I read a lot of writing books. I own a lot of writing books. I would like to say I’ve read most of the writing books I own. I would also like to say I remember all the writing books I’ve read. It would be more correct to say I’m ready to read or reread most of them.
I started getting serious about freelance writing around 1990. I’d dabbled with short stories and novels, and hadn’t experienced much success. As a stay-at-home mom of five kids aged one to eleven, I dreamed of something I could do at home to earn money, and I thought writing articles for magazines would be the magic bullet.
The first writing book I ever bought was Elaine Fantle Shimberg’s How to Be a Successful Housewife/Writer. I studied it, honed my skills, and started submitting articles. I got my big break when a new parenting magazine launched locally, and I called the editor to pitch a story about the challenges of being a stay-at-home mom. My association with that magazine lasted ten years, until I got a regular paying job outside my home.
I’ve already posted about my favorite writing books, and I’ve written reviews of others, but I have more:
- 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them, by Ronald B. Tobias. One of many books I ordered through the old Writer’s Digest book club.
- The Art of Work by Jeff Goins. Not strictly a writing book, but it affirmed to me when I quit my teaching job that it was time to return to writing.
- The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, which I wrote about in the above-linked article, and which I plan to go through again soon.
- Awakening the Giant: Mobilizing and Equipping Christians to Reclaim Our Nation in This Generation by Jim Russell, about writing as an approach to evangelization.
- Beginnings, Middles, & Ends by Nancy Kress. I’ve been meaning to read this for decades.
- Building Better Plots by Robert Kernen. There’s a bookmark at page 10, where there’s an exercise. I guess I’ve been waiting until I have enough time to do the exercise…
- Careers for Your Characters: A Writer’s Guide to 101 Professions from Architect to Zookeeper by Raymond Obstfeld and Franz Neumann. This is a nice resource that tells you all sorts of information about occupations, such as the education required, annual salary, and widespread fallacies about professions, so that your character doesn’t do or say something that will ring untrue for readers in the know.
- Cause f Death: A Writer’s Guide to Death, Murder & Forensic Medicine by Keith D. Wilson, M.D.. This resource gives you information about what happens in emergency rooms, how time and cause of death are determined, what are the most common causes for accidental death, and how capital punishment is performed, among other grisly topics you might need to know if you write murder mysteries or medical or police procedurals.
- Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Cress. Another book I’ve been meaning to read.
- Children’s Writer’s Word Book by Alejandra Mogilner. This resource contains helpful lists of words sorted by U.S. elementary grade level.
- The Christian Writer’s Market Guide 2015-16 by Jerry B. Jenkins. This resource is updated every year. The 2017 volume is edited by Steve Laube.
- The Complete Book of Script-Writing by J. Michael Straczynski.
- A Complete Guide to Writing for Publication edited by Susan Titus Osborn. A collection of twenty-five articles from top Christian writers covering all aspects of our craft.
- Description & Setting by Ron Rozelle.
- The Elements of Editing: A Modern Guide for Editors and Journalists by Arthur Plotnik.
- The Elements of Grammar by Margaret Shertzer.
- The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. The classic.
- The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman. Oh, yes. I’ve been meaning to reread this.
- Freelance Writing for Magazines and Newspapers: Breaking In Without Selling Out by Marcia Yudkin. Another book I studied religiously.
- Get the Facts on Anyone: How You Can Use Public Sources to Check the Background of Any Person or Organization by Dennis King. In 1993, after the Branch Davidian massacre, I researched an article about how cults manipulate people in order to take over their lives. One of the people I interviewed was an anti-cult activist, who recommended this resource, which was released in 1992. With the explosion of the internet, getting information about individuals is easier than ever. The book might be a little dated.
- How to Be a Successful Housewife/Writer by Elaine Fantle Shimberg. Mentioned above in the third paragraph.
- How to Get Happily Published by Judith Appelbaum. Another book I studied a lot in my early writing days.
- How to Make Money Writing Little Articles, Anecdotes, Hints, Recipes, Light Verse and Other Fillers by Connie Emerson. I read and reread this book; but I never sold any little fillers.
- How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen. For nonfiction.
- How to Write & Sell a Column by Julie Raskin & Carolyn Males. One of my dreams was once to write a syndicated column. I did write a parenting column for a few years for a monthly free community newspaper, for free.
- How to Write for Television by Madeline DiMaggio. Uh huh. Another dream of mine was to be on a TV show writing team. I studied this book, but by the time I had an idea for an existing show, it was off the air. Then I set my sights on writing a screenplay.
- How to Write Funny edited by John B. Kachuba.
- Idea Catcher: An Inspiring Journal for Writers by the editors of Story Press. A lovely collections of prompts. I brought some of these prompts to meetings when I was president of the Tempe Christian Writers Club in the 1990s.
- The Little, Brown Handbook by H. Ramsey Fowler and Jane E. Aaron. The copy currently on my bookshelf is my daughter Erin’s from high school. I used to have mine from college. I love grammar books, and I like the way this one is organized.
- Make Every Word Count by Gary Provost. I bought this book recently when I saw it recommended by Margie Lawson in her Deep Editing lecture notes. I’ve been meaning to read it.
You know what? We’re about halfway through the writing books on my bookshelf. Let’s break here and I’ll tell you about some more on Saturday.