Starry Night Sky with Bow

resources for writers

Writing guides and manuals

If I’ve managed to learn anything as a writer, it’s largely thanks to the guidance of more experienced writers. Here are some of the books I’ve found and learned (much) from. This is by no means a complete list of what’s out there; these are just the ones I happened to come across while hunting. After reading a few, one tends to find that much of the information is repeated in every similar book found thereafter, but having different authors illustrate the same principles isn’t a bad thing. It tends to broaden the understanding, answer questions that hadn’t yet announced themselves. I found it good to read these while writing. Knowing a principle and being able to apply it are separated by practice. I wouldn’t be able to make a list of best to worst, so this is roughly the order in which I discovered them.

  • The First Five Pages – Lukeman (He emphasises the need for strong start, but the book deals with the craft of writing as a whole.)
  • How to Grow a Novel – Stein.
  • The 38 Most Common Writing Mistakes – Bickham
  • Bird by Bird – Lamott (Unusual, written in an entertaining style with principles expressed in memorable and personalised ways.)
  • Steering the Craft – LeGuin (Another unusual approach with some interesting departures from commonly expressed ideas. Her thoughts, for example, on conflict depart from those of many other authors.)
  • On Writing – King
  • The Book on Writing – LaRoque
  • How Not to Write a Novel – Mittelbark, Newman
  • Outlining your Novel: Map your way to Success – K.M.Weiland (It covers a good deal more than outlining.)
  • Creating Fiction – Checkoway (Several authors, one per chapter.)
  • Rules for Writers – Hacker, Sommers
  • Writing Fantasy Fiction – LeFanu
  • Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction – Stableford
  • How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy – Card
  • Crafting Unforgettable Characters – K.M.Weiland (Short, free, excellent.)
  • Character, Emotion and Viewpoint – Kress
  • Self-editing for Writers – Brownie and King
  • The Writer’s guide to Character Traits – Edelstein
  • The Emotion Thesaurus – Puglusi (A good tool for getting you out of a blank freeze.)
  • Names for Boys and Girls – Sleigh.
  • Character Naming – Kenyon (I find this more useful for male than female names.)

Style and grammar

  • The Elements of Style – Strunk and White. (Short and packed with nuggets – a must-read)
  • The Golden Book on Writing – Lambuth
  • The Complete Plain Words – Gowers. (On the heavier side, but very revealing in typical British tones. E.g. “Some writers … seem to think that if they can drag in plenty of unfamiliar or technical or modish words arranged in long and involved sentences, their readers will regard them as clever fellows and be stunned into acquiescence.”)
  • On Writing Well – Zinsser (Excellent and easy to read. Can’t recommend it highly enough.)
  • How to Write and Speak Better – Reader’s Digest (One of the most thorough style and grammar guides I’ve found on a non-technical level.)
  • Mend Your English – Brutton-Simmonds (Short, easily readable. Addresses a number of the most common mistakes.)
  • The Careful Writer – Bernstein
  • Cambridge Grammar of English – Carter, McCarthy (A descriptive rather than prescriptive approach – in contrast to The Elements of Style.)
  • A University Grammar of English – Quirk. (Heavy and technical. I use it for reference only.)
  • A Dictionary of Modern English Usage – Fowler (A classic.)
  • Troublesome Words – Bryson (Much simpler than Fowler, but having both has served me well.)
  • Punctuation – Allan (Quite basic, but a good intro.)


4 thoughts on “resources for writers

  1. VLAndresen

    The Wonderbook, by Jeff VanderMeer. Wonderful artwork in a study of world-building, character-development, plot-working and more, all adorned with essays by SFF greats like George R.R. Martin and more. My favorite is an essay on revision by Lev Grossman that is full of truth.

  2. C. Gold

    I also recommend watching Brandon Sanderson’s writing seminars on youtube. He has graciously recorded his lectures and placed them there for anyone to learn from. They go into every aspect of the writing process.

  3. Ben langan

    Can I be notified of any upcoming releases in this books category and any sequels to the dawn of wonder

    1. Renshaw Team

      Hi Ben.Check the progress bars on the site for the latest updates on the writing of the Dawn of Wonder sequel. You can also read up about all of Jonathan’s current works here. As to your other question – do you mean other releases by Jonathan? If so, there’s one mailing list we use to notify readers about releases, not lists for individual categories.

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