Let’s first define “narrative voice” because people do mean different things when they use this term. And, often, people try to make a distinction between “style” and “voice.” The general acceptance is that voice is about a point of view, attitude, personality, character, tone, diction, dialect, accent, etc., while style is about syntax, grammar, sentence/paragraph structures, cadences, rhythms, genre, etc. To put it simply, voice is about speech and thought patterns, and style is about how that voice is laid out on the page. My three favorite books on this topic of voice+style are not "how-tos" in the traditional sense. Yagoda's book has interviews with 40-some writers on their approaches; Davidson's book takes excerpts from other works and looks at the sentence-level aesthetics; and Queneau's book takes a simple scene and shows us how to write it in at least 99 different ways.
A short while ago, a writing friend asked for recommendations on how-to books for writing nonfiction. It sent me rummaging through my shelves. As usual, the list below comprises of my top three favorites, not necessarily the most popular ones out there. I have also included a handful of online sources at the end. Let me clarify that my focus here is on how to write in the essay form, or creative nonfiction (CNF), rather than an entire nonfiction book. Of course, many nonfiction books grow out of individual essays.
[Note: This post is a roundup of the monthly series on writing how-to books thus far, for those who might just be coming to this or who might have missed previous installments.] In the last six months since I began this series of books/sources that have taught me to be a better writer, I have also begun rereading some of these books from my shelves. It has been a rather interesting experience to find more nuance, discover details I had missed the first time around, and see how much of the advice within I have actually applied versus not and why. Before I do a quick recap of the various themes covered so far, let's talk briefly about the general kinds of writing how-to books out there. For the most part, they tend to fit into one of these three categories: