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It’s good to know where to go for help. Here are some books, periodicals, and websites of interest to writers, editors, publishing professionals, and Just Plain Curious Folk.
 

Books
Dictionaries & Thesauri
Editing/Revising
Usage, Style, Grammar
Writing—How To’s & References
Writing—Marketing Your Writing

Periodicals & Newsletters

Websites

Favorite (and Most Useful) Books

I own many of these books; others were recommended by trusted sources. While there tends to be cross-pollination between categories (e.g., how-to-write plus how-to-sell may occur in the same book), I’ve grouped them in the way that makes the most sense to me and trust it will be helpful to you. In the spirit of thoroughness, some are listed in more than one category.

Dictionaries / Thesauri

American Heritage College Dictionary

Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, by Brewer

Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary

Merriam-Webster’s Geographic Dictionary

New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians

Oxford Dictionary of Abbreviations

Oxford Thesaurus

Rodale’s Synonym Finder

Roget’s International Thesaurus

Thesaurus of American Slang, Robert L. Chapman, ed.

Editing / Revising

The Chicago Manual of Style, University of Chicago Press.The book publishing industry’s bible—every editor needs this book. I wouldn’t be without the subscription website, either. Assumes subject matter is nonfiction, but Chicago is a necessary reference for fiction as well.

The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications, Amy Einsohn. Indispensible reference on copyediting. Includes exercises and answer key.

Fiction First Aid: Instant Remedies for Novels, Stories, and Scripts, Raymond Obstfeld. From Amazon.com: “Obstfeld here addresses writers who need help fixing specific areas of their fiction. The book has a strong outline structure, which makes the text easy to follow and accessible to readers looking for specific areas of interest. The topics covered are plot, characterization, setting, style, and theme…No other book on the market approaches works like Fiction First Aid does, which quickly shows how seemingly fatal errors can become both manageable and fixable. Novice and more experienced writers alike will appreciate the book’s techniques for identifying and revising weaknesses in their work.”

Savvy Self-Editing: A Guide for Developing Your Own Editing Process, Tony Jaymes. Fiction emphasis with plenty of visual aids like charts and checklists. Short but packed with important information for the fiction writer.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Brown & Dave King. Excellent breakdown of the editing process for fictionists—what to do, how to do it, and why to do it. This is the classic how-to for fiction editing—it’s stood the test of time. Includes exercises and answer key.

Write Great Fiction: Revision & Self-Editing, James Scott Bell (Writer’s Digest Books). “Techniques for transforming your first draft into a novel.”

Usage, Style, Grammar

Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law, Norm Goldstein. Style manual of choice for newspapers and other journalistic venues.

The Chicago Manual of Style, University of Chicago Press.The book publishing industry’s bible—every editor needs this book. I wouldn’t be without the subscription website, either. Assumes subject matter is nonfiction, but Chicago is a necessary reference for fiction as well.

The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications, Amy Einsohn. Indispensible reference on copyediting. Includes exercises and answer key.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, Lynne Truss. Yeah, it’s a little lightweight, but fun and still informative. Beware British-isms (e.g., eschewing serial comma; quotation mark placement). If you’re writing or editing for publication in the United States, stick with Chicago (or AP).

Garner’s Modern American Usage, Bryan Garner. Want to know the difference between home in and hone in, and why only one represents correct usage? You’ll find answers to questions you didn’t know you had in the easy-to-read alphabetized Garner’s. Supplements rather than replaces style manuals such as Chicago and grammars such as Little, Brown.

Lapsing Into a Comma: A Curmudgeon’s Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print—and How to Avoid Them, Bill Walsh

The Little, Brown Compact Handbook with Exercises, Jane E. Aaron. Grammar textbook/workbook.

Miss Thistlebottom’s Hobgoblins: The Careful Writer’s Guide to the Taboos, Bugbears and Outmoded Rules of English Usage, Theodore M. Bernstein. You know that voice in your head, the one prohibiting preposition-ending sentences and split infinitives? It’s time to silence it for good. This book will help you master current usage and it’s a lot faster than reading Chicago or Garner’s cover to cover.

MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, Modern Language Association

The Oxford Essential Guide to Writing, Thomas S. Kane

Talking About People: A Guide to Fair and Accurate Language, Rosalie Maggio. From Amazon.com: “Consists of two sections: ‘Writing Guidelines’ and a ‘Dictionary of Terms.’ The short first section gives the writer or editor a rationale for inclusive and bias-free language, providing rules of thumb and suggestions for handling problems such as letter salutations, adjectival forms as nouns, the ‘insider/outsider’ rule, sex-linked expressions, and the like. The ‘Dictionary of Terms’ consists of some 8000 words and phrases that may be perceived as problematic. Each term is briefly explained, sometimes with illustrative quotations, and in many cases alternatives to the entry word are listed.”

Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage. An alternative to Garner’s. Recommended by just about everyone including Chicago and Amy Einsohn’s Copyeditor’s Handbook.

The Writer’s Digest Grammar Desk Reference, Gary Lutz and Diane Stevenson. Not painless, but a well-structured reference book to help you sort out garbled grammar and get it fixed fast.

Writing—Genres, How-to’s, Writer’s References

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, Julia Cameron. If you can write morning pages for even a week, you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something momentous.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Technical Writing, Krista Van Laan and Catherine Julian

Fantasists on Fantasy: A Collection of Critical Reflections by Eighteen Masters of the Art, Robert H. Boyer and Kenneth J. Zahorski, Eds.

Ghostwriting for Fun & Profit, Eva Shaw. I know, sounds hokey, but you know what? A great book!

How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy, Orson Scott Card (Writer’s Digest Books)

How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy, & Science Fiction, J. N. Williamson, Ed.

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night: The Best (?) from the Bulwer-Lytton Contest, the funniest opening sentences from the worst novels never written, compiled by Scott Rice. Okay, this is more of a how-not-to-write, but it’s so fun I had to include it somewhere.

The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction, Ursula K. LeGuin, ed. by Susan Wood

On Writing, Stephen King. Nothing spooky about this excellent memoir/how-to from the master storyteller. Be sure to memorize the formula for successful revision, p. 222 in the hardcover edition.

On Writing Well, William K. Zinsser. A classic—humbles me every time I re-read it. So few words, such great clarity.

The Oxford Essential Guide to Writing, Thomas S. Kane

A Reader’s Guide to Fantasy, Baird Searles et al.

The Right Way to Write, Publish, and Sell Your Book: Your Guide to Successful Authorship, Patricia L. Fry. Lots of info on all aspects of writing and publishing packed into a well-organized, indexed, and easy-to-understand book.

The Romance Writer’s Handbook: How to Write Romantic Fiction & Get It Published, Rebecca Vinyard

The Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book, Dan Poynter

The Truth About The New Rules for Business Writing, Natalie Canavor and Claire Meirowitz. "The must-have book for everyone who writes on an everyday basis, whether you’re in the corporate, nonprofit or government world. And this book is for you if you’re an entrepreneur, a professional, a scientist, an artist ... anyone who needs to communicate in writing. Presented in 52 bite-size, easy-reading, grammar-free "truths," the book is loaded with examples and professional tricks-of-the-trade."

To Writers with Love: On Writing Romantic Novels, Mary Wibberley

Write from the Start: A Proven Program for Writing and Selling Nonfiction—Even If You’ve Never Been Published Before, Cork Millner. Cork was a longtime presenter at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference and the coordinator of the annual Writer’s Workshop put on by Santa Barbara City College Center for Lifelong Learning.

The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook, Sherrilyn Kenyon. Names galore! I wish I had this book years ago when I kept coming up with the same monikers for my characters. Now that won’t happen to you.

A Writer’s Time: A Guide to the Creative Process, from Vision through Revision, Kenneth Atchity. Don’t know how on earth you’re supposed to fit all that writing and revising into your regular life? Get this book. Practical, thoughtful, step-by-step guide to a writer’s time management.

