Join the authors and friends of Not Your Usual Suspects for an occasional series of posts about their world of reading, writing and publishing.
Short and sweet, hopefully both informative and entertaining - join us at I-Spy to find out the how's and why's of what we do.
TODAY'S POST: I-Spy something beginning with The Writer's Library
A library is as intimate as an underwear drawer. It reveals personality, history and what you’re like on the inside.
Peek into your library. Do you see hardbacks? Paperbacks? Well-loved copies or things that appear pristine? Fiction or non-fiction? I’ll bet you have plenty of both.
Estimate the percentage of each category. I hate word problems, but I’ll give it a try. In my office library, I have a 63-39 spilt of non-fiction to fiction. (Told you I hated word problems. But seriously, is poetry fiction or non-fiction?)
If you’re like me, most of that non-fiction consists of books for writing.
I was a librarian just long enough to brush up on my Dewey categories. Oddly enough, I enjoyed shelving books, finding the spot they belonged and tucking each one back in place was a chance to discover a book I’d never seen. Working the shelves taught me to keep my eyes open for surprises. My favorite thriller author had written a Young Adult book? Someone wrote a manual on how to paint Egyptian murals? Every discovery made me happy.
It also made me realize that having a system for sorting was the key to finding those treasures again when I needed them.
That’s when I decided to sort my own library more carefully.
Over time, I’ve worked out a system. My system may not work for you, but maybe it will get you thinking about how to organize your own library.
My system only works in my office library. (The family collection is located in another part of the house, where everyone can get at it—husband, kids, cats and nephews.)
Things get jumbled when I’m working on a project, but when I’m tidy, there are seven sections in my catalog (apologies to, Mr. Dewey):
- · Manuals
- · Technique
- · Ancestors
- · Inspiration
- · Industry/Business
- · Subject Matter References
- · and the Unpredictable.
Right next to my computer, I keep my favorite manuals--books with technical, unchanging information like dictionaries, and books on technique--which advise on style and form. Think: “Eats, Shoots & Leaves.”
Why bother with a real dictionary when you can have dictionary.com on your start up menu?
No argument. Online dictionaries and thesaurus’ work great for quick questions, but what if you are working with historical language? There is nothing like having the Crown Jewel of Dictionaries at your fingertips: the OED (2 volume edition.) With etymology going back to the dawn of English, every possible use referenced with examples, this dictionary is dangerously fun to read.
Another manual I prefer in print form is the baby naming book. (I have three.) Naming characters is serious business. I like to consider meanings, variations from different languages and connections to characters in other works. (Remember “Lost?” There’s a reason the guy is named John Locke, right?)
Here’s another advantage of using a real book. I don’t know about you, but my eyeballs get tired of all the visual distractions online. Those little ads and flashes. Columns and paragraphs breaks interrupting what I’m reading. My brain gets tired faster when it has to constantly choose to ignore information. The clarity of a sitting quietly with a source helps me stay focused.
Technique books are another thing I prefer to set in front of me while I’m working. Everything from “The Deluxe Transitive Vampire” to “Strunk & White” can be stacked on my desk when I’m on the job. Again the internet is a great source for simple questions, but unless you have a photographic memory, or three monitors on your desk, flipping between windows can be a pain. And you have to be careful of who’s advice you are taking on the internet. Can tell you how many times I’ve corrected a kids’ paper and heard, “But I saw it just like that on the internet!”
Well, I‘ve rambled on for a while here. I’ll save the details on other sections and my favorite books in each. But I’ll give you a title or two to think about:
“The Creative Habit”
“The Forest for the Trees”
“Writing Alone and with Others”
Sound good? Come visit next time.
Shhh. It'll be fun.
Kindlegraph / the art of research / writing male/male romance / rejection and writer's block / building suspense / writing love scenes / anti-piracy strategies / audio books / interviews with editors and agents / using Calibre.
We welcome everyone's constructive comments and suggestions!