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Books at hand?

Adrian Sroka, on May 18th asked where we chose to work. Always a good thing to find out how others go about their tasks.

I would like to take the matter further and ask; what ‘technical’ writing books do you keep at hand for regular use?

With reaching distance as I work, I have the following: Collins Dictionary (large single volume); Roget’s Thesaurus (Longmans); Fowler’s Modern English Usage - edited by Burchfield (Oxford); Usage and Abusage (by Eric Partidge); Eats, Shoots & Leaves (by Lynne Truss); Le Mot Juste (foreign terms and phrases that have ‘strayed into English’); latest edition of ‘W & A Yearbook’ – though I do keep back copies for up to five years (not in the front line of course)

At a greater distance are the ‘everyday’ tools of the trade; books of quotations; books of verse; Biographical Dictionary (Chambers); The Oxford Companion to English Literature; The Oxford Dictionary of Music; a complete Shakespeare; French- English Dictionary, and similar for German, Italian, American English, Spanish and Latin.

From there on it is a ‘free-for-all’ of reference books that interest me or are of direct use in my writing.

For many years I have ‘collected’ literary reference books, many from charity shops (at bargain price!), for I was once told, “If you only receive one good idea from a book, that book was worth its price.” It was good advice, and I have picked up many literary tips from my collection.

One unusual set of books is ‘The Children’s Encyclopaedia’ by Arthur Mee (the ten volume edition), these I find invaluable when searching out ‘odds and ends’ for quotes or situations. It is a personal choice, but I find the earlier editions much better than the later ‘coloured picture’ slimmer editions.

‘Britannica’ I use via my local library ‘on line’ service. I would like a bound set on the shelves – but if they were there I would probably never get any work done – I would be engrossed in the pages!

Asked by: Edward Richardson

  1. Edward Richardson 1 day ago

    One of the greatest reasons to study history is that it prevents people making the same mistake twice. The same thing might be said about art, with the question asked, ‘How can anyone know what to do without studying what has been done before?’

    We all stand on the shoulders of giants; and by taking account of, and advice from, those who have gone before, we do not have to make the same mistakes they may have made.

    I will allow there are ‘primitive’ painters, and ‘primitive’ sculptors, but am not aware of ‘primitive’ writers. I wonder what their typescripts would look like?

    Some years ago I decided to take up painting, and study various artists via their DVD courses. I found it enlightening, and it saved me from launching myself into the wilderness. In particular the work of Frank Clarke (the artist from Ireland), for Frank tells us, in many of his training courses, “The world’s greatest artist has never painted a picture”.

    What a lovely phrase, and food for thought indeed!

    We all need to learn out trade, writing being one of them; and to save time, and a considerable amount of wasted effort, it is wise to read what others have to say. We do not have to take any notice of their advice – but I believe we ignore it at our peril.

  2. Libby Justice 1 day ago

    Interesting I'm sure, but how many truly inspirational writers had to read up on how to write.
    Dictionary, thesaurus, imagination and courage would be what I'd recommend.

  3. Adrian Sroka on June 12, 2019

    Creative Writing Books.

    Listed below are what I strongly believe are ten of the best guides on creative writing.

    Aspects of the Novel - E M Forster. (Passage to India, Howards Way, Room with a View).

    The Elements of Style (Fourth Edition) - William Strunk j. and E. B. White (Charlotte's Web).

    The Art and Craft of Novel Writing - Oakley Hall.

    How Fiction Works - Oakley Hall.

    Learning to Write Fiction from the Masters - Barnaby Conrad.

    The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction - Barnaby Conrad.

    Sol Stein on Writing - Sol Stein. (Sol and his friends set up the actors’ studio in New York. Sol was a publisher, editor, best-selling author and award winning lecturer on creative writing at American Universities. Famous authors attend his lectures. Sol was also a friend of Barnaby Conrad).

    Solutions for Novelists - The Secrets of a Master Editor - Sol Stein.

    Characters Make Your Story - Maren Elwood. (Creative writing teacher).

    Write the Short Short - Maren Elwood. (For writers of the Short Story).

    Check the reviews on Amazon. You can get cheap second hand copies.

    I hope that helps.

    Good luck.

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