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Q: What are your favorite writing resources (books)?
I've been waiting for someone to ask this, just so I could use it as the perfect opportunity to shamelessly promote my own work! Thanks for asking.
Here is my top ten, in no particular order (I'm looking at them on my bookshelf, and trust me, they're in no particular order):
Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. The little grey book that does a lot. I reviewed it in the first issue of the Voidgunner Gazette. Can't figure out where to put that comma? Not sure if you should use "its" or "it's"? You'll find it here.
Stephen King's On Writing. Yes, I'm a huge King fan, but this is a great book for any writer who wants a straightforward, common-sense look at the craft. The guy is only the single most popular paperback original fiction writer in history, after all. Figures he might know something. This one was reviewed in the same issue of the Gazette.
Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing. Not only is this a great reference, it's a great look inside the process of one of the world's most prodigious and respected fantasists. Something Wicked This Way Comes is but one of countless classic novels sprung from his pen, and his short fiction still packs a heck of a wallop.
Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. Like Bradbury's book, this is far less a craft manual and more a spiritual treatise on the power of writing in your life of how writing both powers your life and reflects lurking power awaiting expression in your life. I unreservedly recommend this book and any of her others because it's all about plugging in living fully engaged and writing about the subjects closest and most important to you.
Jack Canfield's Chicken Soup for the Writer's Soul. All the guys reading this article just said, "aw, Dave, you've got to be kidding me! A Chicken Soup book? Come on!" Yes, Chicken Soup books are an enormous billion-dollar chunk of the often vilified self-help industry, but I submit to you that 90% of the criticism comes from the hundred or so people left on earth who haven't read the books. Inspirational stories of other writers who have done what we want to do are part of that whole essential "bootstrapping" process I have detailed ad nauseum in many, many articles. If you only find one story that makes you feel better, gives you enough inspiration to carry on, gets you through your daily pages, then it's worth the price you paid for it. The book has upwards of one hundred stories. I skipped a few. Then I went back later and read the few I skipped, and they inspired me, too. So get over it. Risk your girlfriend's ridicule and pick up a copy. Bradbury's in it, okay? And Clive Clussler. And Ernest J. Gaines. Many men, writing manly stories. Just buy the book.
Jack and Glenda Neff's Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript. In this wonderful world of electronic everything, publishers still want manuscripts on paper sent through good old snail mail. A properly formatted manuscript won't guarantee you a sale, but an improperly formatted manuscript will guarantee you don't get a sale. Shut down all the simple don'ts and format your manuscript properly. I have gone on record saying the publishing industry is gathering cobwebs; here's proof: I actually have a copy of the Writer's Digest Book on this subject published in 1987; with the exception of additional sections on formatting for electronic submissions, it is virtually unchanged.
Lawrence Block's Spider, Spin Me a Web: Lawrence Block on Writing Fiction. Lawrence Block was a regular columnist for Writer's Digest magazine for about a million years. You may also know Matt Scudder, his fictional detective. He's published over a hundred books. He knows how to teach writing. And he's funny. I'm trying for all three of those, but I'm really not too sure about the last one ...
Tom Clark's The Writer's Digest Handbook of Novel Writing. Tom Clark is only one of five editors; essayists include Tom Clancy, Dean Koontz (those two guys alone have published enough bestsellers to knock the earth off its axis), Orson Scott Card and agent Russell Galen, whose incredible take on career-building is worth the price of admission.
An aside: those last three books are all from the Writer's Digest bookshelf. I was a member of the book club for twelve years. I had a subscription to Writer's Digest magazine from 1987 2003. Do you have a subscription? No? What are you doing here? Get over to their website and get one. WD is the best reference ever. No contest.
See, I snuck that one in there.
Number ten is my own book, Become You: The Art of Creative Centering.Creative Centering, is my teaching philosophy in a nutshell which is convenient, as it allows you to decide what kind of nut I am without spending any money to find out. If you think what I have to say makes sense, you can sign up for something that costs money with a little less worry. It's a mystery, I know even with a money-back guarantee, it is inexplicably difficult to get people to part with their hard-earned cash. Some things just can't be explained. •