Collectively, we are all writers. We all write something, regardless of what our goals or plans are, we are all writers. I’ve noticed there are so many resources out there, on the internet and in print, that seem to suggest there is a “best” way or even an “only” way to write. While their ideas and methods might work fantastically for them and for others, writing isn’t a one way or no way kind of process. Each and every single one of us has our own set of particulars in our process.
I completely understand how frustrating it can be for a writer just starting to find their way, to feel overwhelmed with all the Bests. But how does one find their ideal process without first learning of others? I don’t have a definitive method for writing. I don’t have a one size fits all process for each type of writing I do. I do, however, have a process for each type or category of writing I do.
But this article isn’t about writing processes exactly. This article is a short collection of some of the super useful books I’ve read (and continue to use) while I go through my writing processes. None of these books tell you the one and only way to create. What they are, is packed with various bits of useful information. Some that may help during the pre-writing, others while writing or editing, and finally others for navigating the post-writing stages.
The Chicago Manual of Style
University of Chicago Press www.press.uchicago.edu
Packed with so much information, I actually recommend reading it and not just using it as a reference book to look something up only when you need to. Depending on what you’re writing and what your goals for that piece are, this particular style manual might not be the preferred. Many publishers have their own (or a modified version) that they follow.
Roget’s Thesaurus of Words for Writers
David Olsen, Michelle Bevilacqua, Justin Cord Hayes, and Robert Bly
While editing your piece, have you used a word such as “happy” one too many times? Sure, you can grab any thesaurus to help find a replacement, but this book goes deeper to give each replacement word a sentence to show how it is best used. There are over 2,300 words within this book, all geared toward writers.
In my opinion, it is a fantastic, inexpensive tool that I couldn’t write without. Especially if your first drafting is in anyway similar to mine, you just write to get the ideas on the page and out of your mind.
Publishing for Profit
This is not a self-publishing guide or how-to. It is set up and geared more toward those who wish to start their own publishing company (or already do). But, there is some very useful information in this book that can help those who plan to self or independently publish only their own books. Full of industry information, forms and charts, budgeting and financial planning, the editorial process, rights and contracts, marketing, returns and so much more.
I read this whole book in a weekend, taking massive amounts of notes, modifying spreadsheets and worksheets, and probably have over 50 post-it flags marking sections I currently use (or will need soon). I do think even if you do plan to be traditionally published, having a good understanding of how the industry works (even though they aren’t talking about the biggies here), could be excellent knowledge to have.
Writer’s Digest Books www.writersmarket.com
Each year Writer’s Digest releases an updated version of the Writer’s Market. This year I also picked up a copy of their 2017 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market. They do have other Market guides as well, you can get more info at writersmarket.com. Inside each of these there is a huge list of publishers, magazines or other publications, contests, and agents, all taking submissions. There are also articles and interviews full of information and advice. Great resource if you’re looking to be published or seeking an agent.
Kirsch’s Handbook of Publishing Law
While harder to find (I did have to purchase this and the next book on the list used.) this book is a must read if you plan to independently or self-publish. Although, again, it could be useful information to know when getting into the traditional publishing world. After asking around, and doing my own research, this book was referred time and time again as the best book and source of publishing law information available in an easy to read and understand format. There is a lot of information in here, and I have to say, for being a book that is talking about law, it isn’t hard to digest or even read.
Kirsch’s Guide to the Book Contract
Definitely something you might want to consider tracking down if you plan to seek out publishers. I always planned on publishing myself, and after considering Infinite Reverie’s future goals and plans, this book is a must for me. Even my own works that are published through Infinite Reverie have a book contract in place.
There is some cross over from this book to the previous on the list. But this one does zero more into the book contract itself. I don’t know about you but I’ve noticed when someone else is going over a contract with me, they seem to be able to explain four pages of one section of the contract to me in less than three sentences. This book could just help you already know or understand what should or could be included in the book contract. Give you key things you may want to look out for that you know you wouldn’t want to agree to or know what you may want to have included too.
