The theme of this month has been identifying and developing your writing strengths and weaknesses, and one great learning tool I’d recommend to anyone is a good reference book. These can focus on anything from outlining and pacing to grammar and description. While knowing your weaker areas is a good place to start, how can you find the right book in the sea of options out there?
I’ve read quite a few writing reference books over the years, so I am going to share my favorites here today!
The Story Solution by Eric Edson
For writers who love to outline or pantsers who are looking to learn a little more about it, this is a great place to start. Yes, it’s technically about screenwriting, but it’s extremely applicable to novel writing as well.
Edson breaks down twenty-three actions that every hero/heroine should take in their journey, which translate perfectly into twenty-three crucial scenes your can plan for your novel and then fill in the blanks. I use this religiously while drafting and revising to make sure that my story hits all the beats it needs to it. And it’s not so formulaic that you can’t play with it a little by moving things around to make it work for you.
Thesauruses by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi
These aren’t your average thesauruses. These take your writing to an entirely new level – from setting descriptions that involve all five senses to character development from the ground up.
I’m bottling them into one here, but there are actually six of these awesome resources (as you can see to the left), and they have become a crucial part of my writing routine. And for people like me who use the same descriptions over and over again, they’re a goldmine.
You can learn more about them – and hear me gush over their brilliance- here:
Three Must-Have Writing Reference Books for Character Development
How to Use Setting To Bring Your Story to Life
Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development by K.M. Weiland
Struggling with how to balance character and plot? This book walks you through creating a compelling character arc – whether positive, negative or flat – and weaving that in with your story’s narrative.
It’s especially powerful when partnered with the positive trait, negative trait and emotional wound thesauruses mentioned above!
And it uses the Three-Act Story Structure which is my personal favorite.
Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty
If grammar isn’t your strong suit, this is the guide for you!
When I was in school, grammar was always everyone’s least favorite time of day. Because it’s boring, it’s inconsistent and it’s basically like speaking another language (pun intended).
But Fogarty somehow translates it into easily digestible tidbits and makes split infinitives and the ever-present debate between “who” and “whom” fun with her quick wit and humor.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Annie Lamott
This one is more memoir than “how-to” but it contains some equally important lessons to apply to your writing life.
Discussing perfectionism and jealousy, writer’s block and shitty first drafts, Lamott delivers brutally honest tips while still injecting a hilarious tone that all writers will connect with.
What are some of your favorite writing reference books that I missed? Let me know in the comments!
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