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On Craft | On the Writing Life | Books for Reference
Story Engineering by Larry Brooks
This book comes highly recommended by my friend Gina Rosati:"He's all about outlining, and after I pantsed my way through Auracle, just about every suggestion my agent and editor suggested could be found in Story Engineering - I could have saved myself so much time!! I wouldn't suggest people spend money on a so-so book, but I am recommending every writer, whether new or experienced, get this book."
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King
An often recommended book on craft, includes chapters on characterization and expostion, point of view, dialogue mechanics, and a number of other nuts and bolts for polishing your final draft.
On Writing by Stephen King
You may not like to read horror, but no one can deny Stephen King's success as a writer. On Writing is divided into two sections—one that is an autobiographical account of the journey to becoming a published writer, and one that addresses craft by providing some shiny new tools for the writer's toolbox.
Creating Character Emotions by Ann Hood
A practical how-to guide from Writer's Digest, filled with exercises to develop your skill in showing your characters' emotions.
Writing Dialogue Tom Chiarella
A practical how-to guide from Writer's Digest, filled with exercises to develop your skill in developing your characers' dialogue to show more than just the words they're saying. You'll learn to eavesdrop effectively, to hear speech patterns that reflect status, geography and education, and even a chapter on basic grammar for dialogue.
Fiction is Folks—How to Create Unforgettable Characters by Robert Newton Peck
A humorous how-to guide for bringing your characters to life with chapters on how to avoid narrative drag, how to write from the point of view of the opposite sex, how to mine your own experiences and acquaintences for raw material, and more.
On the Writing Life
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
The Sound of Paper by Julia Cameron
On Writing by Stephen King
The Time I Dance! by Tama Kieves
Writing From the Inside Out by Dennis Palumbo
Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman's Guide to Igniting the Writer Within by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett
Oxford English Dictionary
Okay, truthfully, most any dictionary will do in a pinch, but if you can afford the luxury of an OED, definitely indulge. You can not only find the definition and correct spelling, but you can also find the etymology of a word, including when it was first in common usage.
If you can't budget for an OED, you might want to pick up an etymological dictionary, especially if you write historicals. (You can often find the etymology of a word online, too).
For when you need just the right word. I've put tabs on the pages of mine for inspiration in describing various ways of walking or smiling or crying. A word of caution about synonyms. Readers are quick to realize when you're repeating yourself, even if you're not using the same word every time.
Who says they're only for babies? Find a version that works for your style of writing - maybe one with lots of common names with the history behind them. Or perhaps a modern version which includes all sorts of creative combinations. Some versions include the language of origin, or how a common name is spelled in various languages.
Besides using it to find a local plumber, my grandma used the yellow pages as a booster seat for the grandkids. Since the internet became standard in most households, what do you use the good ol' phone book for? Well, how about using those white pages to inspire your characters' last names?
Heroes & Heroines—Sixteens Master Archetypes by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever, Sue Viders
This is a great tool for building characters. It's a starting point that helps you identify what archetype your character is, then provides well-known examples from movies and TV shows. There are also examples of how a particular archetype interacts with a different archetype. Originally published as a tool for romance writers, I believe it's a great intro to the idea of archetypes and how they can work for you.
The Romance Writers' Phrase Book by Jean Kent and Candace Shelton
Can you say 'cliche'? Actually, when this book was first published, the phrases were fresh. I wouldn't recommend using these phrases verbatim, but I would suggest using the book as inspiration to start collecting your own unique images and phrases. Include snippets of conversations you overhear at the diner, or perhaps body language you observe at the airport. When I started writing westerns, I read Louis L'Amour just to find some different ways of describing getting on a horse. You certainly don't want to plaguerize your favorite authors, but use their unique turns of phrase to inspire you to create your own.
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