Books for writers and editors
Books for writers
Books for fiction writers and editors
More books about editing fiction
Recommended reading for book clubs
Books for children's book writers and illustrators
Books and video on screenwriting, radio and video production, and documentary-making
Books for science and medical writers
Books on how to write a book proposal
Books for editors
Basic style guides
Discipline- and situation-specific style guides and dictionaries
Grammar and style guides
Dictionaries and dictionary-like references
Books on indexing
Useful books on book production and design
Self-Publishing: A basic booklist
Books on the craft of journalism
Books and articles on the craft of narrative nonfiction
Good explanations of narrative nonfiction
Classic works of narrative nonfiction
Books on the journalistic essay
• Books to help you write your own (or someone else's) life story (five booklists:)
• Memoir writing as discovery
• Memoirs, healing, and self-understanding
• The art and craft of memoir and biography
• Writing personal and family histories
• Writing from memory prompts
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BOOKS FOR WRITERS"Believe you can, or believe you can't. Either way, you're right." ~ Henry Ford
· The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present, edited with an excellent introduction by Phillip Lopate
The ASJA Guide to Freelance Writing, ed. Tim Harper for ASJA (a guide to the business, for nonfiction writers)
· Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott (inspirational, to get and keep you going)
• If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland (12 things you should do to free your imagination from anxiety, self-consciousness, and fear of failure)
Fierce on the Page: Become the Writer You Were Meant to Be and Succeed on Your Own Terms by Sage Cohen.
· Follow the Story by James B. Stewart (on narrative structure)
· Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner (the big picture on book publishing)
• Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd (also good on the author-editor relationship)
· Mark My Words: Mark Twain on Writing by Mark Twain, edited by Mark Dawidziak
· Secrets of a Freelance Writer:How to Make $100,000 a Year or More by Robert Bly (third edition), how to make big money as a commercial freelancer
· Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft, by Janet Burroway
• Literary Rivals: Feuds and Antagonisms in the World of Books by Richard Bradford. Reviewed in ‘You Stink,’ He Explained (Joseph Epstein, Commentary, 11-10-15, a deliciously malevolent who-hates-whom of feuds between authors, and aspersions cast)
• Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers by Carolyn See (stories from her own life, humor, and insights into the writing, and revising, process)\
· The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing, ed. Alice LaPlante (how writers create -- for serious writing students and teachers)
·My Words Are Gonna Linger: The Art of Personal History , ed. by Paula Stallings Yost and Pat McNees (for people who want to tell their own story)
· Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing, by Margaret Atwood
· On Writing, by Stephen King (an excellent guide; from how to write a better sentence to how to reveal character through dialogue, with great examples)
· The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life, by Amy Tan
· Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them , by Francine Prose
· Secrets of a Freelance Writer: How to Make $100,000 a Year or More by Bob Bly (now in its 3rd edition)
• Thinking Like a Designer: How to Save Money by Being a Smart Client, by Michael Brady (at least one copy editor buys this to give to his clients, so they understand the intersection between editing and design)
· The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Commercial Freelancer in Six Months or Less , by Peter Bowerman
· What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers , by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter (also useful for nonfiction)
· A Writer's Coach: An Editor's Guide to Words That Work, by Jack Hart
· Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from The New York Times, The New York Times, and John Darnton (introduction)
· Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, by Natalie Goldberg (advice, inspiration, and Zen-like wisdom)
· Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, by Janet Burroway (also useful for nonfiction)
· Writing for Story: Craft Secrets of Dramatic Nonfiction by Jon Franklin (what makes a good story and how to structure for development, even while interviewing)
· The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard (1990)
· The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work, Maria Arana, ed., (a collection from Washington Post Book World)
And -- not quite on the subject, but here are related titles of possible interest:
· The Muse that Sings: Composers Speak about the Creative Process by Ann McCutchan
· Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life by composer John Adams, best-known for Nixon in China
Books for Fiction Writers and Editors
• Afterwords: Novelists on Their Novels by Thomas McCormack.
