I read a freelance writing blog recently where the author discussed his favorite writing books. There were classics such as Shrunk and White’s The Elements of Style and Steven King’s On Writing. He also listed Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. He stated that this was a mediocre book that became an international bestseller so it was important to study it to understand the dynamics of a poorly written but great book.
Few of the comments that came after this list discussed other great writing books. Most defended The Da Vinci Code as the best book ever, though there were a few dissenters who agreed with the blogger. I fall into this second camp as the book contained too many “If only he’d known what was coming, he never would have…” to meet my definition of a great read. I don’t like author intrusion in my fiction.
While I found the discussion humorous, I was pleased that some people were able to move past it to add to the list of great writing books. There are a few that I hadn’t heard of and added some of them to my to-read list. Specifically, I want to read It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences by June Casagrande. I love the title and it was passionately recommended by two or three commenters. If anyone who is reading this blog has read the book, I’d love to hear your opinion of it.
One of my favorite writing resources was not on anyone’s list, so I threw it into the mix and am sharing it now. Flip Dictionary by Barbara Ann Kipfer, Ph.D. is a combination dictionary and thesaurus that goes beyond the basics. The synonym lists for many words are more extensive and uses more current and slang language than a traditional thesaurus. But what makes this my go-to book when I am stuck or need something fast is the lists.
Writing about a mountain climber? There is a full list of mountain ranges and where they are located. Tired of using the same word for green, car, or fabric? There are lists for them. There are lists for types of saws, murders, illnesses, psychiatric diseases, phobias, Roman gods and goddesses, hammers, legal terms, and so much more. When I want to be specific about a tool, color, disease, or pretty much anything, its in the book. Yes, I could find this information on the internet, but not with the same ease or organization. The Flip Dictionary is comprehensive and I love having this information at my fingertips. When writing fiction, this book helps me add relevant and unique details or descriptions to my work, which makes it one of my best resources. Plus it’s fun just reading some of the lists. Phobias is a favorite of mine.
While I am a big fan of Shrunk and White’s and Steven King’s books, my list also includes Flip Dictionary. What are your must-have writing books?
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