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WRITING LIFE

HIS AND HERS GUIDES: Can writing guides teach us how to write? Probably not, but they probably can't hurt, either _ who couldn't use a word of advice about writing dialogue? _ and they often shed useful light on some of the scarier aspects of the writing life.

Beyond the Words: The Three Untapped Sources of Creative Fulfillment for Writers (Tarcher/Putnam, $19.95, 221 pp) caters to women writers. Author Bonni Goldberg offers sound advice and esoteric exercises (some even include yoga techniques) to nurture our "Writing Self." Beyond the Words emphasizes the importance of finding pleasure in being a writer _ not just from being published. Goldberg, who also wrote Room to Write: Daily Invitations to a Writer's Life (1996), focuses on three aspects of the writing life: "percolation" (allowing your ideas to form over time), revision and what she calls "going public" (which doesn't necessarily mean getting published).

For a more masculine writer's guide, there's Lessons From a Lifetime of Writing: A Novelist Looks at his Craft (Writer's Digest, $22.99, 243 pp), by David Morrell, self-described creator of "one of the most recognizable characters of the late twentieth century: Rambo." Readable and authoritative, Morrell's guide explores all aspects of writing, from starting the first page to getting published and everything in between.

A MUST-HAVE RESOURCE: Whether or not your desk is cluttered with how-to-write books, it should be home to The Writer's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers & Literary Agents, 13th edition, by Jeff Herman (Prima, $24.95, 892 pp). With a comprehensive directory of book publishers, editors and literary agents, the Writer's Guide is a wonderful companion _ at least for those of us without agents. In the last of three sections, "Road Maps to Your Success," Herman includes chapters on writing a query letter, scams and "book doctors" and much more. It wouldn't do any harm to read through some of them, but it's the publisher and agent directories that make the Writer's Guide a must-have.

Samantha Puckett is a Times staff writer.

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