• The Art of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis In The Creative Interpretation Of Human Motives by Lajos Egri
• The Art of the Novel by Milan Kundera
• Aspects of the Novel by E.M. Forster
• Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction by Charles Baxter
• Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing) by Orson Scott Card
• The Fiction Editor, The Novel, and the Novelist by Thomas McCormack
• The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman
• Forensic Analysis and DNA in Criminal Investigations: Including Solved Cold Cases by RJ Parker and Peter Vronsky. 400 page primer and reference on forensic techniques for front-line police officers, criminal attorneys, journalists, crime authors, mystery fans, and true crime aficionados.
• From Where You Dream: The Process of Writing Fiction by Robert Olen Butler (ed. Janet Burroway)
• Hooked: Write Fiction That Grabs Readers at Page One & Never Lets Them Go by Les Edgerton
• How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey (especially the chapter on dialogue)
• Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft by Janet Burroway
• Narrative Design: Working with Imagination, Craft, and Form by Madison Smartt Bell
• Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing by Margaret Atwood
• No More Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing a Manuscript that Sells by Alice Orr (more useful than its gimmicky title suggests)
• The Novel and Short Story Writers Market by Lauren Mosko
• 101 Best Beginnings Every Written: A Romp Through Literary Openings For Writers And Readers by Barnaby Conrad
• 101 Best Scenes Ever Written by Barnaby Conrad
• On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner
• On Writing by Stephen King
• The Passionate, Accurate Story by Carol Bly
• Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
• Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction (2nd edition) by Patricia Highsmith
• Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative by Peter Brooks
• Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print (2nd ed.) by Renni Browne and Dave King
• Six Walks in the Fictional Woods, essays by Umberto Eco, author of The Name of the Rose
• So, Is It Done? Navigating the Revision Process, hosted by Janet Burroway (DVD)
• Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K. Le Guin.
Was Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew.
• Stein on Writing by Sol Stein (subtitle: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies). Romance writer Suzie Quint's review gives examples of how Stein explains "show, not tell" and other fictional techniques that nonfiction writers can also use to good effect.
• Story Structure: The Key to Successful Fiction by William Bernhardt
• Techniques for the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain. How to write dramatic fiction that will engage the reader.
• This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Moseley (for novice writers)
• Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft (10th edition) by Janet Burroway. One of the best.
• Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide from New York's Acclaimed Creative Writing School by the Gotham Writers' Workshop.
• Writing the Breakout Novel and Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass (how to create "a powerful sense of time and place, larger-than-life characters, a high degree of tension, good subplots, and universal themes," elements needed to take a novel to the bestseller list). See also the novelist-turned-agent's The Fire in Fiction: Passion, Purpose and Techniques to Make Your Novel Great
• Writing Romance Fiction for Love and Money by Helene Schellenberg Barnhart
• Your First Page: First Pages and What They Tell Us about the Pages that Follow Them by Peter Selgin (revised workshop and classroom edition). Free shipping if purchased directly from the publisher. You can also read individual pieces archived on Jane Friedman's website.
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Books for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators The children's book departments in book publishing operate differently from the adult trade editorial departments, and there are agents who specialize in children's literature. Check the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators to learn how that special subworld of publishing works. To start, you might check out
• Top 10 FAQs about children's book publishing (SCBWI)
• From Keyboard to Printed Page (SCBWI, PDF, free)
• Types of Publishers (SCBWI, on its Just Getting Started page
• From the Editor's Desk (Beverly Horowitz, answering questions most often asked by writers of books for young readers)
Listed below are several books on the subject. Kindle editions are available for some. You can learn a lot about the books from the Amazon reviews, including the negative reviews, by clicking on links below. I get a small commission if you buy a book after clicking on my link (even if it's not the book you first clicked on):
• Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children's Books by Uri Shulevitz
• Writing Children's Books For Dummies by Lisa Rojany Buccieri and Peter Economy
• Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children's Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career by Nancy I. Sander
• The Business of Writing for Children: An Award-Winning Author's Tips on Writing Children's Books and Publishing Them, or How to Write, Publish, and Promote a Book for Kids by Aaron Shepard
• The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children (Write for kids library) by Nancy Lamb
• Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul.
BOOKS FOR EDITORS:
• AP Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law (an essential style guide for magazine and newspaper writing and editing, but absolutely not okay for editing books)
• The Art of Literary Publishing: Editors on Their Craft by Bill Henderson
• Book Business: Publishing Past, Present, and Future by Jason Epstein (based on series of lectures he gave at the N.Y. Public Library in 1999)
• The Business of Books: How the International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read by Jason Epstein (a reality check for the idealistic)
• The Chicago Manual of Style by University of Chicago Press Staff (16th edition comes out August 2010: the style bible for books, geared to professional and academic authors; if you have the budget, you might also want Words Into Type)
• Chicago Manual of Style (CD-ROM for Windows). You can also subscribe to the online edition.
• The Copyeditor's Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications by Amy Einsohn (with exercises and useful answer key)
• Developmental Editing: A Handbook for Freelancers, Authors, and Publishers by Scott Norton
• Editing by Design by Jan V. White (well illustrated book on graphic design through which even wordsmiths can learn the value of white space etc.)
• Editing Fact and Fiction by Leslie T. Sharpe, Irene Gunther, and Richard Marek (an overview of the roles of various types of editors in the publishing process)
• The Editor-in-Chief: A Management Guide for Magazine Editors by Benton Rain Patterson and Coleman E. P. Patterson (have not reviewed this one)
• Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know About What Editors Do, by Gerald C. Gross (these essays by various editors in book publishing explain how the book publishing business works and what various types of editors do)
• Edit Yourself, by Bruce Ross-Larson (how to edit bureaucratic flab into clearer, crisper, and more effective sentences); Bruce also has a series of workbooks for writing courses at the World Bank and similar organizations
• The Fiction Editor, The Novel, and the Novelist, by Thomas McCormack
• The Fine Art of Copy Editing by Elsie Myers Stainton
• The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner
• Garner's Modern American Usage by Bryan A. Garner (the very best guide to word usage, for such things as the difference between "historic" and "historical" -- an invaluable tool for wordsmiths)
• Handbook of Writing for the Mathematical Sciences by Nicholas J. Higham
• Indexing Books by Nancy C. Mulvany (this plus chapter 17 of the Chicago Style Manual are what the USDA course on indexing assigns)
• Levels of Technical Editing, by David E. Nadziejka (Council of Biology Editors)
• Line by Line: How to Edit Your Own Writing by Claire Kerhwald Cook (line by line examples of how copyeditors fix sentences)
• Mark My Words: Instruction and Practice in Proofreading by Peggy Smith (exercises and answer keys help readers learn skills step by step)
• Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg (Perkins edited F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe, among others)
• The NY Times Manual of Style and Usage by Allan M. Siegal (an A to Z reference guide)
• Recipes Into Type: A Handbook for Cookbook Writers and Editors by Joan Whitman and Dolores Simon
• Selected Takes: Film Editors on Editing by Vincent LoBrutto
• Side by Side: Five Favorite Picture Book Teams Go to Work , by Leonard S. Marcus
• Stet: Tricks of the Trade for Writers and Editors by Bruce O. Boston (for Editorial Eye)
• Stet Again: More Tricks of the Trade for Publications People, from the Editorial Eye
• Style: Toward Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams (deeply understand the structure of a sentence and paragraph)
Substance & Style: Instruction and Practice in Copyediting (Mary Stoughton, for Editorial Experts). A workbook.
• Technical Editing, by Carolyn D. Rude
• Technical Editing, by Judith A. Tarutz
• The Time of Their Lives: The Golden Age of Great American Book Publishers by Al Silverman (a wonderful read)
• Words into Type (3rd Edition) by Marjorie E. Skillin (better organized that the Chicago Style Manual, and very useful for explaining the process of book editing and production, though way behind the times on technological changes)
· The ACS Style Guide: Effective Communication of Scientific Information, 3rd edition, ed. Anne M. Coghill and Lorrin R. Garson (American Chemical Society)
· AMA Style Guide (American Medical Association Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors, 10th Edition) and now also available online, by subscription. Check out Frequently asked questions about the style guide.
