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What "writing" books do you have in your personal library?

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My favorite three are:
Self-editing for Fiction Writers
On Writing (Sol Stein's)
Elements of Style
#31 - January 29, 2007, 03:20 PM


It is so interesting which books spark people.  Those super structured, how to plan a novel books scare me more than help me -- but I love the specifics when it comes to revision.  So, my favorites of the stack I keep handy on my desk:

For Encouragement:
IF YOU WANT TO WRITE  by Brenda Ueland

For Revision Help:

For Craft, but Without Prescription:
ON WRITING by Steven King

#32 - January 30, 2007, 03:39 AM
« Last Edit: June 07, 2007, 05:39 PM by lurban »

I'm in the middle of ON WRITING by Stephen King.  If you're one of those writers who doesn't plot relentlessly and who's work isn't blueprinted (like me)  :duh:, then this book will certainly make you feel like less of a FREAK!
#33 - January 30, 2007, 06:24 AM

I own quite a lot of writing books, but most of them are in storage right now.  The two still out are THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE and Constance Hale's SIN AND SYNTAX (which basically takes everything the former talks about and runs even further with it). 

Of the ones packed away (that I can remember), my favourites are King's ON WRITING (I especially love the passage about writing-as-telepathy), THE ARTIST'S WAY (did the "program" as a teen and it helped me realize that writing was my first priority), the Sol Stein  books (I have two, can't recall the titles--but I learned a lot about structuring narrative and scenes from him), and one of the first writing books I bought, a dozen years or more ago, HOW TO WRITE TALES OF HORROR, FANTASY, AND SCIENCE FICTION (which has essays by many of the great writers in those genres--I particularly remember one which talks about how an idea is not a story, just the beginning of the story).
#34 - January 30, 2007, 06:37 AM
YA paranormal, sci fi, & fantasy:
Fallen World series
Earth & Sky trilogy

Sarah Miller

Ooh -- one I forgot is Gail Carson Levine's Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly. It's aimed at kids, but there's plenty of good stuff in there for any age. Her cardinal rule: Save what you write!
#35 - January 31, 2007, 05:18 PM


Writing with Power:Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process by Peter Elbow (writing professor at Evergreen). Good tactics for getting a project moving, looks at different methods for approaching a writing project. Also some fun "writer's workshop" techniques--I've used them in doing workshops and it was great fun to see the spontaneous creativity pour out from "non-writers". "Concrete is not discreet" was my favorite line that came out in a quick writing exercise. 

Annie Dillard is magnificently articulate and observant; The Writing Life sparkles.
#36 - February 03, 2007, 08:57 PM


Great thread topic.

For the sheer humor of it (and finding someone with some of the same neurosis as myself):
Bird by bird

For that MFA-in-a-book experience:
Reading Like a Writer

For inspiration and all around entertainment:
On Writing

For the low-down on common and not-so common writerly errors:
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

For wisdom:
The Invisible Child

I could add more, and some of the others that I've learned from have been mentioned (i.e. Donald Maass), but these are my personal top choices.
#37 - February 04, 2007, 05:42 AM


#38 - February 04, 2007, 09:23 AM


Chicago Manual of Style is a nasty piece of work, isn't it? Ug. Several decades in hell will be spent line-editing horrible fiction according to CMS rules, and a few more decades will be formatting footnotes and bibliographies. 
:devil:        :z:
#39 - February 04, 2007, 12:26 PM

Amy Spitzley

Children's Writers and Illustrator's Market. That's all. I can't seem to do non-fiction, even when maybe I should. (grin) I did like Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones in college, though.
#40 - February 04, 2007, 01:47 PM

What did you like/learn from this book?

For that MFA-in-a-book experience:
Reading Like a Writer
#41 - February 04, 2007, 03:32 PM

Suzy Scribbles

My all-time favorite book about writing is Robert Newton Peck's  Fiction is Folks: How to Create Unforgettable Characters.
He is right on!

#42 - February 04, 2007, 03:47 PM


Reading Like a Writer is the first book on writing that has made my head buzz in the same way my lit courses in college did. Prose dissects classics topically in various chapters, i.e., her first chapters (2-4) are "Words," "Sentences," "Paragraphs." I'm still reading it and plan to re-read it after I finish.

One major plus for me and where I am in life right now, is that it has rejuvenated my reading. I'd been getting lazy - just reading books for the fun of it and not really thinking about them, figuring I'd pick things up by osmosis. Sure, I do pick things up that way, but I learn so much more if I ask myself why I like something I read, or dislike it.

I guess the short form of what I'm saying is that the book teaches/refreshes how to read attentively. Something it's easy to forget when the pressures of  playdates, school schedules, picking fuzz off your sweater and realizing it's dried snot (and not your own), take over.
#43 - February 04, 2007, 03:59 PM


I'm reading Reading Like a Writer right now.  I have mixed feelings about it.  I do like it, and I think she's correct to point out that every word counts.  However, in a way it feels really self indulgent: like she's just picked out the books she likes and the passages she likes and is working her chapters around them.  I'm not sure she couldn't mix and match her chapters, at least the ones in the beginning, and come up with the same result: every word counts.  (I'm not finished yet, so I may have different feelings later.)  Also, I really don't think I could read other people's books like this - I'm more the immerse myself in it, at least in regards to language.  In terms of plot and character, etc., I do try to figure out why things in some books work and things in other books don't.  But it is good for reminding me to reach and stretch myself in terms of the language I use in my own books.
#44 - February 19, 2007, 04:37 PM


