Sunday, May 25, 2008

Writing Craft

All good writers are readers first. One of the perks of a writing career is that is legitimizes reading. Keeping up with the market, sampling other genres, reading the best of the best all important worthy and necessary.

On top of this, there is the joy of reading books about writing craft.

As with any profession there are tools, a computer, printer, word processing software, stamps, envelopes, email addresses, and reference books. What books do you really need?

Here’s my general list.

Dictionary, certainly probably more than one. Writers adore words.
Book of quotes,
And, of course, those necessary for your genre or a particular book, mythologies, geographies, histories, and science texts.

Then there are the craft books written for fiction writers. Each writer will compile a library of those titles, which speak to them in the clearest tones.

Here’s my specific list.

Webster’s New Word Book 30,000 Words--no definitions, a barebones dictionary for the impatient and spelling challenged.

Oxford English Dictionary--two volumes for when you want the definitions, origins, the full course menu, essential for literary snobs and rather like Google seldom fails me.

Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary--the indispensable member of this trio.

Roget’s Thesaurus--what else?

Bartlett’s Quotations--ditto

The Timetables of History-- great, but distracting.

Wikipedia and Google--have replaced my printed encyclopedia--a little sad, but handier and more current

The Chicago Manual of Style--the book your copy editor likely uses--may as well get it right to start with and save yourself lots of bother. Has yet to fail me when seeking obscure rules of correct English usage.

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White a slim indispensable volume worthy of re-reading. My copy is both old and shabby. A sign of usefulness in reference books.

Eats Shoots, and Leaves by Lynn Truss an entertaining treatment of the dull and confusing subject of English grammar

Self-Editing For Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King--worth acquiring just for the dialogue section, though there’s much more inside this slim volume, including but not limited to discussion of show vs. tell, characterization, proportion, and point of view.

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell a book, which discusses the whys and wherefores of current story telling conventions. There are several books that fill this vital slot. Including Volger’s Writers Journey, and McKee’s Story. All of them are worth reading. My inclusion of Plot and Structure is a reflection of my preference for simplicity rather than a comment on the merits of one over the other.

Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon, not a title I’ve re-read lots. But, it had a huge light bulb moment impact on first reading.

Creating Unforgettable Characters by Linda Seger, an inspiring book with the distinction of having more post-its than any other in my collection.

The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines by Cowden, LaFever, Viders, a concise, clearly written over view of fiction’s master archetypes fantastic reference for character conflicts, natural parings, strengths, and weakness. Lots of stick-on notes in this one too.

Discovering Your Personality Type by Riso and Hudson the introduction to the Enneagram personality diagnostic system-- corresponds amazingly well with the master archetypes referenced in The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes and Heroines, from a different slant and adding depth, including predictable reactions under stress by personality type, their hidden side, outer hallmarks, relationship issues, growth patterns, challenges. A thoroughly riveting look at human behavior patterns.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott a personal account of a professional writer translated to universal truth by the purity of her prose.

On Writing by Stephen King another personal account of professional writer, who transcends the challenges of non-fiction as well as he does fiction, offering the aspiring writer the gift of truth.

Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, edited by Jayne Ann Krentz, a remarkable discussion of the romance genre by women who’ve been there and done that in their stilettos.


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