Three of the four books deal primarily will novel writing, and the fourth is my favorite go-to book for writing short genre fiction. While the books are primarily focused on writing science fiction and fantasy, much of this material can be used for any kind of fiction writing.
All of this is the good stuff! ;)
How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card
This is a slim volume worth its weight in genre-loving gold. Card focuses specifically on writing Science Fiction and Fantasy, however, there's something here for anybody writing fiction. This book won the non-fiction Hugo award in 1991 and is one of two I recommend for writers who want to know how to write SF/F. In this book, Orson Scott Card defines what science fiction and fantasy is (and isn't), tells you how to build, populate, and dramatize a credible, inviting world readers will want to explore, and spends a good deal of time telling you what the MICE quotient is (milieu, idea, character and event) and how to use it. He also tells you how to structure a successful story and where the markets are and how to reach them to become published. I'm on my third copy of the book because the first two I lent out never returned. This is also the book where Card makes his argument on why authors should think twice before writing a prologue for an Event story. Highly recommended.
Worlds of Wonder: How To Write Science Fiction & Fantasy by David Gerrold
Perhaps best known as the author of the Star Trek episode, The Trouble With Tribbles (winner of the Hugo award), David Gerrold is a pro's pro. This book is chock full of information about the art and craft of writing SF/F. And this is the book where I first discovered the 'million words of dreck' meme. He figures that a million words is roughly equivalent to ten novels and writes “Your first million words are for practice. They don’t count. Remember that.”
Dynamic Characters by Nancy Kress
How to Create Personalities That Keep Readers Captivated
In this guide, award-winning author Nancy Kress explores the crucial relationship between characterization and plot, illustrating how vibrant, well-constructed characters act as the driving force behind an exceptional story. In teaching writers the fundamentals of creating characters that will keep their readers spellbound, Kress utilizes: Dozens of excerpts from well-known fiction; Enlightening exercises to help writers build strong characters starting from the outside-in; Beginning chapters that focus on the physical elements that comprise a character, providing techniques for using external qualities to reflect personality; Building skill upon skill, writers blend these qualities with emotional and mental characterization, forming multi-dimensional characters that initiate exciting action, react to tense situations, and power the plot from beginning to end.
My favorite chapter is this book is her excellent treatment of secondary characters and plot construction. Nancy has a knowledgeable, breezy style and yet packs insight after insight into her work.
Creating Short Fiction: The Classic Guide to Writing Short Fiction by Damon Knight
The Classic Guide to Writing Short Fiction
Distilled from decades of teaching and practice, this book offers clear and direct advice on structure, pacing, dialogue, getting ideas, working with the unconscious, and more. Newly revised and expanded for this Third Edition, Creating Short Fiction is a popular and widely trusted guide to writing short stories of originality, durability, and quality. Celebrated short-story author and writing instructor Knight also includes many examples and exercises that have been effective in classrooms and workshops everywhere.This is my favorite book on writing short fiction. Knight was known for his short stories, novels, and editing prowess. With Kate Wilhelm, he founded the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer's Workshop. He founded the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and the Grand Master Award for lifetime achievement was later named after him. Next to Card's book on writing SF/F, this book has been marked up more than any other. Knight was the first to identify something astounding about using one's unconscious mind (he called it 'the silent mind, or simply, Fred') to troubleshoot one's writing. This is an astoundingly helpful book. I consult it regularly.