OMG this is the thread for me! I LOVE books on writing. I have an entire little bookshelf dedicated to books on writing.
I second Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. Like Jean, I typed up all the exercises so I could use them for every single book I write. I also own Maass’s other books, The Fire in Fiction is especially helpful. It’s the same format as WTBN but it’s new and interesting points. (if you follow Maass on Twitter he also likes to Tweet breakout tips).
I also second everything by James Scott Bell. He’s great. I love Plot and Structure the best.
I also second Bullies, Bastards, and Bitches by Jessica Page Morrell, as well as anything else by her. It’s this great book on how to write anti-heroes and villains really well. Even if anti-heroes aren’t your thing, I think every writer would find some use from this book because Morrell talks about the moral continuum.
Hmmm, something new to offer up….
*Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyons. This is a great “workshop” type book for revision. It has lots of little exercises that you can apply to your rough draft right away. I find it very helpful.
*Scene and Structure by Jack M. Bickham. It’s very, very detailed and took me a few read throughs to absorb it all, but man did it help me with scene writing.
Xaenyth: (LOVE LOVE LOVE your userpic) I retain what I read by using it as a reference and occasionally making notes of the really important stuff.
Something that also helps is I didn’t get an entire bookshelf of books on writing overnight. You just can’t absorb that much info at once. So when I struggled with a certain aspect, like structure for example, I researched books on writing that focused on structure. I also re-read books I already owned that contained stuff on structure. I find I retain the information the best if it’s current to what I am working on.