I usually don't like books on writing but sometimes when I am in the thick of a novel and it feels out of my control, I reach for them, either to reassure myself or to see if there might be something--even a line--in there, that might help me.
A lot of the time, I think the advice is wrong-headed, or maybe it's just that it's too obvious conversing about the things I already know. I want to be surprised. But recently, I picked up From Where You Dream by Pulitzer prize winner Robert Olen Butler and the book is like a revelation. Maybe it's the language he uses, but even the things I do know about writing seem new here. Instead of talking about how important it is that every character want something, he uses the better word: yearning. Instead of the writer talking about the idea he or she has for a story, Butler insists it's far better to think about the emotional nuances, because emotion is where you build your story. You dig into the subconscious and he gives great advice on how to get into the "zone."
I haven't finished the book, but I've already recommended it to my UCLA students, and truly, I haven't been so exhilarated since I read John Truby, the screenwriting guru, whose simple change of the word "backstory" to "ghost" made me look at backstory in a different, richer way.
I think what I really like is the feeling that this voice from this particular book is down in the writing trenches with me. Reassuring me. Pushing me on. And that's pretty wonderful.