Whether you're a beginning writer or a professional writer, all writers need to do research in order to hone their skills. If we don't do this, then we will fail in our mission to inspire and entertain readers. Using reference books not only teaches you the basics and beyond, but it also opens your mind to new possibilities.
Below, I've provided a list of reference books that I have used myself. There's plenty more that I haven't yet read. If you own or know of a good reference book and it isn't on the list, please feel free to post and I will add it to the list.
Reference Books for Poetry:
- Poetic Meter and Poetic Form by Paul Fussell
- This book is a bit older and so may not seem as interesting. However, the vast amount of information it provides is invaluable to any writer of poetry.
- Writing Metrical Poetry by William Baer
- William Baer was actually one of my writing professors when I was in college. He takes poetry very seriously, and he certainly knows the craft well. This book discusses various forms of metric poetry, including ones I had never heard of before, and metrical theory. I can't begin to describe the detail and historical content included. Baer also provides various assignments that help develop your poetic prowess. And some of them are very difficult. But if you write metrical poetry and want to be challenged, then trust me, this is the book for you.
Reference Books for Prose:
- The Plot Whisperer: Book of Writing Prompts by Martha Alderson
- This is the only book on the list that hasn't helped me with my writing. Not yet anyway. However, that's not to say it won't be helpful to you. It provides 120 writing and plot prompts that can aid in the development of ideas, characters and expression. I think it is a good book even though I haven't gotten any use out of it myself.
- Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
- This book is awesome. It's all in the title; this book is a wonderful, detailed guide to structuring and developing your story's events into one cohesive piece. It discusses what plot is, how to come up with ideas, and how to properly structure your story from beginning to end. This will work for any story, simple or complex. The book also touches on common issues writers have and how to fix them.
- Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
- This book is very detailed, and I highly recommend it for all writers. I cannot begin to describe how much this book has helped me in character creation. It touches on almost everything: character creation, character development, types of characters, story types, voices and narrative, etc. If you are serious about writing and don't already own this book, go buy it. Now.
- The Writer's Digest Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card (and the editors of Writer's Digest with an Introduction from Terry Brooks)
- I would not say this is a "must have," but this book is very interesting and can be very useful. It covers many aspects of writing science fiction and fantasy. If you don't want to buy it, I'd recommend at least reading through it once or twice.
- Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson
- Very interesting, detailed, and easy to follow. If you want to write YA fiction, I'd say give this a try.
- The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke
- Another book I'd recommend for any and all novel writers. This is a great read that touches on everything a novelist must take into consideration if they want their book published. Very helpful if you are unsure of where or how to start your book.
- What Would Your Character Do? by Eric and Ann Maisel
- This is an interesting book that provides 30 specific scenarios in which to place your character to see how they will react. But this book is more than just that. It helps you dive into your character's mind. I'm not sure what else to say about it. You'll just have to check it out for yourself. If nothing else, it's loads of fun.
- Writer's Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edelstein
- Again, it's in the title. It's a great reference for character traits, helping you to pinpoint what type of character you have and how they may react in certain situations. It's also helpful if you want to write a specific type of character but are unsure of how to go about it. Very interesting and informative.