Books on Writing
Updated: Feb 13, 2021
What books on writing do you keep close at hand? I was thinking about this recently. I've read many books about writing, from Elizabeth George's Write Away to Stephen King's On Writing, and many more. These are great books, chock-full of excellent advice for writers. Elizabeth George's advice about THADS (talking head avoidance devices) is priceless. But are these books that I refer to often while slogging my way through my own work? The short answer is no.
So, the question remains, what books on writing do I refer to regularly?
The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi
This one is a warhorse! I refer to it often, especially while editing. It contains scads of external and internal reactions a character might feel or display to show an emotion rather than telling it. It's best to think of the book's examples as starting points, then let your imagination run wild to craft unique and memorable character reactions.
Show, Don't Tell by Sandra Garth
An editor recommended this as a manual to study to punch up my writing to the next level. I have to admit, the editor is right about this book . The advice and examples in this slender volume are priceless. Sandra Garth does a masterful job demystifying the old adage that showing is better than telling in fiction writing. Also, this book has some of the best writing exercises I've ever encountered.
Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Browne & King
This is a no-nonsense manual of practical advice on how to clean up your prose. Short and to the point, many of the tips are easy to implement. It's a guide worth revisiting while polishing those sentences to a diamondiferous gleam.
Roget's Thesaurus of Words for Writers by Olsen, Bevilacqua, Hayes, & Bly
I don't know that I have ever used a word that I looked up in this reference book. However, I do look words up in it regularly. It's not the most practical thesaurus per se, but I keep thinking I'll find it useful one day...maybe tomorrow...or the next...or a year from now.
The Elements of Style by Strunk & White
Practical grammar tips abound in this ultrathin volume. A handy guide in most instances, but I don't know that it's exhaustive. It's worthy of having on hand as a reference and to read from front to back.