In my office, I have my computer table, an oak rolltop desk close enough my left elbow bumps it when I really get going on the keyboard and behind me, about two feet away, a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf of reference books. Those books are constantly in motion. I pull them out by piles, stack them on my desk and riffle through them to augment particular parts of my stories. Sometimes, I’m looking for facts on nature, animals, buildings. Other times, I’m working through some prickly syntax. Either way, there are those books I can’t write without.
Every writer I know has a bookshelf like this, full of books to inspire the writing process. A reader asked what books I thought most important, so I pulled out my short list of words I can’t write without.
That’s when I realized I’d added some in the last few years. These five are my new favorites and reflect my growth as a writer and the-times-they-are-a-changing for authors:
Anatomy of Motive by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker
“Every crime is a mystery with a motive at its heart.” Read how to make that happen in your thriller and mystery novels.
Breakout Novelist by Donald Maass
How to make your writing vibrant, engaging, and marketable-the type that ‘breaks out’ of the crowd and makes you stand out
Comic Toolbox: How to be Funny Even if You’re Not by John Vorhaus
Humor always catches a readers attention–well, effective humor. Find out how to do this and then try it in some of your blogs, tweets, FB posts. Experiment before putting it into your novel.
My Evernote by Katherine Murray
Evernote is the most popular on-line note-taking program, used by adults and students alike. And it’s free. If you aren’t using this to collect your writing research, you eed to read this book.
We are not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media by Kristen Lamb
Basic social media–what all writers must do whether you have a publisher or not.
My must-have writing books have blossomed to 36, thanks to these new additions:
- Anatomy of Motive by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker
- Bill Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors, by Bill Bryson
- Blockbuster Plots: Pure and Simple, by Martha Alderson
- Breakout Novelist by Donald Maass
- Careful Writer: A Modern Guide to English Usage, by Theodore Bernstein
- Comic Toolbox: How to be Funny Even if You’re Not by John Vorhaus
- Creating Character Emotions: Writing compelling fresh approaches that express your characters’ true feelings, by Ann Hood
- Elements of Style by EB White
- First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile, by Noah Lukeman
- Garner’s Modern American Usage, by Bryon Garner
- How to Write A D*** Good Novel, by James Frey
- Lexicon, by William F. Buckley Jr.
- Marshall Plan for Novel Writing: A 16-step program guaranteed to take you from idea to completed manuscript, by Evan Marshall
- My Evernote by Katherine Murray
- National Audubon Society Field Guide
- New York Times Practical Guide to Practically Everything
- New York Times Guide to Essential Knowledge
- Novel Writer’s Toolkit: A guide to writing great fiction and getting it published, by Bob Mayer
- Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus
- Oxford Book of Aphorisms, by John Gross
- Oxford Concise Dictionary of English Etymology
- Oxford Dictionary of Difficult Words
- Penguin Dictionary of Epigrams, by MJ Cohen
- Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence, by David Keirsey
- Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus
- Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne
- Synonym Finder, by J. I. Rodale
- We are not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media by Kristen Lamb
- Webster Dictionary–or any excellent dictionary, even online is fine
- Writer’s Coach: An Editor’s Guide to Words That Work, by Jack Hart
- Writer’s Guide to Character Traits, by Linda Edelstein
- Writing from A to Z, by Sally Ebest
- Writing the Blockbuster Novel, by Albert Zuckerman
- Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, by Janet Burroway
- Writing the Breakout Novel: Insider advice for taking your fiction to the next level, by Donald Maass
- Writing the Novel from Plot to Print, by Lawrence Block
The links are to book reviews I’ve done. It’ll be a while before I complete the entire list.
I’d love to hear your list.
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.