Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 9, 2017

ASK DIANNE: How to Books

Q:  There’s a lot of free information about writing for children online. Is there any need to buy a how-to book these days?

A:  Absolutely!  The writing advice online can be confusing sometimes, or just plain hard to find the moment you need it.  (And if you’re anything like me, a scroll down Internet Lane usually ends up becoming a detour from my work at hand as I read other, off-topic items or decide to buy that thing on amazon prime or even click over to my email messages, argh!)

There ARE some classic books that I’d recommend any writer consider buying for the ‘go-to’ book shelf by your workspace.  Here they are:

  1. A dictionary. A simple truth: sometimes I just don’t know how to spell a word I’d like to use. Flipping to the dictionary is faster than googling it, in my opinion.  Plus, the dictionary entry also gives a notation of how the word evolved from its root language source, which often inspires me to use that word in a fresh way. And sometimes it can clue me in to the fact that my word choice isn’t the best one to get the point across correctly. So, using the dictionary is a handy tool to help me mprove my writing craft.
  2. A thesaurus. Yes, you CAN look online for this information. But it won’t be as quick or as targeted as using a version from Roget’s like this recent edition:  Roget’s Thesaurus of Words for Writers: Over 2,300 Emotive, Evocative, Descriptive Synonyms, Antonyms, and Related Terms Every Writer Should Know by David Olsen, Michelle Bevilacqua, Justin Cord Hayes, Robert W Bly (Adams Media, 2014)
  3. The Weekend Book Proposal: How to Write a Winning Proposal in 48 Hours and Sell Your Book by Ryan G. Van Cleave (Writers Digest Books, 2014). Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, this book will help you write a proposal for an agent or editor.  And guess what?  Even if you are committed to going to full manuscript without a contract in hand, this book will help you organize your thoughts in a way that will definitely ‘speed the plow’ as you write and prepare to market your finished project.
  4. Bullfinch’s Mythology (any edition) and The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler (any edition).  I recommend these two books because you’ll find story-telling structure here for use with fiction of any genre, for memoir writing, and creating narrative non-fiction.
  5. Writing Picture Books: A hands-on guide from story creation to publication by Ann Whitford Paul (Writers Digest Books, 2009).  You’ll find practical tips here if you are writing picture books.
  6. No Plot? No Problem! A low-stress, high-velocity guide to writing a novel in 30 days by Chris Baty (Chronicle Books, 2004). Written by the founder of National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) is a great guide to pushing through the first draft of your novel…for any age readership or genre, whether you want to do it in one month or not.
  7. The portable MFA in creative writing: improve your craft with the core essentials taught to MFA students by the New York Writers Workshop. A super collection of articles written by highly-published and respected writers on every aspect of the craft.  A great reference to use when revising, it also includes exercises that help focus and refine writing endeavors at any stage.

This is not a definitive list, but it does reflect what is sitting on my office bookshelf within arm’s reach.  These titles are those I believe would benefit most writers in a most practical way.  There’s another list I’d like to share on writing inspiration but will save it for another post.  Meanwhile, wishing you all Happy Writing! Dianne


Dianne Ochiltree is a nationally recognized author of books for the very young. Her books have appeared on numerous recommended reading lists, classroom desks and library shelves.  Her bedtime book, LULL-A-BYE, LITTLE ONE, was a selected for the Dollywood Foundation’s childhood literacy initiative, Imagination Library in 2007. Her picture book, MOLLY BY GOLLY! THE LEGEND OF MOLLY WILLIAMS AMERICA’S FIRST FEMALE FIREFIGHTER, received the Florida Book Awards (FBA) Bronze Medal in the Children’s Literature category in 2012 and was chosen for the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer list of feminist literature for girls. Her picture book, IT’S A FIREFLY NIGHT, won the FBA Silver Medal in 2013. Her 2015 title, IT’S A SEASHELL DAY, was given the FBA Gold Medal/Gwen Reichert Award as well as the Gold Medal for Florida picture book from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association. For more information about Dianne’s books, go to

Dianne, thanks for sharing your expertise with us. Another great answer.

REMEMBER: To send in your questions for Dianne. Use Kathy(dot)Temean(at) Please put ASK DIANNE in the subject box.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Great Blog! I agree, you can find a lot of great information on line but you need a couple good books on how to write. As you said the information is at your fingertips and you can reference it when the need arises.


  2. Really good advice! Thanks!


  3. Nice list! I never heard of 3, 4, 6 and 7 so definitely appreciate it, Dianne 🙂


  4. Very wonderful advice. Thanks alot


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: