The Writing Reference Books I Keep on My Desk by Matt Mansfield

Writing Reference Books I Keep on My Desk

I’m a complete glutton for writing reference books. Even when I’m not writing, I love flipping through the pages to see what catches my eye either for fun or as inspiration.

I suspect that many writers share the same habit – after all, writing starts with words, phrases, and world building, all of which abound in the pages of these books. And, with the number of new writing reference books being published each month, I suspect that publishers are well aware of this habit as well.

While my collection continues to grow, most rest on the bookshelf in the corner, waiting for when I need to dip in. The small number that sit on my desk however, are my favorites, my most-used and most-loved writing reference books and I’d like to share them with you.

Master Lists for Writers

Master Lists for WritersIf you only buy one writing reference book, you may want to make it Master Lists for Writers by Bryn Donovan.

Instead of taking a deep dive into one area as some of the other books on this list did, Master Lists for Writers gives a solid sprinkling across many different topics including:

  • Descriptions;
  • Settings;
  • Plotting;
  • Action;
  • Dialogue;
  • Character names; and
  • Character traits.

The Thesaurus Series

The Thesaurus SeriesIf you need to dig deeper into your characters, the thesaurus series by both Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is one of the best ways to do so.

I own the first three in the series, The Positive Trait Thesaurus, The Negative Trait Thesaurus and The Emotion Thesaurus. All three break down their subjects in ways you can really use from descriptions to habits, background causes and more. To get a real feel for what they offer, click on any of the links above and use Amazon’s “Look inside” feature.

There are now three more books in the series (there goes more of my hard-earned money): Emotion Amplifiers which is a companion to the Emotion Thesaurus and two that focus on settings, The Rural Setting Thesaurus and The Urban Setting Thesaurus which contains cool things like what you’d see and experience at the scene of a car accident.

Historical Reference

Historical ReferenceTwo of my all-time favorite writing reference books are What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank and Hustlers, Harlots, and Heroes both of which are by Krista D. Ball (if that’s not a pseudonym, I’ll eat my hat).

These are the books to read if you want to know every little detail about living during medieval and regency times. Both in-depth reference books are worth reading all by themselves however, the wealth of information they provide is priceless to a writer.

As I write both fantasy and regency romances, buying these was a no-brainer.

Words and Phrases Reference

Every writer of fiction wants to use interesting words and phrases, ones that draw a scene as well as they draw a reader into that scene.

Coming up with interesting words and phrases, as well as not using the same ones over and over,  can be a challenge however, one in which every writer is intimately familiar.

The books in this final section are the ones I use to find juicy words and phrases, the ones that will convey my story and help define my characters. In no particular order they are:

And that’s the list! What writing reference books do you have on your desk? Please share in the replies below.


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