The Best Book I Read This Month: Description by Monica Wood


The best book I read this month was a writing craft book called Description. Don’t let the title fool you, though—the book is about more than writing descriptions. It talks about point-of-view and dialogue and plot and story. At 168 pages, it is one of the richest craft books I’ve ever read.

Written by Monica Wood, Description is an old book. Published in 1995 by Writer’s Digest Books, it’s now out of print and I had a devil of a time finding it. I’m glad I did, though. The book is a master-class in the importance of word choice in every aspect of the writer’s craft: description, character, setting, point of view, story, and narrative. My highlighter got quite a workout.

So many writing books are either pompous (“To be a real writer, you must do XYZ”) or overly justified (“It’s important that you do this or no one will read your work—or something equally catastrophic.”) Wood’s Description is neither. It is concise and direct. It gives writers the power of choice and provides examples of each type of choice. For example, “Show, Don’t Tell,” Wood cautions, is a common but frequently misunderstood piece of writing advice. She says it’s not about always showing and never telling, but rather knowing when it’s better to show and when it’s better to tell.

Each chapter concludes with a summary of the chapter’s main points, which will prove helpful when I need to refer back to it during my revision passes. It also includes a handy list of additional tips and tricks in the back—something that could easily be turned into a revision checklist.

I have a strong suspicion that I’m going to be coming back to this book again and again as I write and revise from here on out.