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?
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?