Which Reference Books for Writers Do You Keep Handy?

Reference Books for Writers

On the whole, writers are readers. Respected teachers of craft have marked our path with reference books for writers, and I’m curious: what’s in your library?

Welcome to My Library of Reference Books for Writers

I make no secret about my source of writing techniques shared with subscribers. What’s not so obvious is why I chose books as my primary source of learning.

Decades ago, I entered the workplace without a fancy pedigree. My unfettered ambition needed a mentor, but I had none. Then I discovered the advice and skills I desired were available between the pages of books.

All I had to do was distill the wisdom into practical how-to steps. Along the way, I discovered others needed that same information, and I started sharing my notes. Empowered by what we learned and practiced, our careers advanced.

Reference Books for Writers Come in a Variety of Styles

Over time, I discerned some books were written in styles that resonated with the way I like to learn. The writing voice of the author and the layout of the content made it easier for me to distill the wisdom for practical use.

For example, James Scott Bell’s books never failed to encourage me while giving specific steps to overcome writing problems. Bell’s friendly approach gave me the education I needed, and as a bonus, that newfound understanding enabled me to appreciate and apply advice from other writing teachers.

James Scott Bell served as my virtual writing mentor, and that’s why you’ll find so many of his reference books for writers in my library.

Some Reference Books for Writers Teach to the Top of the Class

Then there are a few reference books for writers that you have to downshift mentally, slowing to navigate not just the writing concepts, but how you’ll apply the techniques to your stories.

For example, Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid teaches skills used by editors, but the techniques are also useful for writers ready to tackle meatier topics.

Reference Books for Writers Include Screenwriting

Screenwriting books teach concepts useful for novelists. Writers can watch multiple movies in the time spent reading one novel, increasing their understanding of essential techniques.

That’s why I often refer to books by John Truby, Robert McKee, and Blake Snyder.

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Which reference books for writers do you keep handy?

5 responses to “Which Reference Books for Writers Do You Keep Handy?”

  1. wordsfromanneli Avatar

    Good selection, Grant. Thanks for the suggestions.

    1. Grant at Tame Your Book! Avatar
      Grant at Tame Your Book!

      You’re welcome, Anneli. Thank you for dropping by today!

  2. Shannon Fallon Avatar

    I’ve had my copy of Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway since college. I also have a copy of Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda Edelstein and Point of View by Sandra Gerth. I think it’s good to have at least one book that covers the craft broadly and then pick up specific ones for areas you want to focus on or need more help with.

    1. Grant at Tame Your Book! Avatar
      Grant at Tame Your Book!

      I agree on moving from the 30,000 foot level down to ground zero and back again. That perspective gives you the broad view to discern how writing principles serve authors better than the often quoted rules. Thanks for commenting, Shannon!

  3. Stuart Danker Avatar

    I have to say, I haven’t kept any books ‘on speed dial’ because I haven’t found the one. And this is despite me loving all books on the craft. But I might now give Bell’s books a go and see if they can help me in my pursuit. Thanks for this, Grant!

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