Monday, October 21, 2013

Good Writing Books?

 
"What writing books do you recommend?"

Has anyone ever asked you this?

Someone tossed this question my way last month. The setting was not conducive for discussion, so it caught me off guard. As I scrambled for an educated answer, I pictured the shelf on my desk where I keep important resources and thought, what books do I use most?

It's not a bad question, just a broad one, kind of like another I've been asked.

(You know the one - "How do I get started as a writer?" Well, let's see, where to begin...)

As for good writing books, are we talking about general writing and grammar? Ones on writing for children, young adults, or adults? Fiction? Non fiction? A how-to on magazine articles, novels, or self publishing?

What seems like a simple question has many answers, depending on what you're looking for.

The first book that came to mind was The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, then Roget's Super Thesaurus, and Barron's Essentials of English.

I felt a little tongue tied. Here I was, a writer who's having trouble thinking of good writing books. But I figured I could use the setting and timing as an excuse, right? :) 

Other books then came to mind in light of my historical fiction work in progress, such as The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress, and Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. I even thought about two books on my Amazon wish list, Ackerman/Puglisi's newest releases, The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus.

More titles crowded in, like Edit Yourself and Writer's Inc. In addition to The Elements of Style, these provide backup when double checking grammar and coaching my teen writing students.

So my on the spot final answer was The Elements of Style. Figured you couldn't go wrong with this classic guide. Next time I'll be better prepared. What do you think? How would you respond to this question? 

Has anyone ever asked you a question like this at an unexpected time or place?

Have a great week! :)

Happy writing,

Karen 

Photo credit: Stock Exchange

24 comments :

  1. My first answer is Personality Plus, a great book for characteristics and personality traits. I base my characterization session for schools off that book. After that it would be a thesaurus, followed by the Chicago Manual of Style.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Save the Cat! Still my favorite book. Jessica Bell's book on Show Don't Tell was also awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Karen! I read Steven King's book on writing, and he swears by The Elements of Style. He said he would walk around with it in his pocket. A teacher I know had suggested it to me as well, so I have read it.

    I am interested in the emotion thesaurus. I'll have to take a look at it when I'm at the library. Sounds interesting.
    The question people ask that gets me stumped is "How do you find things to write about?" Usually, I have no idea. Not a very satisfying answer!
    Happy Monday :)
    Ceil

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Karen .. I note your suggestions .. so far I've just written my blog - but probably need to study the subject sometime! Jessica's works seem to cover the basics .. and your suggestions are all ones I've heard before ... and I see Alex has been here with his recommendation ... I'm sure I bought Save the Cat at his suggestion.

    I've taken note of Diane's Personality Plus ... and as Ceil mentions the Emotion Thesaurus sounds a good reference ...

    Cheers to you - Hilary

    ReplyDelete
  5. Diane,
    I've heard PP is a good resource; I should check it out. I attended a writer's conference years ago and one speaker, Gayle Roper, spoke very highly of it too.

    Alex,
    I still have not read Save the Cat. I guess I need to! I've head good things about Jessica's book as well.

    Ceil,
    Happy Monday to you too! I agree, the Elements of Style is one handy little book. Hope you get a chance to check out the Emotion Thesaurus. :)

    Hilary,
    It seems our friends are a wealth of info, aren't they! So many good resources, now to find the time to look at them all. :) Hope you can check them out when the time comes.

    Happy writing,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh yes I get unexpected questions like that all the time as a college counselor speaking to groups of prospective students. Definitely some awkward moments :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Karen...My answer would have been "Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within" by Natalie Goldberg plus any other books she has written, as a good place to begin. Susan

    ReplyDelete
  8. It's a tough question because just like other books some will work some won't. I remember spending a day at a huge bookstore that had tons of writing books. I compare several and found they say the same thing - but they say it in different ways. Some were dull (for me) while other got me excited.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Keith,
    I bet you do get odd questions! I can just imagine. :)

    Susan,
    I have head this one is good. This is another one I should check out! Thanks for the reminder. :)

    HR,
    Well this is the thing, you're right. No one size fits all, that's for sure. Plus we all write different things. Good to get input across the board! :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  10. I would flounder like you did. I just write. That's all. Oh, and read like crazy. Mostly fiction, but that is one of the biggest things that's shaped my writing.