A Writer’s Guide to Characterization
Victoria Lynn Schmidt
If you’ve ever found yourself struggling with your characters, this book could be extremely helpful. I do have to mention that I have found many, many useful sources of information on the web and in other books, but this one does just focus on characters. The author gives forty lessons on character development with examples. There are also exercises and worksheets to help you define your own characters.
Strunk and White The Elements of Style
William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White (forth edition)
This pocket sized reference book is packed with helpful information. Seen as a classic guide and even required by many high schools and colleges for English courses. It’s a nice reference book for any type of writing.
The Editor’s Companion
Whether you need to polish up your draft enough to send out to an editor or you need to have your manuscript ready for publication, this book gives an excellent break down of the process. A few of the chapters within this book include: Editing for Content, Editing for Focus, Editing for Grammar, Typography, Editorial Relationships, and The Editor’s Tools. They have also included checklists, samples, and other resources. The information provided is not just for books, but also for magazines and online publications. It was also easy to read cover to cover.
The Book Publishing Industry
Albert N. Greco, Jim Milliot, Robert M. Wharton
This does tend to read more like a textbook, just like I had read in the reviews for it. So, that is exactly how I approached it. If you plan to independently publish, I do recommend this book. It breaks down some sales and financial information based on each major book category, although the whole book is full of information. I have read the entire book, but you may only find you want or need to read various sections.
Stephen King On Writing
First, let me just state, that I have heard some say this book didn’t apply to them. Maybe it won’t for you. But, the main reason I really found this book useful is because, no where in this book does Stephen King tell you how to write. He tells us how he writes and he gives advice and tips from what he has learned over his career. It is also a memoir and gave me a view of Stephen King the man and not just the author. Which is always interesting to see. Especially by someone so successful in this field.
I will admit, this is the first book written by him that I read. But I have seen many of the film versions of his books. (Nothing against him, his books, or anything like that. I just tend to gravitate toward fantasy and historical fiction when set free into the bookstore.) Which might be why I waited so long to finally pick up a copy to read. I had been hearing about it in my writing circles for a couple years. Once I opened it up though, I read it in one night.
The Craft of Research
Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, William T. Fitzgerald
Some of us may have had to do extensive research during our education, others not so much. Not to mention, times and technology have introduced so many new ways to gather sources, researching itself can easily take on a life of its own. I’ve heard quite often, of writers getting so wrapped up in the research stage that they find it hard to break away and get to the applying that information learned stage. I’ve been there many times myself.
Before I read this book, I would say I did know how to research, and research well. After reading this book, I feel I have a better understanding on what I need to know before I begin my actual research and when to stop. I guess you could say it helped me identify my processes for conducting my own research.
This book is absolutely fan-freaking-tastic! The Wonderbook is The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction. I primarily write fantasy and science fiction, which is why I picked up a copy of this. But, it has helped me overall, regardless of what I am writing. Without telling you how to write it goes over: inspiration and the creative life, the ecosystem of story, beginnings and endings, narrative design, characterization, worldbuilding, revision, and so much more. It is also full of illustrations and exercises, and essays by other authors.
Another book that was super easy to read cover to cover. Many of the illustrations are also excellent visual writing prompts, some are even suggested as such as an exercise within the content of the book. I have to recommend this to anyone writing anything, anywhere.
The only “must do” I can fully agree with when it comes to writing, is to both write and read often. Read for pleasure, read for knowledge, read for research, and read in and out of your genre(s).
Note: If you have an adaptive personality like me, you might not want to read books written by the same author or books that are too similar, back to back while you are in the middle of a writing project. I didn’t realize this could be an issue until I began revisions for one of my WIPs. When I had been writing the first draft, I had just found Bernard Cornwell. I began reading one of his series and had read the five books he had already out for that series one right after another.
Well, the sections I had been actively writing had sort of taken on a different feel and voice than the rest of the draft. It wasn’t anything that wasn’t easy enough to fix during my re-write, but still. It sort of threw me off a bit and was more annoying than anything. I have a feeling this could also be true of any book where you can easily find yourself deeply immersed. As a result, I now try to space out my writing and reading time throughout the day so that I don’t write right after I read, just to be safe.
So, tell me, what are some of your favorite go to books? Have you read any of these above? What is your opinion on them?