· APA Style Guide (Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 5th Edition), used in psychology and the social sciences. (The 6th edition seems geared to needs of students, for essays, and academics, for theses, and its first printing is full of errors, so get the second printing. The 5th edition may be better suited to professional editors in book and journal publishing, report some editors.)
· Apple Style Guide (excellent free style guide for software documentation and other technical writing) pdf format
· CBE Manual, Scientific Style and Format: The CBE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, Council of Biology Editors
· The COPS Office Editorial Style Manual (Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Dept. of Justice)
· A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage by Bryan Garner (essential for law students)
· The Economist Style Guide
· The Elements of Legal Style by Bryan A. Garner
· Global English Style Guide: Writing Clear, Translatable Documentation for a Global Market, by John R. Kohl
· Handbook of Writing for the Mathematical Sciences, published by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics; helpful on math typography and style questions
· IEEE Computer Society Style Guide, online
· MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th edition, 3-09, for academic writing in English and the humanities -- no longer requires URLs for Web citations, and print is no longer primary format)
· Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications, explains a convention, then lists correct and incorrect examples of it
· Numbers Guide: The Essentials of Business Numeracy by Richard Stutely
· The Oxford Style Manual (combines The Oxford Guide to Style, The Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors, the new Hart's Rules, and a list of 500 American words and their British equivalents)
• Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association , but also take a look at APA the Easy Way, which reduces the anguish of dealing with the APA style manual.
· Read Me First! A Style Guide for the Computer Industry, from Sun Technical Publications
· Recipes Into Type: A Handbook for Cookbook Writers and Editors
by Joan Whitman and Dolores Simon
· Turabian (as it is called) (A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 7th Edition: Chicago Style for Students and Researchers, ed. Kate L. Turabian, Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, University of Chicago Press
· Wikipedia Manual of Style
CONSIDER ALSO, FOR THE FULLER LIBRARY:
· Mathematics into Type, updated, by Ellen Swanson, Arlene O'Sean, Antoinette Schleyer (American Mathematical Society)
· Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style, by Virginia Tufte
· Style: Toward Clarity and Grace, by Joseph M. Williams (on the internal logic of effective writing)
Wendalyn Nichols of Copyediting Newsletter (note that the publication has made "copyediting" one word now) turns to dictionaries for people learning English to find the proper collocation for prepositions--words that "go with" other words, that co-locate in identifiable patterns. Her example: "X is a comfort to Y" is correct, and "X is a comfort for Y" is not, but sometimes what "sounds right" will be different for Brits and for Americans. The books she refers to when checking out collocators can often be found where ESL (English as a second language) is taught:
· The Cambridge Dictionary of American English
· The Longman Advanced Dictionary of American English
· The Macmillan English Dictionary
· The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary
Books on Indexing
• The Art of Indexing, by Larry Bonura
• Beyond Book Indexing, edited by Marilyn Rowland and Diane Brenner
• Indexes: A Chapter from The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th Edition
• Indexing: A Nuts-and-Bolts Guide for Technical Writers, by Kurt Ament
• **Indexing Books, by Nancy C. Mulvany
• An Indexer’s Guide to the Internet, by Lori Lathrop
• The Indexing Companion (Website Indexing), by Glenda Browne and Jon Jermey
Books on Design
• Brady, Michael. Thinking Like a Designer: How to Save Money by Being a Smart Client
• Bringhurst, Robert. The Elements of Typographic Style
• Hendel, Richard. On Book Design
• Lee, Marshall. Bookmaking: Editing, Design, Production, 3d edition
• Lupton, Ellen, and Abbott Miller. Thinking with Type: A Primer for Designers: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students. See Ellen Lupton's website
• Tufte, Edward. Envisioning Information and The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. See Edward Tufte's website, including PowerPoint Does Rocket Science--and Better Techniques for Technical Reports.