    I'm glad you're on hand to answer the tough questions for writers. You're good at this. :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. In a recent post post titled: Blogging About Books you could discover a Book Review that's - not - specifically about a - writing book - that I recommend....., only...,

    I do however think that it might be interesting and practical especially for writer's that work with dead-lines, and have to plan loads of activities etc. etc. (Btw. you can also occasionally find book reviews about actual writing books on my writing blog)

    ReplyDelete
  12. I am asked that question many times. I always suggest James Scott Bell and Donald Maass.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'd have to check my Kindle and get back with an answer. I have a few I've read and a few waiting for me.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Yes, I agree with the Elements of Style, definitely, and I learned a great deal reading Write In Style by editor Bobbie Christmas.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Someone once asked me for advice on writing a book. Same situation, little time for a decent answer. If asked which books to read, I generally tell them the list that almost every writer I know has, and then I tell them to grab a copy of Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel book and workbook. Also his The Fire in Fiction.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Rachna,
    Can't go wrong with those two, can you? They offer great info! :)

    Medeia,
    Sounds like me - read a few, have a few more on the TBR list. The resources available boggle the mind! :)

    Lisa,
    I'll have to check that one out, thanks for the tip! :)

    Joylene,
    It's hard to be caught off guard, even more so if you aren't sure what you they are looking for. Will have to check out Fire in Fiction, thanks! :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  17. I have a whole shelf of writing books--and each one seems to jump out at me at different times for different reasons. But the two I reach for the most are Jane Yolen's "Take Joy, A Writer's Guide to Loving the Craft," and a little book called "The Writer's Book of Wisdom, 101 Rules for Mastering Your Craft," by Steven Taylor Goldsberry. Quick and handy but chock full of good tips :-)

    ReplyDelete
  18. Karen, The first thing that came to my mind was "The Elements of Style", too. As a mystery writer I've also found "Writing Mysteries" helpful. It's a handbook with input by many famous mystery writers. It was edited by Sue Grafton whom I recently met. Great question!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Two books come to mind: "The Elements of Style," and "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft," by Stephen King. Two different books in focus, but both immensely helpful on the craft.

    I'm scouring these answers and taking notes! Be well. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Kenda,
    I need to check these out, thanks so much for the info! :) There are so many good ones out there!

    Susan,
    So you got to meet Sue Grafton, eh? A friend of ours has done work at her house in Louisville. Small world!

    Janette,
    I'm taking notes too! So many treasures to explore. I think I need to take a break to do so. :)

    Blessings all,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  21. I found Jill Elizabeth Nelson's book on deep POV helpful.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Susan,
    I've heard good things about that book. Need to check it out!
    Blessings,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  23. Great post, Karen! My favorite books are all about the craft of writing, not any particular "How To" books. I don't just sit down and read any of them straight through. I flip through it, reading the parts I need to read (or to read again and again!) I like ones that are both motivational and humorous. Here are some of my favorites: "Writing Down the Bones," and "Thunder & Lightning: Cracking Open the Writer's Craft," by Natalie Goldberg -- "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions On Writing and Life," by Anne Lamott -- "Naked, Drunk, and Writing" (with a very long subtitle!) by Adair Lara. AND I need to look at my bookshelf, because I'm probably forgetting some! AND, PS Congratulations on your book, Karen! I know how excited you must be!!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Becky.
    Great to see you! Thanks so much. :) I'm like you, I flip through some of these books too, taking what I need at the time. It's great to have so many resources!
    Happy Monday,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your input. Have a blessed day!