Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What's on YOUR bookshelf?

by Annette Dashofy

Last week, I wrote about learning. Today, I’m getting specific. Let’s discuss books on writing. There are a ton of them out there. And I have several shelves in my house devoted to them. Some I use for reference, some I use to check facts. Some I skim through, and others I devour and return to again and again.


Here are some of my favorites.

In the “Devour and Return to again and again” category:

GMC: Goal, Motivation, & Conflict by Debra Dixon- I love this book. When a scene isn’t working or a character feels two-dimensional, I refer back to this equation and usually find I’m missing one of these three necessities.

Creating Character Emotions by Ann Hood – This was recommended to me by a former critique buddy and I’ve recommended it over and over ever since.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – Can’t say enough about this one. I can sit down anytime, anywhere, and open it to any page. I’m immediately drawn in and find myself smiling and nodding in agreement. It may not tell you HOW to write, but it will tell you how to KEEP writing when you’re having a tough day.

In the “Reference and Fact-Checking” category:

Police Procedure and Investigation by Lee Lofland – Too many times I’ve spent hours on phone calls and emails trying to track down a fact only to open this book and find the answer right there. I’ve learned my lesson. Check here FIRST.

Forensics by D.P. Lyle – Another go-to book to save research time.

Deadhouse: Life in a Coroner’s Office by John Temple – Less well known, but great stuff. It’s not a reference book per se, but if you’re writing anything that deals with forensics, morgues and/or autopsies, you really need to read this.

The Crime Writer’s Reference Guide by Martin Roth – The title says it all.

Of course, I have many, many more, but these are my favorites. Now it’s your turn. What books do you keep within easy reach and refer to over and over?

12 comments:

Martha Reed said...

Hi, Annette.

I reach for Stephen King's On Writing whenever I feel discouraged because his voice and ideas are so practical.

I also reach for my copy of To Kill A Mockingbird every so often just to remind myself of how it should be!

William Simon said...

As Martha said, ON WRITING by King is *the* book 'on writing'. After I finished that, I pretty much cleared off the shelves of all the 'How To' books and donated them.

Annette said...

If I'd added one more to my list, ON WRITING would have been it. I think I'll pull it down and re-read it...

Wilfred Bereswill said...

I have a bunch of these on my bookshelf. Like WIlliam, I really should sell or donate them. The only one's that stand out: (meaning the only ones that I read cover to cover) were:

On Writing - King. I don't consider this a step by step guide, and most of us can't write the way King does; and I mean the prcess not the style. But it is a facinating book.

The First 5 Pages by Lukeman. Not really anything earthshaking here, but good information on how to grab the reader from the start.

You know, Bird By Bird was the first book on writing that I bought. A lot of people in the St. Louis Writers circle recommended it. EHH. I can't say it did anything for me.

Literature is so subjective.

Dana King said...

One more vote for ON WRITING.

I also regularly return to SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by Dave King and Renni Browne. Fun t read, with good advice on every page.

(Kind of makes you wonder what my problem is. Seems everyone else named King has this writing business under control.)

Joyce said...

I'll add two to the list. HOW TO WRITE KILLER FICTION, by Carolyn Wheat, and WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL, by Donald Maass. The first deals with the structure of mysteries and thrillers, the second with how to take your book to the next level.

Paula R said...

Hi, I love Stephen King's On Writing...it read like a novel. I also loved The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes. I haven't seen anyone mention The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler. I think that is a pretty good one too. The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maass is also a good resource.

Thank you for sharing the procedural ones. I really need to pick up a set of those.

Peace and love,
Paula R.

Laurie said...

In addition to the other books previously listed, I'll add to the list, WRITING MYSTERIES edited by Sue Grafton with Jan Burke and Barry Zeman.

nancy martin said...

I love the Christopher Voegler book, too, Paula. Also:

Robert McKee's STORY.

Jane Smiley's THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT THE NOVEL.

Carolyn See's MAKING A LITERARY LIFE ranks up there with BIRD BY BIRD for me.

Elizabeth's George's WRITE AWAY.

And, of course, my fave: Michael Chabon's WONDER BOYS. It's fiction, but it's still about writing!

VR Barkowski said...

King's book is my favorite. It is also the favorite of many published authors who have never read King's fiction. Put quite simply, this book speaks to writers.

Several other books I love (a couple of which have already been mentioned here):

1. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers/Renni Browne & Dave King (This is outstanding)
2. The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers/Christopher Vogler
3. Spunk & Bite: A Writer's Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style/Arthur Plotnik
4. Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft/Janet Burroway (fabulous book, ridiculously expensive)

ALSO: Strunk and White's Elements of Style is essential for EVERY writer, regardless of genre.

Patg said...

The Joy of Writing Sex is a hoot.
Writing The Modern Mystery by Norville is a good reference.

When you consider how many of them are out there, is it any wonder the Brits think we're nuts.

Not familiar--they don't think you can teach 'creative' writing.
Patg

ramona said...

I echo everyone's choices and add a couple. Hallie Ephron's book on writing mysteries has some great exercises for exploring character and plot.

I am a huge fan of poet/author/memoirist May Sarton's journals, about writing, the writing life, and aging. They are treasures.