I’ve read a ton of articles and went to a couple of writing seminars and classes. When people ask “What’s a good resource for writing?”, they usually mean what’s a good resource to learn about writing better? I actually have a nice little list that this one author handed me a few years ago to help me learn about the craft. I’ll share those in a later post, but right now I want to talk about resources actually for writing.
Writing is usually a solitary craft. Sure, some people write with others and others attend writing groups to help strengthen their sentences and get amazing critiques (or not so amazing, depending). There are plenty of discussion boards out there and online writing communities where writers can sort of mingle and talk to other writers about their writerly problems.
A fellow writer can be an invaluable resource for writing if they’re on the same level as you or better (I’d opt for better). They can give you points on what needs to be cut, what’s wrong with the flow of the story, and basically anything else you might need.
Another resource that I feel most writers nowadays tend to forget that should be invaluable is a good dictionary and thesaurus. Sure, you could just as easily use your computer’s built in dictionary or search for it online at any online dictionary, but there’s something concrete about flipping through the pages of an actual dictionary. Sometimes you find a word while searching and fall in love with it; it helps build your vocabulary and it’s fun to try implement the new word into your story. Using an actual thesaurus works the same way as well.
Knowing a good baby name site or owning a baby name book is great for fiction writers. Naming a character is very important and shouldn’t be taken lightly. It can make or break a character sometimes. For instance: you don’t want the name of your super villain to have a weak name like Candice Meekly, unless it’s a parody and he’s not really all that super of a villain. Most fantasy books tend not to use more common names, and if you have a hard time coming up with bizarre names with long strings of vowels to look like a fantasy name, then I’d opt for a baby name site or book to look up various ethnic names that might come in handy. It’s also really nice to look at the meaning behind a name. I got lucky when I named my merman, Derek. I named him first and then looked at the meaning much later. The meaning behind his name was: ruler; bold heart, which I felt fit. When I was trying to name my character, Ewelina, I wanted a name that meant life or caring, more or less for ironic purposes. Being able to flip through pages of names to find the right fit was essential.
Depending on what genre you’re writing for, you might want to keep a stack of essential books that are related to your genre close at hand. I have a stack of books related to magic and folklore close at hand at all times when I write since my major projects right now are fantasy. They help keep me in check on various mythical creatures and some have come in handy when I’m trying to write a spell.
I feel that those resources are invaluable to a writer, especially when writing the first draft. The next post in this series will be about books on the craft of writing. Reading those kinds of books are more essential when you’re doing your edits. Because remember: the first draft is always terrible. Writing is all about revise, revise, revise!