"In these pages many mysteries are hinted at.
What if you come to understand one of them?"

"Words let water from an unseen, infinite ocean
Come into this place as energy for the dying and even the dead."

"Bored onlookers, but with such Light in our eyes!
As we read this book, the jewel-lights intensify."

- Rumi

Friday, April 15, 2011

On My Bookshelf

I've had a few people ask me about which writing reference books I've read and found useful, so I thought I'd make a post containing the books I've collected and kept over the years.  This is actually the perfect time to do this, as I've thinned the ranks in our most recent move.  Shelf space is tight in my tiny little room so cuts had to be made.  I decided to let of of the books I did because of many factors: They weren't really as neat as I thought they were when I was just getting started in writing, they overlap information with books I could not absolutely do without (and lacked the same clarity as books I did keep), or in a few cases, they didn't really have anything worthwhile to say.

I've broken the books into loose sections for the ease of my few readers.  I have provided links to Amazon, and yes, I do receive money if anyone uses the links to make purchases.

Grammar and Basics

The Elements of Style (4th Edition)The Art of Styling SentencesThe New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the DoomedSpunk & Bite: A Writer's Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style

The Process/Craft of Writing

Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within YouStory: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of ScreenwritingWriting the Breakout NovelWriting the Breakout Novel WorkbookThe Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel GreatOn Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft

Books I Found While Pursuing My Degree

These books require a bit of special attention, as I discovered them in my quest to have some letters behind my name that say I'm kind of smart and have a lot of debt.

This book focuses on creating "literary" fiction, but don't let that turn you off.  There's a lot in here that will help the budding writer.  Pages 14 and 15 are worth the entire price of admission all on their own.  I don't agree with everything Butler has to say in what I think of as, "The Blue Book," but even the parts I don't agree with are worth looking.  He will make you think of how to write through your characters in and entirely new way.

A pricey book.  I remember looking at it as I was shopping for books the semester I had "Craft of Fiction" with Matthew Clark Davidson.  I gasped, nearly fainted.  It's such a small book by comparison to some other.  It's worth it.  Every penny.  Burroway and Stuckey-French cover every aspect of the craft of writing, beginning with process and going straight through to revision.  They use examples from all over the literary spectrum to make their points.  This is not a book to read once - well, none of the books in this list are - and cast away in favor of other books.  This is a book to keep and reference over the long course of a writing career.  As you grow as a writer, this book will raise to the same level, giving up more information and knowledge as you mature and hone your craft.

Written by Alice LaPlante, one of the few teachers at SFSU who not only took my desire - no, my drive - to write science fiction and fantasy seriously, she actually encouraged it and defended it against those naysayers among my peers.  She was there with me, taking the very first tentative steps into my novel Dead Weight, back when it was just a short story.  She believed in me enough to take me under her wing for a semester of independent studies and brought out some of my best writing ever in my final "Work in Progress" Class.  This book also takes a journey into turning writers into master craftsman.  The brilliance of Alice book is twofold: 1) the conversational tone she uses to convey what she has to tell you, and 2) the writing exercises she gives that directly relate to the lessons she's teaching in each chapter.

From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing FictionWriting Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft (8th Edition)The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing

The Business of Writing
Writing to Sell (couldn't find an image link)

The First Five Pages: A Writer'S Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile

Genre Based Writing Books

How to Write Science Fiction & FantasyScience Fiction 101: Where to Start Reading and Writing Science Fiction

Wow, that's quite the list, and I've left out some of my more esoteric that I have just because I think they're cool.  I'll post them at some point, but not today.  I've given you more than enough reading material  for the time being.  If any of my limited followers have books they think l should take a look at, I'd love to hear what you've got.


  1. I have always found the best way to really learn about writing is to read, not just style guides, although those are a very helpful tool, and not just authors you admire, but as much stuff as you can get your hands on. I have found some of the most helpful and stylistic advice from Hemingway, a writer I have been know to rant about more than once. Don't get me wrong, I have quite a few writer's reference books myself, many of the one's posted here, but I think, to quote Joan Didion, "The best way to be a writer is to be a reader."

  2. I actually think Stephen King said it best, "If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: Read a lot and write a lot. Then do it again."


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