So this seems to be my marathon read of writing books. This week, I finished "Self Editing for Fiction Writers" (2nd edition) by Renni Browne and Dave King and "Writing the Breakout Novel" by Donald Maass.
Both books are useful for any writer's bookshelf. Browne and King's book helps the writer drill down into the specifics with chapters on 'show and tell', 'characterization and exposition', 'point of view', among others. Each chapter gives specific examples from published fiction and workshops and ends with specific exercises for the writer to practice the concepts.
I think I would have found the "Self-editing" book more useful earlier in my writing experience. I would recommend it to any beginning writer, or any writer who is having difficulty analyzing and polishing his or her first draft.
If Browne and King give the writer tools for the specific flaws that weaken writing, Maass helps the writer with the big picture. His "Writing the Breakout Novel" lays out the factors that separate serviceable books from breakout books--books that generate the coveted 'word of mouth' buzz. In this book are the tools for the writer to analyze premise, stakes, setting, characters, plot, viewpoint, and theme, using examples from breakout books.
Maass assumes the writer has the basics down. This is not the book for novice writers starting out with their first explorations of the novel form. This is the book for the novelist who has already written a book or two and who is ready to analyze patterns an push his or her writing. I highly recommend this book.