The Writer’s Ultimate Research Guide: Where to go for everything a writer needs to know, Ellen Metter. “Hundreds of annotated listings of books and databases that will: tell you where to find all the facts for your fiction and non-fiction; eliminate trial and error searches; speed your information hunt and give you more time to write...Find sources of information on inventions, geography, famous people, myths and magic; experts on almost any subject; company and product information; a universe of statistics…” Another oldie but goodie (1995). Be forewarned; if your vision is less than perfect, the print is tiny (about 6 pt.).

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, Natalie Goldman. Can’t get much simpler and clearer than this classic, beautifully written book. A good one to reread every few years.

Writing for the Internet, Jane Dorner. Compact, information-rich book for helping master Web content writing.

Writing Romances: A Handbook by the Romance Writers of America, Rita Gallagher and Rita Clay Estrada, Eds.

You Can Write A Romance…and Get It Published, Yvonne MacManus

Writing—Publishing and Marketing Your Writing

The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, Mark Levine, “analyzes and critiques the contracts and services of the top forty-eight self-publishing companies. Additionally, the book educates authors on how to decipher the legalese in self-publishing contracts.”

Get Known Before the Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform, Christina Katz. Per author Lee Silber, "The difference between a struggling writer searching for a book deal and the happily published author is a well-developed platform. (If you don’t know what a platform is, you really need this book.) It’s refreshing to read a book devoted to this very important part of the publishing process. Get Known Before the Book Deal is a must-read for any writer who wants to become a published author."

How to Start a Home-Based Writing Business, Lucy V. Parker. Useful whether you’re just starting out or have been at it for years. A step-by-step business plan creator using worksheets and perceptive interrogative techniques is woven into the text. Much of the information is transferable to the copyediting profession.

How to Write a Book Proposal, Michael Larsen. If it doesn’t put you off by its relentless beating of the marketing drum, you’ll find beaucoup how-to’s in this tome.

Literary Marketplace, Information Today Inc. Where to sell your stuff. The website has a weekly subscription option.

Navigating the Rough Waters of Today's Publishing World: Critical Advice for Writers from Industry Insiders, Marcia Meier. Named one of the "10 great books for writers from 2010" by The Writer magazine, which notes, "This accessible, concise road map to the publishing industry offers an in-depth look at the impact of emerging technologies on publishing (in the future, Meier writes, “almost everything published will move to an online format”), as well as the important differences between fiction and nonfiction publishing. Additionally, the author covers how to work effectively with agents, maximize marketing and promotional opportunities, and get published in magazines, newspapers and online."

The Right Way to Write, Publish, and Sell Your Book: Your Guide to Successful Authorship, Patricia L. Fry. Lots of info on all aspects of writing and publishing packed into a well-organized, indexed, and easy-to-understand book.

The Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book, Dan Poynter

Write from the Start: A Proven Program for Writing and Selling Nonfiction—Even If You’ve Never Been Published Before, Cork Millner. Cork was a longtime presenter at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference and the annual Writer’s Workshop put on by Santa Barbara City College Center for Lifelong Learning (formerly Adult Ed).

Writer’s Market. The original source for any information a writer would need; love the subscription website, with submission tracker and incredible searchable market database, updated practically hourly.

Periodicals & Newsletters

Most of these print magazines have excellent companion websites. Even without purchasing a subscription, there’s a plethora of articles and information available (see, for instance, Writer’s Digest “101 Best Websites for Writers”).

The Freelancer, the magazine of the Editorial Freelancers Association. EFA members receive the magazine as a member benefit; nonmembers pay a nominal subscription cost.

Intercom, the magazine of the Society for Technical Communication. Magazine is only available to members, but there are some free articles on the website.

Poets & Writers

Romance Writers Report, the magazine of the Romance Writers of America. Available to members only.

SPAN Connection, the monthly newsletter (a mini-magazine, really) of the Small Publishers Association of North America; available to members.

The Writer

Writer’s Digest

Writers’ Journal

Websites

A miscellany of useful sites. Included are help-with-English resources like how to untangle homonyms (many of which don’t immediately leap to mind, like beaut and butte, palate, pallet, palette) and the mechanics of writing; research hubs; and writing and editing courses and workshops, some of them offered online.

