The Writer’s Library

Every writer keeps on their bookshelf what he/she considers every writer’s must-have, and given any opportunity will brag it up.

This writer is no different.

1. "Elements of Style" by William Shrunk and E.B. White. This little book sits prominently on most writer’s desk or bookshelf. Stephen King wrote in "On Writing" (another excellent book) that he reads it at least once a year. A good practice, because it highlights the most common mistakes writers make including comma usage (my biggest problem of late), word usage such as mixing up who/whom and further/farther.

2. "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Renni Browne and Dave King. About three years ago, I queried an agent for my novel. In his rejection letter he pointed out a few errors and recommended this book. After devouring it in three days, I understood why he recommended it, and why he rejected my manuscript. My book wasn’t near as ready as I thought, and "Self-Editing" showed me how to fix it. This is another book a writer should read once a year as well.

3. "Write Tight" by William Brohaugh. This is especially handy for those of us who have a tendency to write extremely long sentences that go on and on and on (can you tell I’m one of those?). Of all the reference books I’ve read, "Write Tight" is the most fun. His style and examples will make you laugh.

4. "The Forest for The Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers" by Betsy Lerner. If you want to learn from the perspective of an editor who’s worked with (and wish she could avoid) all types of writers, you’ll enjoy this book. I guarantee you will see yourself in some of her examples. It will at times frighten or embarass you, but you’ll understand better what an editor goes through from day to day.

While I own many other writing books that have taught me more about the craft, these four top my list.

Now it’s your turn. What are your must-have books, and why are they your favorites?

Note: They don’t have to be writing/reference books, either, but ones you learned most about the craft of writing.

9 thoughts on “The Writer’s Library

  1. Andra, these are great choices! I’ve found in my own writing self-education that different books at different stages were really helpful. One, that I’ve since lost, is Orson Scott Card’s “Characters and Viewpoint.” (Writers Digest Series). He had a scene that he wrote two different times, one from objective and one from deep penetration POV, and the lightbulb just went on about how to do this. It was magnificent!


  2. Hmm. I hadn’t thought of how books are more useful than others depending upon what stage I’m in. It makes perfect sense.
    Makes me wonder what books will float to the top one or even five years from now.


  3. This may not be exactly what you mean, but my fave writing book is “The Pocket Muse” by Monica Wood. It’s about creativity more than craft and it’s beautiful.
    I learned the most about writing from the WD Novel Writing Course. That and from the novels I read. 😉


  4. You bring up an excellent point.
    What good is writing if we can’t think up an idea to write about?
    I also agree reading other novels is one of the best teachers out there. They show what works and what doesn’t.
    Thanks for pointing them out, Loraine — as I knew you would :).


  5. Wow, this is a tough choice. I’ve been devouring craft of writing books since last June. Since you’ve already mentioned “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers,” I’ll go with “Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maass.


  6. Andra, my humble thanks for your kind words about Write Tight.
    Specific to your request about books that have taught us best about the craft of writing, there are so many. Let me suggest starting with Paul Darcy Boles’s Storycrafting as an instructional text, and any and all Ray Bradbury stories as instruction-in-action. Bradbury was a core influence in my writing life. Studying his elegance is exquisite edification.


  7. Thank you, Bill, for stopping by and adding a comment. I’m honored.
    Studying his elegance is exquisite edification.
    Love that sentence!


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