How to write your own (or someone else's) life story
(five book lists)
• Memoir writing as discovery
• Memoirs, healing, and self-understanding
• The art and craft of memoir and biography
• Writing personal and family histories
• Writing from memory prompts
Memoir Writing As Discovery
• Shimmering Images: A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoir by Lisa Dale Norton. A slim, well-written book focused on the slice-of-life memoir. Norton encourages you to find "memory pictures," find your voice and the heart of your story, identify one potent period of your life, and “explore it through vivid imagery, honest voice, stunning compassion, and a deep awareness of the larger issues at play that guide your story in a subliminal way—myth, metaphor, and current issues of the day.”
• Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives Through the Power and Practice of Story by Christina Baldwin. Says Baldwin (whose workshops are inspirational): “Our life story is our constant companion, the litany that guides our every move and thought. So we need to make our lives a story we can live with, because we live the life our story makes possible.” She encourages storytelling to build community, webs of connection, bridges to understanding, using the “voice of story” to call us to remember our true selves.
• White Gloves: How We Create Ourselves Through Memory by John Kotre. Interesting insights--for example, "what we believe we accurately remember often has been reconstructed, as when an event that initially evoked fear and anger is later recalled as a hilarious adventure" (Booklist review)
• Writing from Life: Telling Your Soul’s Story by Susan Wittig Albert. Albert (founder of Story Circle Network) encourages women to discover their voices and grow spiritually by putting their stories into words. Her guide invites women on a voyage of self-discovery, by exploring eight thematic clusters: beginnings and birthings; achievements, gifts and glories; female bodies; loves, lovers, lovings; journeys and journeying; homes and homings; visits to the Valley of Shadows; and experiences of community. She also explains how to form women’s Story Circles.
• Writing Life Stories: How To Make Memories Into Memoirs, Ideas Into Essays And Life Into Literature by Bill Roorbach. Intelligent commentary and exercises to help you access memories and emotions, shape scenes, develop plot lines, populate life story with "characters," and bring depth to your memoir or personal essay.
• Writing Your Life: A Journey of Discovery by Patti Miller. A helpful companion for structuring book-length life writing, with wise counsel on remembering (and selective memory), emotional healing, finding one's voice, choosing details, creating drama, and imposing structure. Australian writer, but the book seems easily available online. By the same author: The Memoir Book, which one writing student said was exactly what she needed to get going on her memoirs.
• Your Life as Story: Discovering the "New Autobiography" and Writing Memoir as Literature by Tristine Rainer. This highly recommended guide, full of exercises, asks you to think about your life and about how best to write a life story. Some object to her de-emphasis on historical accuracy, but many praise her for her handling of such topics as story structure (how best to organize the story of your life), how to handle the passage of time, and the ethical problems of writing about family and friends.
• Another Morning: Voices of Truth and Hope from Mothers with Cancer by Linda Blachman. A book for parents challenged by serious illness, to help and inspire them to leave stories and messages for the children who will survive them.
• The Beneficial Effects of Life Story and Legacy Activities by Pat McNees (Journal of Geriatric Care Management, Spring 2009). Get PDF file of journal article here (61.9KB)
• Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir by Sue Williams Silverman. In addition to covering traditional writing topics well, Silverman encourages writers to transform their life story into words that matter. She advocates finding the courage to speak truth about issues on which others might prefer silence. Her own confessional memoirs are about incest (Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You) and sexual addiction (Love Sick).
• The Healing Art of Storytelling by Richard Stone. This classic and insight-provoking guide to finding coherent narratives in our life experiences, recently out of print, is now available again. Not about memoir but about understanding the storylines of our lives.
• Living to Tell the Tale: A Guide to Writing Memoir by Jane Taylor McDonnell. In this little book, McDonnell focuses here on how to write "crisis memoirs," finding "our own meaningfulness, even in the midst of sadness and disappointment." In addition to teaching a related college course ("Witness Narratives: Memoirs of Survival," she has written about life with her autistic son and about her own problems with alcoholism.
• Narrative Medicine by Rita Charon. The idea behind the field of narrative medicine, which Charon helped create, is that the doctor's job is to listen and by hearing the patient's story to know the patient more fully than numbers on a chart can convey. You'll find more resources on narrative medicine here, including books by Arthur Kleinman, Lewis Mehl-Madrona, and Arthur Frank.
