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Must-Have Books for Writers

You have a reason for writing. If you're compiling a memoir or a biography of a cherished relative for the benefit of friends and family, but have no interest in publishing to a wider audience, self-publishing is the best route. There are services available to help you, or you can work directly with Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing.

However, if you'd like to publish your work for ego, fame, and perhaps make some money, then you must understand that writing is work. It is a skill that is native to few. You must study the art of writing to master it.

There are hundreds of commercially successful books about how to write, and there is much overlap in what they have to say. Fortunately, if you study just a few classics, you can get all you need about how to put words on a page in a cohesive and literary fashion, and tell your story so that it is both interesting and easy to read.

Here are our recommendations. Read these first. Study and absorb them. Then, if you choose, read the works of other writers who've shared their creative secrets. Each has their own contribution, and there are gems of wisdom to be gleaned from all.

The links are to Amazon.com, but shop where you'd like. Some may be available as an eBook. Often, you'll find them at your library.

The mechanics of writing, grammar, word usage, paragraph organization, and understandability.
1. The Elements of Style, Fourth edition
by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White
104 pages, published 1999.

Read this first! This classic is a reference book, with little exposition. Full of examples of how to do things right, and avoid doing them wrong, it deals with the mechanics of punctuation, word usage, and proper writing. The effective application of its wisdom will bring you much closer to publication.
2. On Writing Well 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
by William Zissner
336 pages, published 2006.

The title says "Non-fiction," but don't let that fool you. The techniques described in this book work equally well with fiction. Read this after Strunk, and before Cheney or Brown & King.
3. Getting the Words Right, 39 Ways to Improve Your Writing
by Theodore Cheney
256 pages, published 2005.

A self editing masterpiece for NON-FICTION writers (see Browne & King, for the fiction equivalent). Following Cheney's precepts will streamline your work, make it easier to read, and convey your message in fewer words.
4. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print
by Renni Browne and David King
288 pages, published 2004.

A self editing masterpiece for FICTION writers (see Cheney, for non-fiction). Clear, step by step instructions detail everything you did wrong in your first draft. Yes, they mention you by name. An absolute must-read for the self-editing process that is demanded if you wish to get published.
 
Story-telling, plot, and structure.
5. The Writer's Journey, Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition
by Christopher Vogler
300 pages, published 2007.

Based on the wisdom of Joseph Campbell, Vogler has reduced story-telling to its essentials. His treatise is easy to read and apply. This is a powerfully informative presentation for those who've enjoyed, but never really thought about, what makes a great novel.




A more comprehensive web site on writing and publishing will be forthcoming. April, 2020.

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