Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cool Books for Writers

I was asked recently to name some books I'd recommend for (aspiring) writers to read and keep on their bookshelves. As you know, I'm usually happy to provide advice to anyone who asks (and even those who don't), but this kinda threw me.

Other than a good dictionary, a style manual, and the Rodale Synonym finder, I don't think there are any books a writer HAS to have, and there's such a wide range of books out there I don't know if there is a definitive book about anything.

But I came up with a list of what I have -- books I find useful -- to share, and I figured I'd share them here as well. Your mileage may vary, of course, but here's a list of books I find (or have found) helpful.

1) The Miram-Webster Dictionary, A Writer's Reference, and Rodale Synonym finder. Seriously. I can't stress the importance.

2) Flip Dictionary: billed as "for when you know what you want to say but can't think of the word," the Flip Dictionary lets you look up the definition and gives you a word. In some ways, it is like a thesaurus, but you can also look up phrases like "sew loosely with large running stitches" and it gives you the choice of "baste" and "tack." You can also look up a general term like "cheese" and gives you a list of about forty types of cheese. You may need to then look up exactly what "Quargel" cheese is, but at least you have something more specific than "cheese."

3) Writing A Romance Novel for Dummies. Leslie Wainger is one smart lady. Read and learn.

4. ) Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon. If for no other reason than you're going to hear people talk about it and you'll need to know what GMC refers to. For beginning writers, I think motivation and conflict can be a hard subject to get hold of, so this is worth a read.

5) Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon and any other baby name book. Names are important.

6) A Dictionary of Word Origins (there are several). Very important for historical writers to know if that word was around in 10th century England.

7) An Incomplete Education. Wonderfully arranged and easy to read, it gives you a great overview of a topic. Say your heroine is an Art Historian. The section on art will give you a place to begin.

Yes, I know most (all) of this information is on the internet. But sometimes Google returns far too many links on a subject (and those pages could have been written by anyone. Dog only knows if they actually know what they're talking about). I often start from a book to get an overview -- like for a heroine with an Art History degree, and once I have a better grasp of what I'm after then I go to Google.

Okay. Argue with my choices. (Yes, I know most of you would rather use an on-line dictionary, but I'm a little old-fashioned there. We'll just have to agree to disagree.) Make your own recommendations too.



Christine said...

Getting pen and paper out and writing down new books to buy. Great list. I have a few, GMC is a keeper for me. And I can add BREAK INTO FICTION for generating story and plot.

Smarty Pants said...

Well, you already know I don't have a dictionary as you threaten to get me one for Christmas every year. If it makes any difference, I have one on my iPhone. :)

I won the Character Naming Sourcebook at last year's holiday party and I believe someone borrowed it from me immediately and I have no idea where it is now. I keep meaning to get Rodale.

Must haves... that's hard. Leslie's book, of course, is a great place. GMC can be very helpful. I don't know. I think you've got a pretty comprehensive list here.

Playground Monitor said...

Rodale's rocks! And I have the Flip Dictionary too. Though it's not something I use as frequently as the Rodale's, it's invaluable when I do need it. I have GMC as well. For naming, I have "Beyond Jennifer and Jason, Madison and Montana," which Maven Linda recommended along with the Kenyon book. I bought Chritopher Vogler's "The Writer's Journey" after hearing Deb Dixon use it in a workshop but have only skimmed it. Ditto for "Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes."

A lot of people don't like this book but I got a copy of "The Romance Writers' Phrase Book." It's just phrases, divided into sections like body movements, facial expressions, emotion, etc, and I use it when I need a nudge on how to write about the hero's eyes without using the same words I've used three times already or need help to show rather than tell something. I'm not sure it's even in print anymore; I got my copy on eBay.

I, too, use the online dictionaries, but I have Merriam-Webster dictionary software on my computer and use that as well.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance is good for aspiring category authors. I didn't have it for my first book, but it seriously helped me while writing my second. Now I just keep it for reference.

Stephen King's On Writing for inspiration.

The Modern Library Writer's Workshop by Stephen Koch got me back to writing after a long time away. Taught me there is no correct way to write a novel, that it is simply written as one's process dictates.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.

Screenwriting 101 by Neill D. Hicks. Excellent book for teaching you how to move a story along!

The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler. Mythic structure.

GMC was a game-changer for me as well. Once I learned that, I was on the road. :) And your other choices are great, though I didn't know about that last one. Must check it out.

Jean said...

The Elements of Style by Strunk. I don't reach for it often, but when I find I'm a little rusty on something--like, recently, where to put the comma in quote within a quote, it's fast, concise, and irrefutable.

Angel said...

I love Rhodale's! And Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is another keeper. I also prefer the paper versions of my regular thesaurus and dictionary. It seems like every time I go online, I can't find what I need.