Writing Bookshelf

My bookshelves at home are primarily filled with books I read for enjoyment–not with books intended as references or guides.  When I do invest in reference books, it is typically because they come highly recommended or because I’ve spent so much time looking at them in a bookstore that I figure it’s cheaper to buy the book than to keep driving to the store to look at it.  Here are some of my favorites:


Books to get you writing/revising

The Write Brain Workbook

366 Exercises to liberate your writing


The pages in this book are beautifully laid out, and each one has a writing prompt designed for a short writing practice.  It has 366 exercises to take you through any year, but I tend to pick it up when I’m feeling low on writing energy and just want to write for writing’s sake.  It has follow-up questions for each writing exercise to get you thinking about why you write and what works for you as a writer.



Pocket Muse: Endless Inspiration

New Ideas for Writing


This is another beautifully laid-out book that provides little snippets for you to give you some inspiration for what to write, like “Write about the one who refuses to fit in” or “Write about somebody else’s mortification.”  It also includes inspiring quotations from writers and questions to help writer’s think about their process.



The Mind of Your Story

Discover what drives your fiction


This book is organized into chapters that do not necessarily need to be read in order–you can pick and choose what you need to think about.  It has chapters on creating believable characters, deciding the point of view, providing conflict, and revising (and more).  One of the reasons I bought this book is the chapter on creating characters; in the chapter is a questionnaire for “creating characters who live and breathe on the page.”  After I bought it, I found many other things in the book useful, but that one questionnaire got me thinking about my characters and helped me flesh them out to make them more dimensional.


Books to help you through the industry


Give 'Em What They Want: The Right Way to Pitch Your Novel to Editors and Agents

A Novelist's Complete Guide to Query Letters, Synopses, and Outlines


Camenson and Cook’s book is written in such engaging language that I ended up reading the book straight through as if it were a novel.  It has advice that sounds well-founded (as an author who’s not yet snagged an agent or publisher, I can’t really comment on what the other side of the industry thinks of the advice).  The primary reason I liked the book (besides its style) is that it explained some key areas to me that I had been questioning: why having an agent helps, what the different types of presses are, and how to get more involved in the writing community.



On Writing

Stephen King's Memoir of the Craft

Stephen King’s book is really all three types of books wrapped into one: a guide on writing, inspiration to write and continue writing, and a guide to surviving the industry.  It is his story of having rejection letters covering his wall that convinces me I should keep trying, too.


Books to help you with usage/grammar/style

On Writing Well

The class guide to writing nonfiction


Zissner’s book is primarily directed toward nonfiction writing, and yet so much of what he has to say about style (especially his discussion on “deadwood”) is applicable to any type of writing.  His book has inspired me during my grueling revision stages to take what I meant to say, make it clearer by cutting the majority of that writing out, and putting in more specific details to show my readers what is going on in the story.



Woe is I

The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English


This book is for anyone who is uncomfortable with the grammatical aspect of writing; O’Conner makes grammar accessible and even (gulp) fun.  I have my composition students read her chapter on commas not only because it does a good job of describing the uses for commas but also because it is titled “Comma Sutra.”  Who could resist reading a book with a chapter on the Comma Sutra?


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