Thursday, May 8, 2008

BTT: Manual labor

It's Booking Through Thursday time again.

This week's question:

Writing guides, grammar books, punctuation how-tos . . . do you read them? Not read them? How many writing books, grammar books, dictionaries–if any–do you have in your library?

I am a big fan of these types of books, and use them a lot professionally for my day job. My favourites are:
- Macquarie Dictionary
- Fowler's Use of Modern English
- Thesaurus (Rogets is still the best)
- Australian Government Style Guide (which has excellent simple explanations of grammatical rules, along with all the official style guff).

As for writing guides, a US editor many years ago recommended to me Self-editing for fiction writers by Renni Browne and Dave King (available on Amazon), and it taught me an enormous amount about the mechanics of storytelling.

It's not a "how to write" book, but rather an editing checklist, covering topics including point of view, proportion, characterisation and exposition etc. It's a fantastic tool for anyone writing fiction (and is pretty much the sort of thing manuscript assessors and editors focus on).


Megan said...

Oh I need to check out that self editing book. It sounds like it would be really helpful.

You want to know what else I have been intending to read for a while Elements of Style. None of the blogs I have visited have talked about that yet. I really should follow through with that one!

BooksPlease said...

The Self-editing book sounds really useful. I love dictionaries and get engrossed because looking up one word just leads on to more.

Chris said...

That sounds like a very useful book.

gautami tripathy said...

Great recommendations. I will check out the self-edit book!

jlshall said...

I've had the Browne/King book recommended to me by several people. It sounds interesting, but I've also heard they use "The Great Gatsby" as an example of a book that needs better editing, and I've always found that hard to accept!

I'm also a big fan of Fowler's - it should be in everyone's library.

kat said...

I love poking through dictionaries and finding new words. Then the next challenge is to see if I can use it in everyday conversation. Given the fact that we don't really use English to converse, that's quite difficult! :)

I also have this handbook for writers. I forgot its title though.

the ink-stained toe-poker said...

this blog is a must look for people looking to get published.

just thought I'd stick it up there...

Gustav said...

Dear Paula Weston

I am reading "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die" published by ABC Books and edited by Peter Boxall.

The book is a cogent summary of what makes a great novel. It also showcases the art of critiquing a great piece of art. Even great novels have there flaws.

I am also reading some of the works mentioned in the book and have recently been introduced to super novelists such as Sylvia Plath, the Bronte sisters, and Aesopus.

Gustav said...

Dear Paula Weston

Your post piqued my interest in exploring my own bookshelves searching for some of the writing guides I use to read so enthusiastically before I became a lawyer.

The best I have are excerpts from "Henry Miller on Writing" where he describes a moment most writers will recognise,offering his point of view on the writer and seeing.

"If I had been reading the face of the world with the eyes of a writer, I now read it anew with even greater intensity. Nothing was too petty to escape attention. If I went for a walk to explore as I put it - it was for the deliberate purpose of transforming myself into an enormous eye. Seeing the common, everyday things in this new light I was often transfixed. The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnified world in itself."

Gustav said...

Last one:

"Rewrite Right" by Jan Venolia. Her editing checklist on pages 12 through 15 are excellent.