I have one to add: The Comic Toolbox by John Vorhaus. He's a scriptwriter, but I got a lot out of this, especially about characters and their motivations. Anyone else enjoy this one?
#45 - February 27, 2007, 09:40 AM

The books I have on my "writing reference shelf" at the moment are:

The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones (for humor and what NOT to do)
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (I found it very useful)
Roget's Thesaurus (for fun with words)
Story by Robert McKee (intended for screenwriting, but I found it very applicable to writing in general. I have not finished it yet but the portions I have read are full of little post-it notes marking passages I want to go back to.)
The Art of Fiction by John Gardner (haven't read that yet)
The Deluxe Transitive Vampire by Karen Elizabeth Gordon (haven't read yet)
#46 - February 28, 2007, 03:04 AM
Circus Galacticus
Fortune's Folly
The Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle

I am using the "Writing The Breakout Novel Workbook" while drafting my latest WIP, and it really helps!
#47 - March 05, 2007, 07:23 AM
Stephanie J. Blake
MY ROTTEN FRIEND (Albert Whitman, September 1, 2015)
THE MARBLE QUEEN (Two Lions, December 1, 2012)


That is a fabulous book!

I also highly recommend the original Weekend Novelist. He's got fantastic things to say about structure.
#48 - March 08, 2007, 11:51 AM

Sarah Miller

These two aren't so much about the mechanics of "how-to" but they'll give you plenty to mull over:

The Invisible Child: On Reading and Writing for Children, by Katherine Paterson

TalkTalk: A Children's Book Writer Talks to Grown-ups, by EL Konisgburg
#49 - March 11, 2007, 12:26 PM


I just got On Writing by Stephen King.  I hear it is outstanding and can't wait to read it.

I also joined the Writers digest book club and ordered:
2007 Writer's Market (of course!)
Children's Writer's Word Book
Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook
Take Joy

The selections are a bit limited but it's a great deal!
#50 - March 12, 2007, 09:49 AM


I have only two, but I 'm still pretty new to writing, so I do plan on reading more.

ON WRITING  (Which, despite providing a few invaluable tips and methods, proved to be more entertaining than useful.  For me, at least.  I still reccomend it highly, if only because it IS so entertaining.)
#51 - March 12, 2007, 09:54 AM


On Writing (King)
The Tough Guide to Fantasyland (Jones) - for humor and to bolster that kindred spirit feeling
Write Away (George)
The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference (Writer's Digest Books)
Building Believable Characters (McCutcheon)
The Writer's Journey (Vogler)
The Art of Fiction (Gardner)
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (Browne and King)

... to name a few!
#52 - June 07, 2007, 02:11 PM


Thanks, everyone. I've added a couple of the books you mentioned to my to-read list.
Here are a few more that haven't been mentioned here yet:

The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner

The Resilient Writer:Tales of Rejection and Triumph from 23 Top Authors by Catherine Wald

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers by Gail Sher

#53 - June 07, 2007, 03:46 PM

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I haven't seen these listed, but I love, love, LOVE Heller Sellers's PAGE AFTER PAGE and CHAPTER AFTER CHAPTER, particularly the last one which just came out this year. I have so many Post-It notes highlighting favorite chapters. She is so full of ideas to keep the writing life going and encouragement that it's like having your own personal writing coach and cheerleader in your corner. And everyone knows how we could use that! I highly recommend these books.
#54 - June 07, 2007, 05:11 PM
'Perseverance, the secret of all triumphs.' - Victor Hugo

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Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD is my absolute favorite. It's the book that will get you back to your keyboard on those days when you've decided that you're a stinky writer who has no business telling stories and might as well go gorge yourself on chocolate instead.
#55 - June 13, 2007, 01:08 PM

HIDE AND SEEK -Scholastic '13
WAKE UP MISSING- Walker, Fall '13


One of my favorites: The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

It's not about how to write, it's more about how to motivate yourself to write.  A great little motivational book which I keep next to my computer and read a random page everyday to keep me going.  He's also one of my favorite fiction authors.
#56 - June 16, 2007, 05:35 AM

Mussel Bound

All my puny collection contains is the AP Stylebook and Libel Guide, and Picture Writing, by Anastasia Suen. 

Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD is my absolute favorite. It's the book that will get you back to your keyboard on those days when you've decided that you're a stinky writer who has no business telling stories and might as well go gorge yourself on chocolate instead.
Instead??!!? Why not during?8)

justpat, The War of Art sounds interesting, can you please describe it?
#57 - June 18, 2007, 07:31 PM


My all-time, hands-down, dog-earred favorite:  Walking On Water by Madeline L'Engle.  (Yes, THAT Madeline L'Engle, who wrote A Wrinkle in Time).

It's perspective is definitely Christian - it's about what it means to be a Christian and a writer.  It is filled to the brim with inspiration and perspective.  I've probably read it 4 times.  I love Madeline L'Engle.  She's one of the wisest writers I've ever read.  I cannot recommend it highly enough, especially if you come from a Christian belief system.

#58 - June 18, 2007, 08:06 PM

nina nelson

I have a lot of the ones mentioned here, but I just want to say that if you find yourself blocked or like you've "lost that lovin' feelin'"....definitely buy The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I don't know what I would do without it.

#59 - June 20, 2007, 08:57 AM

I just realized I only read book son writing by authors I haven't previously read. The only exception I can think of off the top of my head is Patricia Reilly Giff, whose book on writing I read when I was a child. But allt he other writing books I've read in recent memory are just writing books by people I've heard of but not read--ON WRITING by Stephen King, BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott, and WRITE AWAY by Elizabeth George. Does anyone else do that?
#60 - January 19, 2008, 11:38 PM


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