book reviews

2 More How-to-Write Books

Here are two more how-to-write books for your professional library:

  1. Crafting Story — Just starting out? Ready to be inspired? Read on…
  2. The Writer’s Lexicon  — great resource to inspire creative thinking

Crafting Story: A Guide for the Emerging Writer

by Kate Johnston


Kate Johnston starts Crafting Story: A Guide for the Emerging Writer (2015) by telling us her own personal story of writing–how she first wrote inspired stories, lost her way for a while, and then found the passion again as an adult. She wraps this introduction up with a pledge readers can sign accepting that they are in fact a writer–not because their published work sits in bookstores but because it’s their essence and passion.

“I am Writer. Watch me charge.”

Throughout the book, Johnston includes active hands-on suggestions like start a journal, join a writers group, and learn something new about writing. She differentiates between an exploratory writer and an intentional one and then itemizes how to find your writing forces:

“Natural writing forces exist in everyone…”

…how to arm yourself well for a writer’s life:

“I never once dreamed of writing at four in the morning. It just turned out that way.”

…how to find your writing team.

“…the well-armed writer…”

…and then covers writing basics like POV, genre, and characters that both emerging and emerged writers need. Each chapter ends with mini practice sessions, reviewing the goal of the chapter and reinforcing concepts.

Some of my favorite quotes are:

“The bad habits ranged from a disorganized desk to debilitating self-criticism.”

“To call myself a writer was going too far. Like overshooting the moon and getting lost in a galaxy where I didn’t belong.”

“We need to be a little more careful in the assumption that all writers want to be published…”

“A writer is a writer when she devotes time, attention, and passion to the written word.”


Overall this is a hands on how-to for uncovering the writer inside and then what to do about that person. It is highly recommended for those who feel the burn and want to pursue it.

This is Book One of a five-book how-to-write series (called Crafting Story) on how to make writing a successful part of your life. It includes guides for not only the emerging writer but the Productive Writer, the Confident Writer, and the Strategic Writer. The series also includes critical storytelling skills like Story Mapping and Mindful Goal-scoring.

writing booksThe Writer’s Lexicon: Descriptions, Overused Words, and Taboos

by Kathy Steinemann


I devour synonyms, find myself staring into space as I consider whether my characters dragged, hauled, or lugged a box. I often jot down a clever description I read that allowed me to clearly visualize what the author meant. Readers of my blog, WordDreams have seen my seventy How-to-describe lists describing the pieces that make a story authentic (like senses, body language, emotions, clothing, pain, and more). When I discovered Kathy Steineman’s book, The Writer’s Lexicon: Descriptions, Overused Words, and Taboos (K. Steinemann Enterprises 2017), I couldn’t resist buying it. It was the ‘overused words’ that really grabbed me:

“…nuisances that annoy writers around the globe.”

Steinemann is talking about the repetitive mundane activities and thoughts that happen over and over in stories and must be noted. How does a writer make stuff like said, shrugged, and sighed exciting–or at least not distracting? For example, with the word Big, Steinemann encourages the writer to think about what they really mean in context, and then provides workarounds:

“Bernard’s ego was bigger than his bank account.”


“Bernard’s ego outmatched his mammoth bank account.”

For each word, she includes a massive list of replacements, providing writers with a plethora of options to better express their ideas. For big, the list includes:

2XL, ample, chunky, epic, far-ranging, galactic, Herculean, immane [not a typo], Kodiak-sized, Rhinoesque, Queen-sized, XXL, and ubergross.

There aren’t a lot of words, maybe because each is thoroughly covered, but other words she includes are:

beautiful, bring, cried, frown, great, little, nodded [I definitely overuse this one], said, sat, shrug, sigh, and very.

Though I gravitated to these lists, she also includes 1) “Common Pitfalls”–lists of words to watch for in your writing. These include have, get, literally, decide, essentially, and more. She also has Taboos such as Absolute Adjectives, Cursing, Redundancies, and Rolling the Eyes. 2) exercises to help transform boring to brilliant.

I keep this book on my iPad by my computer during the editing/wordsmithing phase of my writing. It forces me to think through what exactly I mean in any given phrase. It is highly recommended for serious writers.

Note: I got this recommendation from efriend, DG Kaye. You can read her excellent review here.

–a note about my reviews: I only review books I enjoyed. I need to be inspired to write. That’s why so many of my reviews are 4/5 or 5/5

More how-to-write books

A Writer’s Coach

How to Write a D*** Good Novel

We Are Not Alone

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Quest for Home, Fall 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

56 thoughts on “2 More How-to-Write Books

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  6. Hi Jacqui … writing a novel? – how about being able to keep up with blog posts – I know disappear away from the dreaded screen! All interesting books to have around … cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

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