Posted On October 8, 2010 by Print This Post

The Romance University Library

How many of you have dreamed of being locked in a library overnight?

No, not a nightmare. Not an all-nighter cram session. Not a clandestine rendezvous in a study carrel. An honest-to-goodness, put-it-on-your-Santa-list wish to be surrounded by stacks and shelves of books while other (normal) people are asleep?

If you have, you’re among friends. But if the idea of dark corners and eerie quiet creeps you out, you can still hang out at the Romance University library anytime, day or night. Here’s a sampling of our faculty’s writing craft holdings:

  • A Dash of Style – Noah Lukeman
  • Break into Fiction – Mary Buckham
  • GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict – Debra Dixon
  • How to Write a Damn Good Novel – James Frey
  • Manuscript Makeover – Elizabeth Lyon
  • On Writing – Stephen King
  • Romance Writers’ Phrase Book – Jean Kent and Candace Shelton
  • Save the Cat – Blake Snyder
  • Scene and Structure – Jack M. Bickham
  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers – Renni Browne & Dave King
  • Techniques of a Selling Writer – Dwight Swain
  • The Art of War for Writers – James Scott Bell
  • The Element Encyclopedias (Ghosts & Hauntings, Magical Creatures, 5000 Spells, etc.)
  • The Fire in Fiction – Donald Maass
  • The Flip Dictionary – Barbara Ann Kipfer, Ph.D.
  • The Synonym Finder – JI Rodale
  • The Write-Brain Workbook: 366 Exercises to Liberate Your Writing – Bonnie Neubauer
  • Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition (Out of Print)
  • Writing the Breakout Novel – Donald Maass
  • Writing the Romantic Comedy – Billy Mernit

Truth? I have way over half of these in my personal library. I’m not sure whether I should be proud or ashamed of my lack of restraint when it comes to book buying. And this doesn’t touch my stack of research books. But man, I sure wish I’d had this list four years ago!


RU crew, what’s on your bookshelf? What one resource couldn’t you live without? What’s the strangest book in your research stash?

Mark Monday on your calendar because Anna DeStefano will be here talking about revisions and deconstruction. That’s a lecture I sure don’t want to miss!

Kelsey Browning

Kelsey’s Bio:

Kelsey Browning writes romantic comedy and paranormal romance with a hint of southern sizzle. She’s a co-founder of Romance University blog where the mission is to empower writers, entertain readers and understand men. In her former life, she worked at one of the ten largest universities in the U.S., raising money and teaching students how to land their dream jobs. Now, she pursues her dream job of freelance and fiction writing, which provides excellent benefits such as unlimited coffee and an office dress code that includes flip-flops. Originally from Texas and after a four-year gig in the Middle East, she now lives in Southern California her IT-savvy husband, baseball-obsessed son and seriously spoiled dog. For more information, you can find Kelsey at

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Craft of Writing


16 Responses to “The Romance University Library”

  1. Kelsey, great list. I love buying craft books. Many of the resources in your list above line my shelves, plus a whole lot more.

    Two books that helped me understand the business of writing was WRITING A ROMANCE NOVEL FOR DUMMIES by Leslie Wainger and HOW I WRITE by Janet Evanovich.

    A book I can’t do without? My Chamber’s BOOK OF ETYMOLOGY. It’s so much more robust than Word or anything you’ll find on-line.

    Posted by TraceyDevlyn | October 8, 2010, 5:10 am
    • Tracey –

      I’m a fan of Janet’s book too. It’s so easy to read that you can pick it up and just take in a little at a time. I also have Leslie’s book – somewhere between California and the Middle East :). I haven’t seen that etymology book, but I do have a copy of John Ayto’s Dictionary of Word Origins that I actually bought for my son.

      I love scouring the 75% off bins at bookstores to find unusual “research” books – sure that I’ll use them one of these days.


      Posted by Kelsey Browning | October 8, 2010, 11:18 am
  2. Morning all!

    Kelsey and Tracey, I have over half of those books as well. I looooove craft books! (I just bought 5 more yesterday, but nobody tell my husband k?)
    I’ve just recently branched out into buying some how to write for children craft books as well, as I have an MG lurking in my brain. I’m hoping CREATING CHARACTERS KIDS WILL LOVE by Elaine Marie Alphin will be a good one!
    Tracey, I’ve got both of those books too, and love Janet’s HOW I WRITE.

    great list, and now I’ve got to hit Amazon! There’s some I don’t have???? shocker!



    Posted by Carrie Spencer | October 8, 2010, 8:17 am
    • Carrie –

      Some men worry about their wives cheating with other men. I suppose ours have to worry about our book habits 😀 . Great suggestion on the craft book for writing middle grade. I haven’t delved into any of those even though my son and I worked on the plot for a MG a few months ago. One thing at a time…at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

      What about your fiction “keepers?” Whose books do you hang onto? This was really tested for me recently as I’ve had to clean out so much of my stuff!


      Posted by Kelsey Browning | October 8, 2010, 11:22 am
  3. Aack! I wish I’d seen this list yesterday when I placed an order at Amazon!

    I do have a great majority of the books listed and they are all little gems.

    A favorite of mine? “Passionate Ink: by Angela Knight. She writes sizzlng erotica but the insight she provides is invaluable to any heat level of romance. My copy is seriously dog-eared to death.

    I also like James Scott Bell’s “Revision and Editing”

    Great post!

    Posted by Robin Covington | October 8, 2010, 9:18 am
    • Robin –

      Thanks for stopping by! I can’t believe I don’t have either of those books in my collection. I’ll have to put them on my wish list for future reading.

      I’ve been toying with the idea of craft book reviews on RU. Do you think that might be helpful for newer writers who’re trying to decide the best material in which to invest?

      Happy Friday!

      Posted by Kelsey Browning | October 8, 2010, 11:24 am
      • I think that would be a great idea! I’ve got a few craft books on my shelf that I wish I hadn’t purchased. Like reading tastes, it’s subjective. What doesn’t work for me, might be helpful for someone else.

        IMHO, “The Fire in Fiction”, “Break Into Fiction”, and “GMC” by Deb Dixon are some of the best. I also like Noah Lukeman’s “The First Five Pages”.

        Posted by jennifer tanner | October 8, 2010, 5:13 pm
  4. Hey, Kels ~

    Things just slowed down at my office, and I wanted to offer up a few of my favorite craft books. I’ve got 9 of the 20 you listed. Of those, King’s On Writing, Deb Dixon’s GMC, Maass’s Writing the BreakOut Novel, and the Flip Dictionary are my most worn.

    But if I had to choose my three favs – (well, King’s On Writing would be one), but the others: 1) The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield (A friend gifted it to me, and I liked it so much I bought a copy for everyone in my critique group); 2) Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (fabulous book – and the origin of ‘writing shitty first drafts’); 3) Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg (thoughts to free the writer within), and 4) Walking on Alligators, by Susan Shaughnessy (meditations and thoughts for writers – and actual the very first craft book that I bought [before the earth’s crust melted].)

    Gee, I guess that’s my first eight favorites then. 😳 I think I might have mentioned to you ladies that I have a few opinions. 😉

    Catch you ladies down the road!

    Posted by Jo Anne | October 8, 2010, 5:48 pm
  5. I’ve got well over half those books on my shelves too! I haven’t heard of The Elements Encyclopedia, but since I write paranormal, I’ll bet it’s a good resource.

    One of my favorite places to find research books is at library book sales. The Seattle Public Library puts on a huge sale twice a year and books are around $1. I’ve found some gems like Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, Shadow Syndromes, Inside the Criminal Mind, The Unthinkable–Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why, and A Galleon (children’s picture book in case I decide to write a book about pirates).

    Posted by Laurie London | October 10, 2010, 11:40 am
    • Laurie –

      Oh, those book sales are a great idea, and now that I’m back in the US, I might be able to go to them again (can you hear me dancing down in CA?). The Elements Encyclopedias cover a range of topics – dreams, spells, and others. I do think they’re worth a look-see to a paranormal writer!


      Posted by KelseyBrowning | October 11, 2010, 11:08 am
  6. Oooh, some brilliant recommendations, here. Will have to get my hands on some of these gems for sure. And have to agree with Tracey and Robin — Janet Evanovich’s “How I Write” and Angela Knight’s “Passionate Ink” are must-haves.

    Would also like to add Christopher Vogler’s “The Writer’s Journey”. Fabulous book. And Chris was akeynote speaker at our recent RWNZ conference–he was an amazing speaker and very inspiring. His book is well worth reading.

    And finally, an offering from Australia, which, if you can get your hands on it is very worth the price. “Heart and Craft” by Valerie Parv — bestselling romance writers share their secrets with you. And what I love about this book is that it’s not a “here’s how to do it” book. It’s a “here’s what works for me. And me. And me (etc etc)” book. It’s like having a dozen different romance authors in the room, each telling you how they do what they do so very well. Brilliant!

    Posted by Maree Anderson | October 10, 2010, 3:34 pm
    • Maree –

      Thanks for the recs! I have Vogler’s book, and need to revisit it in the next few months, but I’ve never seen Valerie Parv’s book. I love books that show more than one writer’s process. I figure surely I’ll find something that resonates with me.

      Oh, so many books, so little time!

      Posted by KelseyBrowning | October 11, 2010, 11:10 am

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