Ten Books Every Fiction Writer Should Own (If you want to improve your craft)
If you write with the goal of publishing, whether traditional or indie, there are essential books to keep in your toolbox. Keep them on your bookshelf or online, but have them at your fingertips. The list could be endless, but here are ten I keep at the top:
1. Twenty books in your genre. I know, I know—I said ten books and I’m starting you out with twenty! But truly, in order to write fantastic romance (or historical, or speculative, etc.) you have to read in that genre. And study it while you read it (What makes it good? What makes it not so good?). At least twenty.
2. A good dictionary. I keep Random House Webster’s within reach and utilize dictionary.com and (because I write historical romance) etymonline.com online. Etymonline is invaluable because I can research the word and find out when it was first in use, what it meant at the time, and how it’s evolved.
3. The Chicago Manual of Style, University of Chicago Press. It is the style guide for American English, and the gold standard for most publishing in America. A resource every writer should have, it’s also available online. I prefer to be able to thumb through my sixteenth edition.
4. Roget’s Thesaurus of Words for Writers, Olsen, Bevilacqua, Hayes, and Bly. With over 2,300 words that will help you keep your vocabulary finely tuned and out of the ordinary.
5. The Flip Dictionary, Barbara Ann Kipfer, Ph.D. For when you know what you want to say but the word just won’t come to you. Picturing a violent disruption, but want to be cleverly specific? Page 660: cataclysm, convulsion, upheaval.
6. Wording Painting, Rebecca McClanahan. Though I try to keep up with books in my genre, while I’m in the writing phase of a novel, I only read books that pertain to the writing craft, usually in the evening after a long day in the office. This is one of my favorites.
7. Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott. Every writer should read this, and then just write.
8. Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Lynne Truss. Because punctuation matters.
9. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne and Dave King. While I try to turn off my editor brain while writing a first draft, I find this book invaluable when I move into revisions.
10. The Emotional Craft of Fiction, Donald Maas. Or anything by Donald Maas. I have, and have read—and refer back to—all of his books on craft! Excellent advice, with practical ways to apply it to your current project.
Two more that I must mention that do not fall into craft per se: How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, Michael J. Gelb, and Walking on Water, Madeleine L’Engle ~ either will delight and inspire your writing!
Do you have a favorite from my list? What about it do you love? How about a favorite that is not on the list?
Rebecca DeMarino writes inspirational historical romance and is the author of The Southold Chronicles (Revell). The three-book series is set in the 17th century on Long Island and is based on her real-life ninth great-grandparents who came from England on a little ship called The Swallow. Her titles include A Place in His Heart (2014). To Capture Her Heart (2015), and To Follow Her Heart (2016). You can find the e-book edition of A Place in His Heart FREE on Amazon May 2nd through May 9th.