Last month I organized all the books in my house. They are now arranged by genre and author’s last name (This is what happens when science meets literature–mad organization).  It was two-weekend job–six bookshelves full and I need another.  I am so glad I did it, though, because now I have all my writing books in one place.  I’ve named it the writing tool shelf.

With my current manuscript, I’ve really been using the writing tool shelf.  I thought I would share a few of my favorite writing tools.

  • The McGraw-Hill College Handbook.  I got this book when I was in college and it is the best writing tool I own.  It explains grammar, punctuation, and sentence construction.  It has tips for stringing sentences and paragraphs together.  It even has sections on writing essays, research papers, business letters, and fiction.  The McGraw-Hill College Handbook is great all-around writing tool.
  • Dictionary and Thesaurus.  I have three dictionaries and one thesaurus.   I use all of them.  I also use the one attached to my word processor and sometimes look words up on line.  Oh, and there are these fun websites (Wordsmith and Merrium Webster’s sight) that will send you a vocabulary word every day via e-mail.
  • 20,001 Names for Baby…or any of the baby name books.  This is another place where I use the internet, too.  Like Baby Hold, which lets you look up names by ethnicity and Parents Connect where you can look up names by meaning.  If you’re anything like me, you agonize over character names.  This really helped.
  • Writer’s Market.  It comes out every year but I don’t buy it ever year.  It’s not a cheap book.  But, it has market information on various size publishers, magazines, trade journals, newspapers, selling your screenplay, and even writing greeting cards!  I’ve used it in the literary agent hunt (along with agent query) and it has a query letter writing chapter.
  • The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman.  I’ve been writing since I was a kid but I haven’t been trying to write professionally for more than five years.  The First Five Pages is one of the first writing theory books I bought.  It was extremely accessible to an amateur writer.  It talks about the mistakes that you can make in the first five pages of your manuscript that will cause the agent or editor to stop reading.  This book is a crash course in the writing mistakes that can weaken your story.
  • Anguished English by Richard Lederer.  Ok, this isn’t a writing tool but it’s hilarious.  If you’re a writer, or even if you’re not, you should own this book.  It’s a book full of delicious English blunders that people have made.  Some of the mistakes are by children and some are by adults.  Every time I read this book, I laugh so hard I cry.

Of course I have other writing tools on my shelf.  I love to buy those big, cheap, glossy books out of the Bargain section of the bookstore that are just called ROME or INSECTS.  When I’m stuck, I browse them for inspiration.  They rarely fail.  And I keep a stack of index cards on my writing tool shelf in case of sudden inspiration.  I’ve loved those darn things ever since I used them for research papers in high school.

On Monday, I’m going to start on my next book analysis.  Until then, tell me what’s on your writing tool shelf.  Do you have unique tool that gives you inspiration?  Was there a book that really opened your eyes to craft of writing?  Is there a book about the English language that really makes you laugh?

The great photograph is by geishaboy500 and I found it on Flickr.