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Sometimes we think of resources only in practical terms, but resources can be purely inspirational as well. Of course, there are instances where a single resource can be both practical and inspiring. Such is the case with each of the following resources.

Susan Bell

The Artful Edit:

On the Practice of Editing Yourself

Recommended for writers at the beginner and intermediate levels.

The resources listed on this page are not necessarily ranked in order of preference—except for this one. Bell's book is listed first here because I found it to be both an encouraging and healing balm and a particularly useful how-to book on self-editing.


A stand-out for me is Bell's uncannily apt articulation of the writer's psyche, which she wisely places in the introduction. I know of no one who has more adroitly described my own experience of the writer's calling and its challenges, and I found her words convincingly encouraging, even healing. To this salve Bell adds another helpful layer by providing solid how-to advice for advancing one's craft as a writer via self-editing. Thus, Bell deftly performs double-duty in helping you to feel inspired and understood while also providing practical how-to guidance and skill-building.


Finally, listing this book about writers editing their own work might seem like I am carrying out professional suicide. Yes, I believe that writers can and should edit their own work. However, even writers who are superb self-editors will still need the services of an editor.  No matter how good we may be as self-editors, there is no substituting the "third eye."

Noah Lukeman

The First Five Pages:

A Writer's Guide for Staying Out of the Rejection Pile

Recommended for writers at the beginner and intermediate levels.

I am generally wary of books about "how to create a better story" that place too much emphasis on formulas. To create that better story, it is essential that a writer first open up to his or her most salient inner truths, and this is a deeply personal process that is inherently incompatible with a formulaic approach. One has to find one's own way and one's own voice, and a formulaic approach can too easily squelch that process.

At first glance, then, The First Five Pages does not seem like a good candidate for my list, with its title that suggests it is just another formulaic book about "creating a better story." It is not.

From the very first page, Lukeman convincingly separates his approach from those that promote a formula. Lukeman has a lengthy resume in the world of publishing, and his perspective and articulation of the issues are richly sound. Most writers at the beginner and intermediate levels will find in this book a highly useful and trustworthy ally in the drive to tell one's story to a wider audience.

Bryan A. Garner

Garner's Modern English Usage

Recommended for writers at all experience levels.

Bryan Garner's enduring reference work is deserving of its standing as a classic. I may not always agree with Garner's positions on linguistics, but he certainly inspires me to do well by our native tongue. Some have called this fourth edition of Garner's voluminous work on grammar and usage "magisterial," perhaps intending to suggest both the positive and negative connotations of the word; nevertheless, it is a treasure. Garner has assembled an authoritative (he is moderately prescriptivist) and exhaustive work, particularly on issues of usage. Through handy, entertaining, and adroitly served mini-essays, this work proves itself to be an invaluable resource on many issues of usage, such as when you are trying to clearly comprehend the difference between two commonly confused words, but the dictionary and thesaurus offer too little information to sufficiently clarify the matter—think the difference between compose and comprise, convince and persuade, flaunt and flout, imply and infer, and at least a thousand more.


In addition to the handy and excellent mini-essays on usage, Garner provides very useful information on grammar for the non-linguist. And, lastly, Garner's two articles on "the language wars" are both enlightening and memorably engaging.