Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Valentine's Day Gift Ideas (for writers)

Valentine's Day is fast approaching. Is there a special scribbler in your life? Or, more likely, you're a scribbler and you want to tell your sweetheart what gifts would warm your heart. First the don'ts. Don't send flowers. Those red roses will wither away on the desk while the writer stares at the ceiling, mumbling. Don't send chocolates. The writer, who already needs more excercise, will consume all those little goodies in one sitting, mechanically chewing while pondering difficult diction problems, such as whether to tag that dialog with "John said" or "said John." So what do writers want, besides publication credits and royalty checks? BOOKS. And I have a couple suggestions.

Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing
Consider Mignon Fogarty's Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. Drawn from her Grammar Girl podcast, this reference book is full of tips on grammar and usage to improve anyone's writing, and the extensive index makes finding answers a snap. Among others, there are chapters on punctuation, pronouns, and dirty words (the ones people habituatlly use incorrectly like lie versus lay and affect versus effect). Fogarty spells out the rules with a tongue-in-cheek style that is engaging, informative, and never boring. Your scribbler sweetheart will be forever grateful.

20 Master Plots and How to Build ThemIf your sweetheart already knows everything there is to know about grammar, consider Ronald B. Tobias's 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them. No matter what you heard in that upper-level English course on experimental meta-fiction, a story isn't much without a plot. Unfortunately, critics don't talk much about plot, at least not in the way writers want to talk about it. Tobias first discusses plot in the abstract and how plot and characters interact. He then surveys twenty different plot structures, analysing examples and suggesting what the writer should be focusing on at various points in the narrative. Many of the examples are drawn from film rather than literature. I found that annoying until I realized that films tend to be much more formulaic than books. Each plot type has a self-contained chapter. You can dip in whenever you want to refresh your memory on how a revenge story or a metamorphosis story should work.

Still uncertain about a gift? Well, if you believe that you absolutely must give a food item, consider oranges. They're healthy, not messy, and peeling can be very theraputic to a writer while staring at the ceiling and mumbling.

1 comment:

  1. My husband knows my number one request for gifts is ALWAYS books. Or a gift card with which to buy books/ebooks :).

    I love Grammar Girl, but I didn't know she had a print book. Hm....