely enlightening to read the extract from one of his own manuscripts including all the handwritten edits on it. It is fascinating to see how the great man works.
My next recommendation is The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell. This book is a shoot-from-the-hip advice manual for writers. It is not about honing your craft. It is about developing a professional mindset, hence chapter headings such as 'You are a business, and your books are the product' and 'Whining will not help you win the battle for publication'. Having said that, this book does include some valuable information about improving manuscripts - I really enjoyed the chapter entitled 'Characters all alone should do more than think'. And I loved the laugh out loud quotes from Terri Blackstock about how the writer's mood is directly linked to their amazon rankings.
Now, at last, I can tell you how much I enjoyed 'The Newbies Guide to Publishing' by JA Konrath. I laughed all evening yesterday reading it. Not only is it great insider advice about what to do after you get published (and many of us are so mesmerized by that goal that we don't even consider what happens after) it is also an incredibly entertaining read. Now I have to warn you - it is informally written - like a series of blog posts, which may be how it started life, but I laughed out loud all evening reading it. I am a big fan of Joe Konrath from now on, and I am never putting SASEs in my submissions to agents again.
Just so you know - I bought these books, with real money - my husband's money, obviously - but money all the same.