Writing Fiction

Reference Books for Novelists

By July 17, 2016 No Comments

Last updated on June 1st, 2018

Caroline Hiley

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.

I favor:
* 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

Genre-specific websites like those for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and Romance Writers of America also offer helpful information.

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

Author Caroline Hiley

CAROLINE HILEY specializes in editing novels. She works with independent authors as well as traditional publishers, such as Penguin, HarperCollins, and Little, Brown. She also handles novellas, short stories, and memoirs. From decades of experience as an editor and compositor, along with her experience as an award-winning novelist, Caroline understands the entire writing process from first draft to publishing. She helps novice and seasoned authors prepare their novels for self- or traditional publishing, including help with storycraft, book production, and collateral documents, such as queries and synopses. More about Caroline Hiley

More posts by Caroline Hiley

Leave a Reply

Editing - Writing - Proofreading

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

You will never miss a post when you subscribe to our newsletter!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This