Reference Books for Writers

At yesterday’s meeting Valerie brought her battered Houghton-Mifflin style guide, much-loved since college. While we were doing an editing exercise, several people asked for it. There is nothing like a familiar resource when you’re trying to solve a problem.

So build your reference shelf with the tools that help you write. Technical help, like dictionaries, thesaurii and style guides, inspiration from beloved writers, sources of publishers, challenges, exercises that will keep you motivated.

Kay had a great idea: she asked for a good dictionary for a gift – so much more useful than another gadget.

Here are some of my recommendations. Please leave more suggestions in the comments!


On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser

100 Ways to Improve Your Writing  by Gary Provost

Self Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne & Dave King

The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master by Martha Alderson

The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction


On Writing: A  Memoir of the Craft  by Stephen King

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg


The Elements of Style 




5 thoughts on “Reference Books for Writers

  1. I’ll add a personal favorite:
    The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron – Cameron’s 12 step approach helped me keep going when I didn’t think my work was worthwhile. The Morning Pages technique is a game changer. It helped me find a voice, a comfort with written communication. The best block-buster, IMHO


  2. Thank you, Patrise, for passing this along, and for your encouragement! Here’s two books I would add:
    -“The Writer’s Journey, Mythic Structure for Writers,” by Christopher Vogler
    -“The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression,” by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi (I mentioned this during our session on Monday).
    And now I need to find time to read “The Artist’s Way.” 🙂


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