Writing Guides

I recognize that I am a geek on a great variety of levels one of them being my absolute adoration of books.  I am kind of addicted to books.  I love books — I love to read them, I love owning them.  I don’t mind reading on an e-reader, and certainly have a decent sized collection of e-books.  But there is something magnificent about real books.

Even better (or perhaps a justification for my collection), books have so much useful information in them.  Many of my books I hang onto because I have, and intend to continue to, use them for my various research needs.

A sampling of some of my writing guides.
A sampling of some of my writing guides.

Every so often I hear (or read) conversation about different writing guides.  It seems that everyone has a suggestion of a favorite book, and is constantly pulling out bits of advice from here or there.  I’ve seen a few guides mentioned over and over (and have now added a few that I had not yet read to my list to get through).  All this talk has gotten me thinking about my own writing-guide favorites.  There are a few that I have because they are sometimes very useful references, some because I feel like I’m supposed to have them, and some that really are my favorites.

Let me be honest with you, I don’t always agree with the advice given in the guides.  Even some of my favorite guides provide suggestions that I don’t necessarily agree with, some I blatantly choose to ignore.  But agree or disagree with the advice, I love to see how different authors share and reflect on their craft.  I think this is why I love reading blogs about writing; while the books tell me the thoughts of published “successful” authors, many of the blogs can give me a glimpse of the process and thoughts of authors like me, who are still finding our own voices, earning our stripes, early in our careers (in some sense).

I do have my favorite guides, and different reasons that I like them and have hung onto them (through multiple cross-country moves).

Room To Write, by Bonni Goldberg.

 I think this book was a present from one of my High School teachers.  If it wasn’t really… well, that teacher gets credit in my mind anyhow.  I love the variety of prompts this book provides (though, to be honest, I find myself going back to a few of them over and over, and not pushing myself to try the others.  Must. Change. This.).  It also has some great quotes that I enjoy looking through and reflecting on.

Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott.

 This is one of those, “doesn’t every writer have this book” books.  I forget how I came to own my copy, and thinking on it I’m not sure that I have actually read it all the way through.  It’s one of those books that I feel like I need to have, and will look at it on occasion, but haven’t quite finished it yet.  However, it does contain some excellent information about those “shitty first drafts,” which has been so reassuring and helpful.

Zen in the Art of Writing , by Ray Bradbury.

love this book.  Absolutely, positively love it.  I’ve re-read it a number of times, some parts of it more than others.  It is a series of short essays, some of them drawn from the introductions to his books.  In them I find inspiration for writing, for being a writer, and for life in general.  It’s a great encouragement to hold true to your passions, to follow your heart, and to let go of those things that may hold you back.

What are your favorite guides (for writing or otherwise)?  I recently got a bunch of free writing guides (on my Kindle) and will probably be commenting on some of them soon, but would love to hear what the books are that others most appreciate (and why)!

12 thoughts on “Writing Guides

  1. Writing Down The Bones is pretty much the only one I’ve found helpful except as a “cherry pick for possible exercises” thing.


  2. The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, and On Writing Well by William Zinsser are a couple that I think are indispensible. Also, any of Syd Fields’ screenwriting books are good for understanding how story works. Many people mock his formulaic approach, and I don’t recommend it, but in terms of developing your understanding, they are very valuable for any kind of writing, not just screenplays.


    1. Nice! I have carried a copy of Strunk and White around with me for decades, though I think it finally got replaced with Turabian’s “A Manual for Writers” (the “Elements of Style” got mold-damaged at one point and had to be disposed of, and Turabian was vital for my thesis.) I haven’t read any of Syd Fields’ works, I’ll take a look at those — I know I learned a lot about storytelling when I took a few video-production classes back in High School.
      Thanks for the suggestions!


    1. If you haven’t tried it, I’d suggest looking at Bradbury’s. Most writing guides and advice, like I said, I take as I will — but also question and ignore lots of. But Bradbury’s was more like reflections on his own process.


    1. It can be fun to revisit some of the guides I’ve had for a long time, find the pages that I clearly turned to a lot and try to see what spoke to me about that page, and then read through and see what new speaks to me.


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