Regardless of how long we’ve been writing, we both feel the same way: if we’re not constantly learning, we’re just rusting away. So one of our favorite past times is to learn as much as we can about our craft.
Evolving as a writer isn’t just studying grammar and structure; it’s also about becoming an effective communicator. Part of that process is absorbing all the rules . . . just so you can break them at the right time, if you so choose.
Between the two of us, we have many writerly books in our arsenal, but there are a few that stand out on both our shelves. They’re great for reference. And if you’re anything like us, your copies will look a little roughed up soon enough from constant usage. Here’s our list:
If there is a weakness in my writing process, it’s the grammar. And honestly, I’ve found the best sleep aid is a book on the subject . . . until I found June Casagrande. If you didn’t believe grammar rules could be told in a humorous manner, then Ms. Casagrande will surprise you. Easy-to-understand lessons that cover the critical points and far more amusing than the Chicago Manual.
I won’t say this book was an easy read but it was fascinating. Brooks Landon’s book shows us what makes great sentences work, how they are constructed, and how to build your own. At times, it can feel like grammar lesson—but throughout, it provides an insightful look into the powerful use of changing sentence length and structure for your reader’s enjoyment.
When someone like Stephen King claims that The Element of Style is probably the best book about writing in his own book “On Writing” . . . well, you just have to check it out. Essentially, it touches on those elements missing in King’s book. Shrunk focuses on style, language, & grammar usage, and is full of advice on how to make them second nature. It’s excellent for writers of every stage.
As the title suggests, this is a list of emotions and the different ways writers may use them to portray their characters’ feelings and behaviors. I would recommend it to those who struggle with showing versus telling. Each category includes internal and physical signals, hidden emotions, and mental responses. It’s part of a series, the other books are The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus, and they’re just as beneficial.
I read Lukeman’s book before I attempted my first novel. Although the focus is how to grab the reader, agent, or publisher in the first five pages, the lessons extend to the entire book. Rid yourself of unnecessary info-dumps, learn how to build hooks, and learn the secrets to avoiding the rejection letters or the DNF reviews.
As a writer, you must have already figured out that beginnings can be the most difficult part of any story. Gerke takes this problem on and offers fantastic tips—from capturing your readers’ attention with the first line to the technicality of proper visualization. Although it’s geared toward those seeking traditional publication, I found it extremely helpful for all writers. We have to accomplish so much in the beginning, all while keeping the reader turning page after page, and this book is a good guide.
A follow-up to The best punctuation book, period, Jume Casagrande revisits many of her previous lessons in a more conversational tone and with an eye toward how proper grammar can make your sentences better, stronger and clearer.
The master of horror or at least popular fiction reflects on his craft and how he does what he does. More a book about process and visualization, you won’t find rules of grammar or practice examples, but you will get a tour inside of the mind of one of the world’s favorite and more prolific authors.
We may write fiction books, but every writer needs to master the non-fiction to construct enticing blog articles, marketing messages, and query letters. Zinsser’s classic On Writing Well lays it all out for you, it helps you “sharpen your pencil,” and I found that many of his lessons made me a better fiction writer.
I seriously cannot say enough about this book. Yes, it’s a “screenwriting” book, but it can be applied to writing your novel. Snyder covers excellent advice on writing your logline and why it’s important; your hero’s arc, writing techniques, and specifically the beats of a movie . . . ahhh the beats! They’re those key points you do not want to miss in your book. They make for an effective storytelling structure and offer a natural arc progression. It’s my number one go-to book for structure.
Style is perhaps the most important component of fiction writing. In Cane’s book, he gives us a peek behind the Master Writer’s styles. Their method of building stories, the things they do, the way they do them in their unique ways. Find who’s style you most closely match and learn how to turn that style into masterful works of art.
S. Katherine Anthony