Thursday, February 15, 2018

Editor's Notes #43: Best Books on Writing and Editing Part 3—More of Your Thoughts


In Editor's Notes #41, I told you about some of the books I read over the past year to further my knowledge of writing and editing. In Editor's Notes #42, I provided some recommendations I've received from others, and in today's post, I'm rounding out the list of books that author & editor friends have mentioned repeatedly as their go-tos. In fact, I had to cut books off the list because there were simply too many to cover effectively. If any of you are like I am, too many recommendations at once quickly become overwhelming, and I won't acquire any of them. And what's the use of recommending a bunch of things people are going to ignore, right?

So without further ado, here are three great recommendations. In fact, the last one can be heard on YouTube and will take less than twenty minutes of your time. You won't regret it.

The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker—Described as "more contemporary and comprehensive than The Elements of Style, Pinker's wit and clarity make this one a favorite I've seen recommended over and over. In his own words, "Good writing can flip the way the world is perceived." In my opinion, that makes for some of the best writing.

Stein On Writing by Sol Stein is highly recommended. Sol Stein is not only an author, but an editor too. He explains, "This is . . . a book of usable solutions—how to fix writing that is flawed, how to improve writing that is good, how to create interesting writing in the first place." Most who have recommended this book mention that it has many unique ideas and really has a little bit of something for everyone, whether you're a new writer or have been doing it for years.

Make Good Art by Neil Gaiman is actually a book created from the transcript of a speech given by Gaiman as a commencement address at Philadelphia's University of the Arts. Many people point out that the message is full of the WOW factor: even if you're unsure of your path, when your future seems uncertain, take what you've been given and make it into something better than what you started with. That being said, even those who love this speech really don't have a lot of good to say about the book. According to many reviewers, the book is so poorly designed that it is difficult to read . . . not "good art" at all. If you want the full effect of what Gaiman had to say, look up the video on YouTube and listen to the man himself. It really is an incredible speech, full of wisdom, humility, and humor, that I found to be time well spent.

So that's what I have, folks! As always, let me know if you've read any of these, and what you thought. Happy reading!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Editor's Notes #42: Best Books on Writing and Editing Part 2—Your Thoughts


In Editor's Notes #41, I talked about one of my personal goals from 2017 that I'm continuing in 2018: reading one non-fiction book on writing and editing at all times, regardless of whatever else I'm reading for work or pleasure. I listed a few of my favorites and then asked about yours. I also read through a handful of threads in my editing groups to see what they recommended. There are so many wonderful books out there that it's hard to know which ones to prioritize, but I'll make an attempt here to list the ones that seem to get mentioned over and over again, and you can let me know if you've read any of them, or if you'd recommend something completely different.

Here are four great books to start with, as recommended by others in the field. As I began to work on this post, I realized there were TOO many good books to cram into one place, so I'm going to add a third post to this series and will share more with you next time. Too many recommendations at once will all start to blur into one another, I think, and then you may not look into any of them due to being overwhelmed.

The Best Punctuation Book, Period by June Casagrande—In my last post, I told you about how much I liked Casagrande's style. One of the editor admins of a group I'm in said she bought this because "the author was so nice" to her on Twitter. It pays to be kind, people. But I digress. The book covers punctuation for all sorts of styles, from Chicago Manual of Style to Associate Press, MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association). Having the conventions of book publishing, science and other academic journals, news media and more presented side by side makes this almost a one-stop shop.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott—I've seen this recommended multiple times by writers and editors alike. As if she read my mind, author Kim Watt posted a video review of it recently, calling it "encouraging" and filled with "lovely humor." She even reads an excerpt from it about supportive people at "Zen and the Art of Making Mistakes"

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman—I believe S.K. Anthony (Writers After Dark and her own book site) recommended this one to me years ago. This is only one book in Ackerman's series, and it's full of page after page of helpful ways to show emotion in your writing. I do own this one, but since it's not a book that one reads from front to back, I didn't list it in the last post. I follow this author on Instagram, and she is all about helping writers to be their best . . . even the name of her IG account is writers_helping_writers_angela. Her website, One Stop for Writers, has a nice selection of helpful checklists, idea generators, templates, and more. The other books in the Thesaurus series include Emotional Wound, Positive Trait, Urban Setting, Rural Setting, and Negative Trait.

The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall—Author Jack Tyler (Beyond the Rails) mentioned this in the comments of my previous post, so I forced asked him to write a little bit about it. Jack says, "Like so many people, I had plenty of ideas for stories, and always wanted to write, but had no idea how to put the elements together. I went through scores of books that gave me such priceless information as "always have an engaging story in mind," and "strong characters need deep backstories." Good advice, but marginally helpful at best.
         "Enter Evan Marshall, a New York superagent, and his Marshall Plan for Novel Writing. In this book, he details the concepts that everyone else seems to assume you know, items like how many viewpoint characters you need, who these characters are, their roles, how many scenes to give each one, when to drop twists and surprises, all those things that are vital if you're going to construct a compelling story.
         "The Marshall Plan isn't for everyone. I have tried and failed to write without a plan. I needed to know how that plan should be constructed, and The Marshall Plan delivers the goods thoroughly and understandably. I bought that book new in 1998, and became an effective writer shortly thereafter. I've always been able to construct the pieces, but thanks to Mr. Marshall's insights, I now know how to use them to build the finished product."

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There you have it. A handful of books to look into until next time. If you own or have read any of these, I'd love to hear your thoughts on whether they've been helpful to your writing journey or not. If you have something you like better, let's hear about it! I have at least six more books others have been telling me about, and I'll be posting the ones that have been recommended the most often.

Until next time, happy reading and happy researching!