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!



17 comments:

  1. I'm not sure I have that one, but I do have a couple of Angel's thesaurus books.

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    1. I only have the Emotion Thesaurus, but I assume they're equally good.

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  2. H Lynda - these are great ... and I've still got your first post to refer to for reference books - now I've joined the library ... I hope I can get one or two of these - eg Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird - cheers Hilary

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    1. Oooh, hopefully the library has what you need!

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  3. I can't recall ever reading any books that offer advice all the way through about writing. But I do like the idea that some of those authors use humor. And if I find a book that shows the author's personality while he or she is getting the job done, so to speak, so much the better. I always like that personal touch because it keeps something from being what I call a "dry" read. So there's my comment, but it's not much help.

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    1. I'm the same with the humor. It makes dry information more palatable, I think. Plus, if I can read a grammar book with examples like I showed in the last post (with the spring-loaded girdle and water moccasins), I'm there.

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  4. Hi human, Lynda,

    Those seem like four informative books. My human dad needs help with his writing.

    Thanks for the info, my nice human friend.

    Pawsitive wishes,

    Penny πŸΆπŸ˜€

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    1. Thanks for the visit, Penny! Pawhaps you can give Gary a little Modest Internet Superstar writing advice when you're not busy signing autographs.

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  5. Some good reading you've selected here. Can't wait to see what else you've got! Great job, as always.

    ~ JT

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    1. Thanks, Jack! There seem to be an awful lot of books out there that I've not gotten to yet. So many of them were recommended multiple times that I feel I really ought not to skip them. I may end up doing this as a yearly feature. Thanks for taking the time to write up the review for Marshall!

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  6. Thanks so much for the shout out on my video! There are some great books here to check out - good thing it's my birthday soon...

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    1. Sure thing, Kim! S.K. Anthony reminded me that she'd told me about Bird By Bird years ago, and I have no idea why I didn't remember it. But I keep seeing it recommended consistently on writer/editor threads, so I suppose I'll have to add it to my ever-growing TBR pile.

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  7. I love Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird." The book I use the most is "The Emotional Thesaurus" by Ackerman and Puglisi for my attempt to better show the character's emotion and to not use the same words repeatedly. Another favorite is Stephen King's "On Writing."

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    1. Another vote for Bird By Bird! I keep adding things to my Amazon wish list every time I talk to someone, it seems.

      I like what Ackerman offers through her social media. She really seems invested in helping writers to be their best. And King's book is terrific, as I mentioned last post. I was impressed with how quickly it drew me in and would recommend it to pretty much everyone.

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  8. Great list here! Can't wait to see the next round ;)

    I have to check out The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing! I can't believe I haven't heard of it and (as you can imagine) I'm twitching about the fact that it hasn't made it into my grasp lol.

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    1. Good morning, S.K., Pleased to meet you. TMP is very much a real book, but I should warn you, if you are already a successful author with your own established style (which I understand is the case), you may find it more confusing than helpful, as he tells you to do certain things that you may have already rejected. I'm not saying don't read it, but just be prepared to reject the things that sound counterintuitive to you, as they will likely "damage" your own style if you do them.

      TMP treats story construction almost like a mathematical formula, and I have made my own adjustments to it over the years to fit my style, but it still underlies my work, and if you tend to write in a disciplined, planned fashion, you'll find a lot of helpful concepts there.

      Have fun, in any case! ~JT~

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  9. I'd never heard of it either, until Jack mentioned it last time in the comments. And if YOU'VE never heard of it or read it, I have my doubts that it's a real book. But Amazon says it is, so . . . we'll see.

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