I was putting away some books on a "new" bookshelf we have that's been sitting bare and waiting for about 4 months, easily. All of my favourite books go near the top, while all of the heavy ones sit on the bottom. As I placed several of my books on writing in the second-to-the-top shelf, I thought about which ones really shaped who I am as a writer today. That's where this post came from, I suppose. While many fiction books helped as well, and I may do a follow-up post on that subject, these are the books on writing that helped me become the sort of writer I wanted to be.
The 3AM Epiphany by Brian Kiteley - This is probably one of my absolute favourite prompt/craft books. Even though it's not a book on craft in itself, the prompts within it help develop your abilities anyway. When you want a little inspiration or you want ideas on how to push something forward, this book swoops in and saves the day. It's great for creating background stories or for just coming up with ideas, and it does so in a writerly way rather than a "let's brain storm" sort of way.
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers - This book should be required reading by every author. If you want to understand the way you work, or if you want to take self-editing to the next level, this book works great. It helped me find some of my trouble areas, to say the least, and it helped me develop my own editing checklist. I kid you not, this book sits on the side-table next to my bed.
Writing Great Books for Young Adults - This one's a little specific to what I write, but is a good one for anyone interested in writing for the YA crowd. Even though I read a lot of YA, this book can be helpful for those who don't or those who are older than the target audience. Young Adult fiction is a totally different beast than adult fiction and this book is helpful in understanding those differences.
Elements of Fiction Writing - Conflict, Action & Suspense by William Noble - I'll admit, I could do with a little refresher on this one, but it's another one of the most notable books I own. It's especially helpful for scenes that need a lot of action, but don't feel quite up to par.
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass - This is one of those books that even though I bought and read it when I first realised I wanted to start taking writing seriously, it still comes in handy now that I have a couple of books under my belt. More so than that, it will likely still be helpful when I have a hundred books in my repertoire.
You'll notice that I don't have Ursula LeGuin's Steering the Craft or Stephen King's On Writing on my list. Probably two of the most influential books for fiction writers. The reason, I suppose, is that they are not used on a regular basis for me. When I'm stuck on something while working on a book or short story, I don't go to either of these for answers or for inspiration. I go to one (or several) of the above five. So, while I do recommend Steering the Craft and On Writing, they are not books that I couldn't live without.