Recently I was asked how I learned to write. I jokingly replied, “In grade school.” Seriously though, it did start in grade school. My first short story I wrote in fifth grade. I still have it. It was called ‘The Monster In The Alley’. It had suspense, mystery, lots of showing and not telling and a twist at the end. Okay, it wasn’t all that great, but it had potential and it did have all of the above, just not very well written.
I did taking composition in high school. And I was an English major in college. However, I’ve never had any real writing ‘instruction’. So how did I learn? The best teachers were other authors. From when I could read to this very day, I’m a voracious reader. I read everything. No, I’m not kidding. If it keeps my attention, I read it. Any genre, fiction or non-fiction.
And included in that reading, I read every writing book I could get my hands on. Not genre specific either. I literally read every writing book in the Boise Library system. (I don’t live in the area anymore but they have an excellent selection.) I also began buying those books that I found particularly helpful. I studied, and restudied them. To this day I usually reread them about once a year or so.
So today I’ve listed the best of my book shelf here for you. These aren’t all of them and they aren’t my genre specific writing books.
First there is a series that I love. Elements of Fiction Writing by Writer’s Digest
Plot by Ansen Dibell
Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress
Conflict and Suspense by James Scott Bell
Scene & Structure by Jack M. Bickham
Description by Monica Wood
Characters & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
The Comic Toolbox by John Vorhaus
The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
Teach Yourself Body Language by Gordon R Wainwright
The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go by Les
The Chicago Manual of Style by University of Chicago Press Staff
That’s just one shelf. I have a whole shelf of just mystery writing and reference books to help with writing mysteries. I also have a number of books for inspiration from other writers; the best one by Stephen King, On Writing.
So there, you have a glimpse of my book shelf.
Angela Abderhalden is the author of the Mel Addison Mystery Series and Acquiring Editor for Seventh Wave Books, LLC