• The Power of Memoir: How to Write Your Healing Story by Linda Joy Myers. Step-by-step memoir writing, with healing from emotional pain as a goal; full of interesting psychological insights.
• The Story of Your Life: Becoming the Author of Your Experience by Mandy Aftel. Geared more to self-understanding than to memoir writing, this book is still useful for life writing. Focusing on what Aftel calls the three major life plots (love, mastery, and loss), she provokes reflection on things like How Money Complicates the Love Plot, How Children Complicate the Marriage Subplot, and How Escape Complicates the Mastery Plot.
Writing and Healing: “The Best Therapy I’ve Had” (Sharon Lippincott's article about how a memoir writing class helped recovery from a brain injury, Women's Memoirs 6-26-11)
• Writing as a Way of Healing: How Telling Our Stories Transforms Our Lives by Louise DeSalvo. Cautioning that writing is no substitute for medical care, DeSalvo (who wrote about her own pain, anxiety, and depression in Vertigo: A Memoir) recommends writing five pages a week, uncensored, in spare moments, reporting every detail, to speed healing -- and sharing with other empathetic writers, to sharpen narrative. She refers often to James W. Pennebaker's Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, based on his 10 years of clinical research. "Dr. Pennebaker has demonstrated that expressing emotions appears to protect the body against damaging internal stresses and seems to have long-term health benefit," wrote Daniel Goleman, in the NY Times.
• Memoirs of illness, crisis, disability, differentness, and survival (a reading list)
The Art and Craft of Memoir and Biography (a booklist)
• The Art of Time in Memoir (Then, Again) by Sven Birkerts. The great memoirists often break the rules, especially about mixing present and past tense. “Apart from whatever painful or disturbing events they recount, their deeper ulterior purpose is to discover the nonsequential connections that allow those experiences to make larger sense; they are about circumstance becoming meaningful when seen from a certain remove.”
• The Dead Beat: Lost Souls, Lucky Stiffs, and the Perverse Pleasures of Obituaries by Marilyn Johnson. A delightful account of how those final stories get told.
• The Impossible Craft: Literary Biography by Scott Donaldson ((Penn State Series on the History of the Book)
• Extraordinary Lives: The Art and Craft of American Biography ed. William Zinsser. Thoughtful talks (and biography shop talk) by Robert A. Caro, David McCullough, Paul C. Nagel, Richard B. Sewall, Ronald Steel, and Jean Strouse.
• I Could Tell You Stories: Sojourns in the Land of Memory by Patricia Hampl. Explores the act of memoir-making, the tension between memory and forgetting (inventiveness as part of the search for emotional truth), the art of storytelling, and the value of the first draft, as a mystery dropping clues about the narrator's feelings.
• Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir , ed. William Zinsser. Excellent talks by Russell Baker, Annie Dillard, Alfred Kazin, Toni Morrison, and Lewis Thomas.
• Naked, Drunk, and Writing: Shed Your Inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay by Lara Adair. Helpful especially for memoirists who want to craft personal essays--by a popular columnist and writing coach/instructor.
• Writing a Book That Makes a Difference by Philip Gerard. Though not geared to memoir-writing, Gerard presents insights and examples that could help elevate your memoir above a string of anecdotal memories.
• Writing About Your Life: A Journey into the Past by William Zinsser. Using his own story as an example, this expert on writing well shows how to be selective in choosing the stories to tell and the details to use.
• Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art by Judith Barrington. Memoir-writing basics (present vs. past tense, first vs. third person, balancing the needs for accuracy and good storytelling, etc.)
Writing Personal and Family Histories (a booklist)
These are books for people who (generally) do not see themselves as writers but want to write something about their life or their family.
• Breathe Life into Your Life Story: How to Write a Story People Will Want to Read by Dawn and Morris Thurston. Advice and examples on “showing” rather than "telling," creating credible interesting characters and settings, writing from the gut, alternating scene and narrative, and generating suspense.
