Recommended Reference Books

Renni Browne—Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King

This is the first book I recommend to every writer. It will be the best ten dollars you’ve ever spent on writing—I promise.

Janice Hardy—Understanding Show, Don't Tell

Understanding Show, Don’t Tell: (And Really Getting It) by Janice Hardy

Showing vs. Telling is a huge topic, and it’s hard to get a handle on. Janice Hardy breaks it down with some great examples that are eye-opening.

Alicia Rasley—The Power of Point of View

The Power of Point of View: Make Your Story Come to Life by Alicia Rasley

There’s no “right” point of view—it depends on your story. But there are tricks to every point of view to make the story more immersive, more engaging, and Alicia Rasley covers them beautifully.

Beth Hill—Magic of Fiction

The Magic of Fiction: Crafting Words into Story: The Writer’s Guide to Writing & Editing by Beth Hill

This is a collection of articles and essays from the author’s website, gathered together and organized by topic.

Larry Brooks—"Gone Girl" - A Model of Modern Story Structure: A Tutorial

“Gone Girl” – A Model of Modern Story Structure: A Tutorial by Larry Brooks

I’m a huge fan of Larry Brooks. He’s a genius when it comes to explaining story structure. If you’d rather take a look at The Martian, you can check that out on his website at

James Scott Bell—Revision and Self-Editing

Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell

An in-depth guide to self-editing.

Anne Victory—How to Polish Your Manuscript in 10 Days

How to Polish Your Manuscript in 10 Days by Anne Victory

My own contribution to the topic of self-editing, this is designed to be an overview of how to self-edit your story. It’s quick and you should be able to finish it in a day, but I guarantee it will improve your writing. 🙂

Libbie Hawker—Take Off Your Pants

Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing by Libbie Hawker

This book is written for both plotters and pantsers and will drastically speed up your writing time.

June Casagrande—It Was the Best of Sentences

It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences: A Writer’s Guide to Crafting Killer Sentences by June Casagrande

This is a deep look into crafting effective sentences, from specific wording to cutting out parts that don’t serve your purpose. She also covers such scintillating topics as adverbs, passive voice, and more. 

Chicago Manual of Style

The Chicago Manual of Style

This is pretty much the go-to for style guides in American novels and is the industry standard. It’s also available as a subscription online ( Much like a dictionary, it’s not meant to be read from cover to cover—thank God, because it’s over a thousand pages! Rather, it’s best to learn how to navigate it and then refer to it as needed. I recommend getting the physical copy for browsing and then also subscribing to the online version for reference.

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary

Merriam-Webster is the dictionary prescribed by Chicago and thus is pretty much the industry standard. However, I’d suggest subscribing to this. The online version is regularly updated and also includes the Unabridged dictionary as well as the medical, Spanish, and French dictionaries. Also included is the thesaurus. You can access the website here:

New Oxford Style Manual

New Oxford Style Manual

This is the British English style guide, similar to Chicago but covering British English rather than American.

Christopher T. Leland—Creative Writer's Style Guide

Creative Writer’s Style Guide: Rules and Advice for Writing Fiction and Creative Nonfiction by Christopher T. Leland

One of the shortcomings of The Chicago Manual of Style is that it covers all books, from textbooks to nonfiction as well as fiction. That means that some of its conventions aren’t well suited to fiction and that some issues aren’t covered at all. The Creative Writer’s Style Guide steps in and fills some of those gaps.

June Casagrande—Best Punctuation Book Period

The Best Punctuation Book, Period: A Comprehensive Guide for Every Writer, Editor, Student, and Businessperson by June Casagrande

This is a great little resource that shows how the various style guides recommend punctuating items. Includes examples and has side-by-side comparisons of how each style guide handles punctuation.

Strunk and White—The Elements of Style

The Elements of Style by Strunk & White

A classic in writing reference books. Some of the information is outdated, but there are still a lot of great nuggets in this little book.

Grammar Desk Reference

Writer’s Digest Grammar Desk Reference

This is one of the best straight-up grammar guides I’ve found that’s not an actual textbook. Highly recommend it.

Garners Modern English Usage

Garner’s Modern English Usage

For the true word nerds, Garner’s is a great resource. However, Chicago has a usage section (from GMEU) that covers the most common issues (shined or shone, nauseous or nauseated, for instance), so unless you’re fascinated by the English language (raises hand), you can probably pass on this one.

Paul Brians—Common Errors in English Usage

Common Errors in English Usage by Paul Brians

Unlike Garner’s Modern American Usage, Paul Brians’s usage guide covers some of the issues authors run across on a day-to-day basis: Is it set foot or step foot? Callous or callus? This is a fantastic resource that I highly recommend. There’s an accompanying website that I use regularly when I need to reference something (, but I also bought the book purely to support the author.

Patricia O'Conner—Woe Is I

Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English by Patricia O’Conner

This is one of my favorite grammar books. It covers some of the more common issues we run into every day, but the style is informal and interesting as opposed to the dryness you sometime run across with grammar books.

June Casagrande—Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies

Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies by June Casagrande

I’m a huge fan of June Casagrande, and I love reading humorous books on language and grammar. This one checks all the boxes.

June Casagrande—Mortal Syntax

Mortal Syntax by June Casagrande

More grammar and writing humor from June Casagrande.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.