My three choices are:
1. ON WRITING by Stephen King;
2. THE FIRE IN FICTION by Donald Maass; and
3. THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE by Strunk and White.
Stephen King (and Meryl Streep) can make a grocery list sound suspenseful so I would be assured of entertainment. Reading his advice, or advice he received and implemented, makes me want to immediately click open a blank document and start writing. Of course, in this surreal scenario on the subway, the netbook would have lifetime batteries.
My reason for wanting Donald Maass’s book is simple. I’ve read THE FIRE IN FICTION through several times, marked passages and highlighted important points. But he also offers practical exercises for improving an early draft that focus on character, turning points of a scene, and my favorite: sustaining tension. A person could spend a lifetime on those exercises.
If you ever experience brain freeze, or have a mental block in one particular area where the word choice always eludes you, then THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE is worth owning. Do you know the proper use of an ellipsis? Are you familiar with the “serial” comma? How confident are you in your word usage/spelling:
their, there, they’re;
past, passed (my Achilles heel!!!)
Wasn’t it Sonny Bono who (that) said, “And the list goes on . . .”?