• For All Time: A Complete Guide to Writing Your Family History by Charley Kempthorne. Charley’s wise, loveable, encouraging personal style and long practical experience make this a good book to give to someone you want to encourage, if only to write for the family. He makes it all seem human and doable. “The facts, or at least the important facts, of mom and dad’s marriage were not where and when it took place but what they made of it.”
• The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing: How to Transform Memories Into Meaningful Stories by Sharon Lippincott. A personal historian's "roll-up-your-sleeves" guide to writing and publishing your own (or someone else's) memoirs or autobiography.
• Keeping Family Stories Alive: Discovering and Recording the Stories and Reflections of a Lifetime by Vera Rosenbluth. Interviewing and recording techniques helpful for family histories.
• Legacy: A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Personal History by Linda Spence. A very popular guide for doing oral histories and personal and family histories, with memory prompts that encourage storytelling more than fact-finding: What were you like as a child? What did you think? What did you do? Organized by topic, from earliest memories, school life, young adulthood, marriage, children, grandchildren, through later life.
• The Legacy Guide: Capturing the Facts, Memories,and Meaning of Your Life by Carol Franco and Kent Lineback. Moving from facts to memories to meaning, this book takes you through the seven stages of life: childhood, adolescence, young adulthood (roughtly 20-30), adulthood (roughly 30-45), middle adulthood (roughly 45-60), late adulthood (roughly 60-80), elder (roughly 80 onward). Fairly sophisticated writing prompts, and examples from fine writers, invite you to recall forgotten moments and discover their significance.
• Living Legacies: How to Write, Illustrate, and Share Your Life Stories by Duane Elgin, Colleen Ledrew. Emphasizes illustrating your stories with photographs, memorabilia, and other images (including digital format).
• Start & Run a Personal History Business: Get Paid to Research Family Ancestry and Write Memoirs by Jennifer Campbell. How to make money doing something you love. Members of the Association of Personal Historians can also purchase four special toolkits for personal historians: 1) Get Your Personal History Business Up and Running; 2) The Interview: Record and Develop the Story; 3) Products and Services; 4) Marketing: APH Members Share Ideas That Work.
• Turning Memories into Memoirs: A Handbook for Writing Lifestories by Denis Ledoux. Workshop in a book, encouraging nonwriters to write their own stories, by a founding member of APH.
• You Can Write Your Family History by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, who, starting from a genealogy base, offers tips on how to bring characters and social history to life and present stories about people on the family tree.
Writing from Memory Prompts (a booklist)
Those for whom writing seems a daunting task can often respond to simple, straightforward, or inspirational memory prompts. Books featuring such prompts vary greatly in the style of prompts (from simple fact-finding questions to prompts that probe for emotional memories to prompts that liberate the imagination).
• Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg author of the popular Writing Down the Bones. Message: Put pen to paper and write as fast as you can for ten minutes, in “writing ‘sprints’ that train the hand and mind to quicken their pace and give up conscious control.” For those having trouble getting started.
• Thinking About Memoir by Abigail Thomas. A tiny volume of writing prompts which encourage writer to write brief bits, coming at your life at an angle, through the "side door," as she does in her slim, fine memoirs (A Three Dog Life (about caring for her husband after a hit-and-run accident shatters his skull) and Safekeeping: Some True Stories from a Life show how vignettes and snippets artfully arranged can convey the arc of a changing relationship, or relationships.
• To Our Children's Children: Preserving Family Histories for Generations to Come by Bob Greene. A small book of writing prompts for oral or written family histories -- one of the first of its kind.
• Writing Your Life: An Easy-to-Follow Guide to Writing an Autobiography by Mary Borg. A slim, spiral-bound, illustrated, easy-to-maneuver workbook (good for senior centers) with questions and memory joggers to tease out a life story, and excerpts from real autobiographies.
• You Are Next In Line: Everyone's Guide for Writing Your Autobiography by Armiger Jagoe. A slim, simple do-it-yourself guide with brief extracts from famous life stories to illustrate certain themes: In the Beginning, Family Affairs, First Home, Early Years, Grown Up, Adult Life, Special People, Humor, Important Events and Life Passages.