This is my absolute, hands-down favorite thesaurus of all time! It sits at hand on the right corner of my desk and I use it daily. You might think you have a great thesaurus already, but if you haven’t used Rodale’s … this book will spoil you for any other thesaurus, I guarantee it. This one’s a must have for your personal reference library.
For anyone who works with words, whether on a page or computer screen, this continues to be the one reference book you simply must have. A lot of people reach out to me with specific questions about writing—grammar, structure, punctuation—and this is where I turn to find the answers.
This is another must have! Whether your characters are fictional or real, it can be tough to convey their emotions through gesture, internal sensations and expressions. This thesaurus gives you a great place to start to figure out just what emotions look and feel like. I use this all the time – dare you to try it and not start acting out your characters’ gestures & facial expressions! This will make your writing stronger, guaranteed.
A tiny, critical classic that I dip in and out of all the time. Includes elementary rules of usage, principles of composition, commonly misused words and expressions, and an approach to writing style. All that sounds somewhat stuffy, but it’s not. Easily-digested tidbits throughout this diminutive work. Every writer needs this one on his or her reference shelf.
Here’s another one I use all the time. A great glossary of names – and their meanings – from all over the world, logically organized for both quick reference and easy browsing. Need a Polish female name that means ‘lucky’? No problem! (Felka, Fela, Felcia) Writing fiction? Get this book.
Warning, though. You can easily sink into this rabbit hole for far too long!
‘Young’ is not age-specific in this case; if you’re somewhat new to writing fiction, or if you want to learn the craft quickly and well, this book is perfection. I learned so incredibly much about how to write great fiction from studying this book, and it’s one I still turn to again and again. If you’re trying to write fiction of any sort, this one’s top of the list.
Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel, by Lisa Cron
I was skeptical at first when I read the description of this book, and now I’m using it as a guidebook for writing my third novel! I’ve always been a “pantser” (I write to discover, rather than plot in advance), but Cron’s book has opened my eyes to how you need not lose the magic of discovery when mapping out your novel before you begin to write it. I’m having as much fun doing what she suggests as I did while writing to discover—and I expect I’ll shave a few years off my writing process.
Far more than a “how to write a bestseller” book, Hit Lit deconstructs some of the bestselling novels of all time (like Gone with the Wind, and Jaws) and points out what they each have in common that made them sell so well. There’s no formula here, only careful scrutiny of terrific novels that made it big, and much food for thought for the serious novelist.
You won’t find a better guide to writing fiction anywhere. This is the go to craft book for learning how to write fiction. You can’t go wrong with this one. Everything you want to know about writing fiction is in this book. I learned a ton from Burroway.
Short, potent chapters containing writing exercises guaranteed to build your fiction chops. This one’s accessible, fun, and endlessly instructive. If you have a particular area of craft that you’re struggling with, this book will get you unstuck. Very happy to have this on my shelf.
So many people get hung up writing the middles of stories, especially with longer works like the novel. This is the book I send people to check out when that happens. Same with story endings. And, of course, there’s great information about beginnings, too. This one gives you a great overview of story sections, and exercises for how to fix problems you might have.
A terrific book focused solely on form that will get you thinking first and foremost about the structure of your story, something we all too often leave until the end, when it can be too late. Each chapter begins with a short story, which Bell then deconstructs so you can see exactly how every element of the story was structured. A fascinating study of the craft!
This is a lovely literary study of the magic of fiction by a New Yorker staff writer, which means it has a certain erudite and lyrical quality that I personally found wonderful, but some writers might find stuffy. If you’re writing literary fiction, though, this one’s a must read.
Terrific essays from 25 great writers on the wonderful form of fiction that we like to call ‘flash’. Add to these essays prompts, exercises, example stories to study and a history of the short-short form, and you’ve got a definitive guide to writing, reading and being inspired by flash fiction.
I’ve lost track of how many copies of this book I’ve given away. Klinkenborg goes against the grain and dispels a lot of the myths we’ve all learned about what it means to be a writer, and to write. Every single page contains provocative and helpful information about how to write well. I open this book to a random page at least twice a week, for inspiration and instruction.
I devoured this book, which is a collection of conversations that John Freeman has had with more than 50 great novelists. If you’re a writer, you will find companionship in these pages, and end up feeling inspired to keep at your work. I recommend reading one conversation per day before you sit down to write. You won’t be sorry.
This wonderful four-part collection is a treasure trove of interviews with our greatest contemporary writers. I read this slowly, one interview at a time, and savored every moment. If you want to feel inspired, and feel yourself a part of the wonderful world of great writers, read these books. Learn more about the boxed set of four.