"What writing books do you recommend?"
I've been asked this question several times, but perhaps the most memorable instance was on a Sunday morning. In church. Right before the service was about to begin.
Since the timing was not conducive for this kind of discussion, it caught me off guard. As I scrambled to deliver a brief answer, I pictured the shelf on my desk where I keep important resources and considered, What books do I use most?
It's not a bad question, just a broad one, like when someone asks how to get started as a writer. (For more details on answering that question, check out this recent post.)
My mind stretched for an educated answer. I am a writer, after all, and am supposed to be able to communicate in an articulate manner. What seems like a simple question has many answers, depending on what you're looking for.
I felt a little tongue tied. Here I was, a dedicated scribe who's having trouble thinking of good writing books. But I figured I could use the setting and timing as an excuse, right?
The first book that came to mind was The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Other books popped up in regard to blogging, freelancing, and fiction writing, such as L. Diane Wolfe's How to Publish and Promote Your Book Now, Smart Branding for Busy Bloggers by Jennifer Brown Banks, The Emotion Thesaurus series by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, Characters, Emotion, and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress, and Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. More titles crowded in, like Roget's Super Thesaurus, Barron's Essentials of English, and Edit Yourself - all helpful for tutoring my teen writing students.
My final answer? The Elements of Style. Figured you couldn't go wrong with this classic, right?
After this incident, I thought about what my "non spur of the moment" answers would be. Pretty much the same, I'm thinking, but I'd probably narrow the field by asking questions like:
- Are you looking for general writing and grammar info?
- Do you plan to write for children, young adults, or adults?
- Will you write fiction or non fiction?
- Do you want additional info on writing for magazines, writing the novel, or about self publishing?
Once that's established, I'd suggest using this list of considerations to assist:
- Applicable Genre - A no brainer, yes, but if you're new to this it helps to narrow the search.
- Good, down to earth content - If it isn't reader friendly, seems too technical or complex, it might be good to pass, at least for the beginning writer.
- Reviews from readers - What's the general consensus among the reviews? Take applicable cues from them.
- Recommendations from writer friends - This is often the best way to find good books.
- Endorsements from reputable writers - Does your favorite author or other respected writer endorse it? This can offer helpful clues too.
While these points might seem obvious, with so many resources now available it's easy to get overwhelmed. And let's face it, unless you're independently wealthy, there's a budget to respect as well. These items might help steer someone in the right direction.
Did I miss anything? What would you add to the list?
Has anyone asked you a similar question at an unexpected or not-so convenient moment? What are your go-to writing books and resources?
Photo credit: Free Images