Allan Cooper’s Homonyms

Bartleby.com. Search the classics of literature, nonfiction and reference free of charge. Search encyclopedia, dictionary, thesaurus, quotations, and English usage guide.

Bay Area Editors’ Forum. “The Bay Area Editors’ Forum is an association of in-house and freelance editors from a variety of publishing and publications settings. We help employers and contractors find just the right editor. We help editors strengthen their skills, contacts, and awareness of professional opportunities.”

Chicago Manual of Style Q&A. You don’t have to subscribe to browse the confounding and often entertaining questions posed to editors of CMOS (and the informative and equally entertaining answers).

Copyediting-L.   “Copyediting-L is a list for copy editors and other defenders of the English language who want to discuss anything related to editing…”

Editorial Freelancers Association. “The professional resource for editorial specialists and those who hire them.”

Getting Started in Consulting and Independent Contracting, from the Texas Tech University English Dept. website. This is about becoming an independent technical writer, but some of the information is helpful to any freelancer. Click on the chapter number (in blue) to link to the article. Not all the chapters are posted, apparently, since some links are not live.

Internet Public Library. Catalog of websites and online reference works.

Itools.com. Quick access to reference and research tools.

Little, Brown companion website. Grammar and other writing-related resources and exercises. The exercises are instant-gratification and not only “grade” your answer but explain why it’s correct (or not). You don’t need to have the book to use the website.

Metric conversion site. A really useful site for conversions.

NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. It's November in case you didn't know. Fabulous way to boot yourself into the realm of novelist in just thirty days.

NetLingo.com. Dictionary of Internet terms. It contains thousands of words and definitions that describe the online world of business, technology, and communication.

OWL, the online writing lab at Purdue University. An almost overwhelming amount of help with the mechanics of writing and the intricacies of grammar. Online and printable exercises on many English-class essentials. And it’s free.

ProfNet. "An online community of tens of thousands of professional communicators, ProfNet was created in 1992 to connect reporters easily and quickly with expert sources at no charge." Now everybody can enjoy this free resource.

San Diego Professional Editors’ Network. The info under Editorial Services is especially useful.

Santa Barbara City College CLL writing classes. Most classes are no longer "nearly free" but scholarships can be obtained. Your community probably has reasonably priced adult education courses as well. During Winter quarter, SBCC Center for Lifelong Learning (formerly "Adult Ed") presents its one-day Writing Workshop, a mini-writer’s conference.

Santa Barbara City College English classes. Have a great story, but your grammar and writing skills could stand a little work? Consider taking a college-level English or writing/composition course. SBCC classes are open to anyone over 18. Your community college probably has similar offerings. In-person and online courses are available.

Santa Barbara Writers Conference, a week-long summer conference offering workshops and lectures. For novice to advanced writers. Excellent networking opportunity as well as learning environment, packing a lot of information into one short week. Includes Agents and Editors Day, where you can meet individually with a literary agent. Many now-published writers got their start at this conference.

Small Publishers Association of North America. “As a nonprofit trade association, SPAN is dedicated to advancing the interests and expertise of independent publishers and authors through educational opportunities and discounted services.”

Society for Technical Communication. “Vision: Technical communication is recognized as an essential part of every organization’s competitive strategy. Mission: STC advances the theory and practice of technical communication across all user abilities and media so that both businesses and customers benefit from safe, appropriate, and effective use of products, information, and services.”

Taking an editing test: the devil’s in the details. By Geoff Hart. This site offers some advice for people facing a prospective employer’s editing test.

UCLA Extension writing courses. Online and in-person classes.

UCSD Extension copyediting certificate. Online copyediting classes, Grammar Lab.

What Do Editors Do? from the Bay Area Editors’ Forum. Definitions and explanations of editing processes and terminology.

What Editors (Really) Do from the people who created Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. To quote: “At the end of the day, what editors do is make writers better at what they do.” If you’ve no clue what editors (especially fiction editors) do, this article will be an eye-opener. Includes an illustration of an actual edited manuscript, marked up using Word’s Track Changes.

Writer’s Digest online courses


© 2001-2018, Catherine Viel, WriteCat Communications, Santa Barbara, CA, writecat@cox.net

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