10 Must-Have Books for Every Writer

26 Jul

This post is the first of a rolling blog tour on the topic of Favorite Reference Books for Authors.  For the previous tour, please see my post on Plots That Refuse to Thicken.  At the bottom of this post you’ll find the remaining participants in today’s tour, and a link to the next article in the series.

 

There are 10 books on writing craft that I can’t live without. Here they are, in no particular order:

Bird by Bird by Annie Lamott

A novelist and writing teacher, Anne is often called ‘the people’s author’.  Bird by Bird is funny, truthful and wise. Here’s what Anne says about writing: “I try to write the books I would love to come upon, that are honest, concerned with real lives, human hearts, spiritual transformation, families, secrets, wonder, craziness—and that can make me laugh.”

On Writing by Stephen King

No intro needed here, and I’m not a fan of his novels, but this book offers some great advice for aspiring authors. The best reason to read this book is Mr. King’s revelation that he, too, was rejected by many publishers before his career took off. Inspirational.

Goal, Motivation, Conflict by Debra Dixon

This book opened my eyes on how a great story is constructed. Simple and focused, Ms. Dixon’s theory taught me two important things – that every character must have a goal and be properly motivated, and that without a strong conflict, your story will stall.

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

Based on Joseph Campbell’s theories of myth, Vogler shares the secrets of timeless storytelling for screenwriters, which can also be adapted for novels.

Save the Cat by Blake Snyder

This is also a screenplay how-to, but it’s tips and tricks about structure are useful for novels , too. Funny and insightful.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss

Any book about grammar that makes the NY Times Bestseller List deserves to be read. Very funny.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.

My father was a writer, and he owned a copy. Although published in 1918, this book is a bible for lessons on clear, concise writing that still holds true today.

Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes by Tami Cowden

Absolutely essential if you need help with characterization. Based on Carl Jung’s theory that there are certain repeated experiences of humanity that result in recurring personalities, easily recognizable across cultures. I’ve used this book more times than I can count.

Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

An excellent book on revision and what to look for once you’re in the editing mode.

Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain

Another ‘oldie but goodie’, Dwight Swain’s gem of a book is jam-packed with important advice about writing. Worth reading, twice.

To learn about more favourite reference books, check out the next stop on the blog tour:

KT Wagner http://northernlightsgothic.com/blog

Below is a list of the remaining participants in today’s tour. Stop by to learn more about favorite craft books, until you’ve completed the entire tour. And stay tuned, because another tour is planned for Friday!

Ryder Islington http://ryderislington.wordpress.com

John Hines http://www.johnhines.com 

11 Responses to “10 Must-Have Books for Every Writer”

  1. Kathleen Kaska July 28, 2011 at 10:03 am #

    Thanks for reminding me about Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, and Elements of Style is one that is always on my nightstand, and of course, Stephen Kings is a must. Great list.

  2. Barbara Forte Abate July 29, 2011 at 7:10 am #

    Great list. Two of my favorites are here – On Writing, and Bird by Bird – both of which I re-read as necessary. (Aka, often!) And two I should be reading more often – Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, The Elements of Style.

    • nancyelizabethlauzon August 1, 2011 at 9:53 am #

      Thanks, Barbara! You’re right, these books contain so much, you can’t process it all in one sitting.

  3. Eve Greenwood September 16, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    An excellent list, and I was pleased to see that most of the books here were already on my to-buy list! Stephen King’s On Writing is definitely one I’d recommend to anyone just starting to write.

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