Help at hand

Yesterday, wonderful picture book author Dianne Ochiltree discussed the need for how-to books for writers and some of her favorite resources on the blog, Writing and Illustrating.

A reader asked if there was any need for such books, given the wealth of information on the web. Dianne responded with a resounding YES! and listed a few of her must-haves to keep on your desk, including a hard copy dictionary, thesaurus, and even Bullfinch’s Mythology.

I’d like to add my must-haves to her list:

  • The Elements of Style by Strunk & White (has to be the Kalman illustrated edition!)
    • Even grammar girls like me need to look up the finer points of ‘who’ and ‘whom’ once in a while…
  • The Emotion Thesaurus by Ackerman & Puglisi
    • All of the resources at Writers Helping Writers are great. Until your router is down or your network is having the hiccups.
  • Today I will: a year of quotes, notes, & promises to myself by Spinelli & Spinelli
    • Sometimes you just need a little inspiration to get going.  I loved yesterday’s: “There once was a man who danced in the street.”
  • A good baby name book
    • See above. And you avoid falling down the Internet rabbit hole.
  • Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature by Bird, Danielson, & Sieruta
    • Again, inspiring rather than useful.

I have plenty of useful craft books – does anyone NOT have Cameron’s The Artist’s Way? – but I’ve discussed those before. While you could educate yourself about writing children’s books on the web, I find that taking the time to read books about writing in hard copy forces me to slow down and actually absorb the information. I might even make notes.

What I don’t keep at hand? Directories and industry guides. The sad fact is that any hard copy directory is potentially out of date before you buy it, much less use it. E-book versions are only marginally better. Pay for access to online databases such as Publisher’s Marketplace or the online Writer’s Market. (Most offer a trial period or at least a short subscription length. Or see if your local library allows you access via your library card.)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to squeeze my stress cupcake and try to crank out some good words before my critique group meeting tonight…

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6 thoughts on “Help at hand

  1. Great suggestions. I have and refer to endlessly, Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. I just purchased The Chicago Manual of Style. I love my craft books because I can make notes in them, use sticky notes to get to important sections. I guess you can do that stuff in an ebook too, but I’m old fashioned. I love real books. Always will.

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