One of the most useful, and enjoyable, I have found is Diana Cambridge's 'How to write for magazines in one weekend'. Having been a subscriber to Writing Magazine for yonks, and encountered Ms Cambridge's helpful advice there, I eventually came across this book and looked up some reviews. They were all positive and I sent for my copy.
I can now see why the reviews were so good, and can also say that I totally agree with them (and just to let you know, I am not in any way connected to the author and bought the book with my own pennies!).
Although it's set out in the form of struturing the exercises over a weekend, it's not at all vital. I read it over the course of a few evenings and did the exercises as and when I could fit them in. It still works brilliantly. However, if you have a free couple of days and really want to get stuck in to some writing, then following the set layout could be a really good start.
What I like about the book is that it is broken up into sections with the various segments available for magazine writers listed individually, such as letters, opinion pieces, jokes, etc. Often when we think of writing for a magazine, we think 'article' so it's great to be reminded about the other options too. Also, writing things like letters gives us a quick 'hit' of writing and submission which can help spur us on to bigger things (more about this in a future post).
As an editor herself, Diana Cambridge knows what editors are generally looking for, and also what they don't want. Insider information like this is extremely helpful and this book gives it to us in a really relaxed but enthusiastic way. The author isn't looking down on writers or being patronising, as some books in this genre can be guilty of. It's simply 150 pages of valuable and friendly coaching which I know I'll be dipping back into every now and then for an 'energy boost'. Highly recommended.
One note though, on the front of my copy it advertises a writing competition to win £100 of Lonely Planet Guides. Just be advised that this competition is no longer open.
If you want to know more about Diana, and her books, her website is http://www.canalstreet.org.uk/