Things were getting out of hand with listing the links at the top of each post for the previous posts, so I've moved them to the bottom. Don't worry, they're still there.
When I started this, I never thought I'd reach this many posts on tips for self-editing, but here's Part 10: Editing and Writing Reference Books
This was a logical progression. After all, I use editing references when I'm editing and when I'm writing, and I thought that since there are so many out there that you guys would appreciate a look at what I use.
Is this the be-all-end-all of writing/editing guides? Hardly. I find new ones occasionally, but these are the books I keep going back to. And if you have suggestions or have a favorite one you use, I'd love to hear about it! Post in the comments to share with everyone.
Here I've picked my five favorites, and I'll nutshell them for you in terms of what I like and what I don't. Easy peasy. I haven't provided links because they're all easy to find. I'd suggest Amazon or half.com and buying used...you're likely just going to mark them up anyway with all your own notes.
1) The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition
Why do I look so "meh" in this picture? Because this book, while extremely comprehensive in terms of what it includes, extremely detailed, extremely large, and extremely useful, is also an extremely big pain in the ass. Have I mentioned it's extreme?
If you don't know exactly where to look for the information you want, and it's not readily visible in the index at the back, finding what you want is a nightmare. I often have to ask someone who has used it longer than I have where to find something in it--which often includes me asking them the question I was trying to find in the book in the first place because it's faster. Then again, I have a bunch of lovely editor friends to irritate with these questions, so you may not have that luxury. Also visible in the picture are some of the (many) sticky-note tabs I've marked pages and sections with so I don't have to go through the whole needle-in-a-haystack process again when I need the same info in the future. If you buy this with other editing books, you'll get a lot of use out of it, though likely as a definitive answer for more obscure grammar rules. Don't forget, I get paid to use this thing (this is the book the publisher I edit for uses as a reference), and my need for it will likely be greater than your average writer, though it might be worth a purchase anyway.
2) Painless Grammar by Rebecca Elliott, Ph.D.
Plus, bonus points for the cat on the cover.
3) The Elements of Style (fourth edition) by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White
Yes, this E.B. White is the same guy that wrote Charlotte's Web, the book that reduced me to tears with every childhood re-read. Thankfully, his and Strunk's writing style guide doesn't have the same reaction.
First of all, this book was recommended to me by Stephen King--sadly not personally, but through book #4 which I'll discuss in a bit. If it was good enough for one of the most successful authors of modern times, it was good enough for me. Strunk & White's book is short--the main part clocks in around 85 pages, not including the glossary at the end. The breakdown includes Elementary Rules of Usage (including colons, dashes, apostrophes, etc.), Elementary Principles of Composition (including paragraphs, active voice, tenses, etc.), A Few Matters of Form, Words and Expressions Commonly Misused, An Approach to Style (including revising and rewriting, placing yourself in the background, not overwriting, over-explaining, or overstating, etc.), and the glossary at the back. There's a lot--and I mean a LOT--of direct, simple, straightforward information packed into this little book. It's perfect for transporting, and, stacked up, about 6 or 7 will fit in my CMoS--I measured.
Again, this is the style guide Stephen King recommends, and with good reason.
4) On Writing by Stephen King
The book I'm enthusiastically pointing to is one of the best writing guides--which, oddly, isn't exactly that, nor is it a memoir or autobiography. The cover calls it "a memoir of the craft" and includes plenty of anecdotal stories by King about how he began writing in his youth, and the experiences that shaped his writing and his writing style. But it's not all about him--he talks about what worked for him, and what doesn't or didn't, and doesn't bullshit or coddle the reader into thinking anything other than hard work and the labor of love will get you success...and maybe not even then. I can't explain what exactly is so good about this book, but I couldn't put it down once I began reading it. I can't recommend this book enough for any writer, no matter what genre. Everyone will take away something different from this book. Buy it...but finish reading this blog post first.
5) Indie Author Survival Guide by Susan Kaye Quinn
Sorry guys, no picture for this one. I have the ebook version, which I bought before it was available in paperback (which it currently is, though obviously the links within the book won't work in paper form unless you know something about books that I don't).
If you're even considering self-pubbing--maybe you're a beginning author and don't want a publisher; maybe you're a prolific author with a long back-list you've gotten the rights back to and want to self-pub; maybe you have a few traditionally published books but want to be well-rounded--whatever your reason, this book is a must-read for writers.
SKQ is a friend of mine (I guess you could call that a disclosure, though I'm certainly not receiving payment for this blog post or anything else), and she's been self-published before it was really a thing writers did. She's had a lot of time for trial and error, and has found things that have worked well for her and things that haven't, as well as things that did work but no longer do, and vice versa. She addresses the changing face of self-pubbing and most every aspect you might, as a prospective self-publisher, have questions about. SKQ has always been up front and eager to help writers, no matter what stage they're at, through her blog, and this book is an extremely organized (and updated) collection of her blog posts.
As I said, if self-publishing is even remotely on your radar, buy this. I've recommended it to many author-friends who have had nothing but good things to say about it.
That rounds up my favorite writing and editing guides (for now, at least)! Tell me in the comments what your favorite go-to reference is. I'm always looking for new ones!
Other posts in this series:
Part 1: Look it up!
Part 2: Read it out loud.
Part 3: Have someone who knows what they're doing read it.
Part 4: Consistency, consistency, consistency!
Part 5: Dialogue tag...you're NOT it!
Part 6: Pick the right word to say what you mean.
Part 7: Adverbs--Kill it with fire!
Part 8: Editors Aren't Perfect
Part 9: Frequently Seen Errors (FSEs)
Part 9.5: FSEs Pt.2