At least in my opinion, it’s SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS, by Renni Browne and Dave King. It covers all the basics: point of view, “show, don’t tell” (where the authors actually improve on an F. Scott Fitzgerald passage), characterization, dialogue, interior monologue and more. It’s written in direct, clear prose that’s sprinkled with illustrative examples from contemporary writers. And, a bonus, it’s in paperback (2nd edition, Harper Resource: A Division of HarperCollins, 2004, ISBN 0-06-054569-0, $13.95). I try to read this book at least once a year, and every time I read it I find new things to apply to my own work.
I read it last week for 2010 and am now working on sprucing up my current work in progress, THROUGH DARK SPACES, with more attention to rhythms, voices of my characters, and closeness of point of view. It seems that, though I’ve read this material several times before, I wasn’t a mature enough writer to absorb it then. Perhaps this reading will stick and my work will be better for it. Let’s hope so. But then again, there’s always next year!
I’m just starting to shop THROUGH DARK SPACES to agents. One of these days I’ll post my query letter for your comment. But until then, please wish me luck!