1) Merriam-Webster’s Visual Dictionary – (Used $18.99, Amazon, received in remarkably good condition.) There is a visual dictionary available on line but I find its search feature cumbersome. I type in ‘parts of stairs’ and nothing comes up. I type in ‘stairs’, nothing comes up. I type in ‘stair’ and ‘stained’ comes up with links to façade and church! I’m the type of writer that, in my haste to get the idea down on paper (lest it be lost to the fog in my brain,) will write ‘he screwed it tight with one of those screwy tight things‘ so this is an invaluable reference for me.
2) Flip Dictionary by Barbara Ann Kipfer – (Used $8.06, Amazon, received in remarkably good condition.) A different type of thesaurus that meshes with the way I think. Let’s say you want to know what that ‘Hawaiian dance’ is called, you open up Flip Dictionary to ‘H’, find Hawaiian and you’ll see Hawaiian dance with undulating hip movement and hand and arm gestures: hula, hula-hula.
The other two books were The Order of Things: How Everything in the World Is Organized Into Hierarchies, Structures, and Pecking Orders also by Barbara Ann Kipfer and An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols by J.C. Cooper. Great books but not absolutely necessary for a writers reference library in the internet age. With some patience and web savvy you can easily find this information on line. The epiphany that I needed to add these books to my library came from this post at Daily Writing Tips.
Other books that have been in my library for ages are:
3) 20 Master Plots (And How to Build Them) by Ronald B. Tobias – I find it amusing when I read some hacks review of a book or movie and they compare it to something else they’ve read or watched and say it’s the same thing. These people are confusing plot with story. Plot is the structure of our craft, the direction, the motivation that drives our characters. Humans have not changed much in over 10,000 years, our motivations remain the same. There is no plot that you, I or the Messiah of writing could come up with that has not been covered already (most of it by Shakespeare.) As writers we need to have a deep understanding of plot. If plot is our road map, story is the journey there.
3a) Steal This Plot; A Writer’s Guide to Story Structure and Plagiarism by June and William Noble – Another take on plot and its importance to your craft. You can never read too many books on plot.
4) Show Don’t Tell A Writer’s Guide by William Noble – A very confusing aspect of writing that I still don’t have a grasp of.
5) Creating Characters: How to Build Story People by Dwight V. Swain – We have to create characters our readers will care about and villains that make them cringe. Our characters must reach out of the page and touch our readers on some subtle level, they must evoke emotions from our readers that will force them to turn the page no matter what. Even Red Shirts can serve a greater purpose than cannon fodder.
6) The Art & Craft of Novel Writing by Oakley Hall – Covers everything from plot to drama to dialogue to point of view. A smorgasbord of information. Not as in-depth as the other books listed here but covers the whole novel writing process in a wider, more encompassing perspective.
7) Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print by Renni Browne & Dave King – Read this before you begin the daunting task of editing and revising your masterpiece. This book never leaves my side. I read it even when I’m not editing.
8 ) Write Tight: How to Keep Your Prose Sharp, Focused and Concise by William Brohaugh – Another book that never leaves my side. The chapter on ‘Sixteen Types of Wordiness and How to Trim them‘ alone is worth the price of admission. I might have read that chapter more than I’ve seen Blade Runner.
9) The Random House Guide to Good Writing by Mitchell Ivers – Covers all forms of writing. Memos, letters, essays and fiction. You have to know the rules before you can break them.
10) Character Naming Sourcebook by Sherrilyn Kenyon – A very convenient book to have in front of you.
Books like these are the core of our craft, the sage wisdom of those that have come before us.
My reference library is also littered with reference material that, thanks to the internet, is now obsolete. Crime reference and books on poisons, weapons and body trauma. All topics you can find covered in detail on the internet so long as you carefully consider the source.