Writing a story is tough; making it credible and preparing the manuscript for editing add more challenge. Savvy novelists have a well-stocked home library, containing (for Americans) at least these reference works:
* Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. or online unabridged. This is the traditional-publishing industry standard, followed by The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th ed. Both are available in print and online. Some online dictionaries like UrbanDictionary.com include modern slang that may not be in the standard dictionaries. Note that editors usually correct a manuscript’s spelling to the first one listed, only accepting variants if the author indicates a preference. Examples: leaped vs. leapt, gray vs. grey. What’s allowed by one dictionary may differ in another, so it’s worth discussing reference guides with your editor so you can synchronize.
* Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, 4th ed.+ This is the time-honored basic, short and sweet.
* The detailed “bible” is the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th ed. Your editor will likely own that and many others. Also available in print and online.
For general how-to on composition and storycraft, there are so many guides available that the mind boggles. A browse through a bookstore and/or the Internet will bring up something for everyone. Novelists are heavily catered to with series, such as the Writer’s Digest Elements of Fiction Writing and Howdunit series, and Rayne Hall’s Writer’s Craft series. Read all you can get your hands on and stock the best ones in your personal library.
* Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain
* On Writing by Stephen King
* Character & Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
Because I edit many adventure-based novels containing technical details, I also keep on hand: Armed and Dangerous: A Writer’s Guide to Weapons, by Michael Newton, along with a Gun Digest catalogue; Deadly Doses: A Writer’s Guide to Poisons, by Serita Deborah Stevens with Anne Klarner; Writing Fight Scenes, by Rayne Hall
Novelists are best served by a balance of resources for general craft and their area of specialty. As most writers already know, there’s no such thing as too many books in one’s library and bookmarked sites on the worldwide web.
CAROLINE HILEY is an award-winning novelist. She edits fiction, novellas, short stories, and memoirs for traditional publishers and independent authors.