It used to be a ten-pound dictionary and a thesaurus by your side when you put pen to paper or fingers to the keys. The Encyclopedia Britannica was also necessary for research. And probably a trip to the library was on the list. You'd need more reference materials of some sort. Hurray! Those days are long gone.
I can do it all from my laptop as I type this blog. However, there are some books you should have in your personal library to help hone your writing skills. You may want them on your Kindle or other device, but when it comes to some reference materials, personally I like to have real live books to look at, mark up, and spread out over the table.
1. Dictionary - you still need one, but www.dictionary.com is easy to use and beats lugging around a massive tome.
2. Thesaurus - the one at www.dictionary.com lives side-by-side with the dictionary. Very convenient.
3. The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. So MUCH in such a little book. E.B. White is the co-author of this classic on grammar, composition, and writing style. Indispensable! You remember E.B. White - Charlotte's Web, of course!
4. Grammar book. The one on my shelf is Essentials of English by Hopper, Gale, et al. Doubtless, my editor wishes I would refer to it more often. Punctuation can be confusing at some junctures--comma or semi-colon. Do you know which to use? Are you splitting infinitives? e.g. 1. She decided to quickly walk to the store or 2. She decided to walk quickly to the store. (1.contains the split infinitive)
5. For fiction writers, an informative book is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. From dialogue to point of view (POV) to character development, this book teaches you how to tell the story succinctly. The book also inlcudes exercises which reinforce the chapter themes that are helpful.
6. Style Guide - The Chicago Manual of Style is a must, which is online. www.chicagomanualofstyle.org. I also have The Little Style Guide to Great Christian Writing and Publishing by Goss and Goss. This style guide is cross-referenced with the Chicago Manual of Style and is extremely helpful with Bible studies and Christian writing in general.
7. Specialty books - Depending on your genre, you'll want books that are bona fide resources on the topic. Wikipedia ---probably not. When writing Bible studies, two or three commentaries, a Bible dictionary, and a good study Bible are essential references to have on hand. Many are online, so your shelves don't have to be jammed with dusty research tomes. Two of the best sites are www.blueletterbible.org and www.biblestudytools.com.
A series of books - Howdunnit has volumes of crime information, from poisons to how crimes are solved. If you write mysteries, these handy references can help you construct a killer crime.
There you are! A quick list for writers old and new. If you've been pounding a keyboard for any length of time, you probably have your own favorites. And some that have been mentioned may be dog-eared copies on your shelf. Write on!
With over 30 years in administration as a manager, paralegal, and administrative professional, my experience runs the gamut from finances, policy, contracts, and human resources. My goal is to help writers navigate the business side of writing with understandable and practical advice.