Writing Advice
- Introduction
- A room of one's own?
- Where do you get your ideas?
- Where do I begin?
- What books do I need?
- How important is research?
- Should I join a writers' circle?
- Literary terms
- Typing it up
- Sending it off
- Penbenders
- Creating characters
- Constructing the story
- Short Fiction


What books do I need?
All the books a writer needs can be found in the public library, but it’s comforting, if you can afford it, to have some at hand whenever you need them. A basic library for the British writer might include:


The Oxford Dictionary of English
An up-to-date and easy-to-use dictionary, with spellings of which most copy editors will approve!


Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases
The original, and in my opinion, the best. If you aren’t familiar with using a thesaurus, don’t be alarmed by it. It’s just a tool to help you find exactly the word you’re looking for. Some writing tutors object to the use of a thesaurus, but it can be invaluable – not so that you can find thirty different ways to tell the shopkeeper that your parrot’s dead (though that was one use of a thesaurus to which no writing tutor could object) but so that you can find the word that’s eluding you, the one you know would indicate exactly what you want to convey, the one that would mean you could drop that irritating adverb, if only you could think of it. It’s in the thesaurus, and why shouldn’t you find it that way rather than racking your brains?

One word of warning – like all tools, a thesaurus can be dangerous if it isn’t used in a responsible manner. It is never a good idea to use a word with which you are unfamiliar, because a pound to a penny you’ll use it wrongly.


Pears Cyclopaedia
Published annually, this little book packs in an amazing amount of information on every major subject, and includes a very useful chronology of world events from seventy million years BC to the middle of last year!


Oxford Dictionary of Quotations
Fun to read, useful to have around to check that you aren’t misquoting, and a wonderful source of titles.


Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
An invaluable collection of oddities, myths, strange facts and fancies, historical incidents, characters, documents…reading it could give you ideas for a dozen novels. It has wonderful lists: famous horses, famous dogs – famous dwarfs, even – and, of course, famous last words.


Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook (A & C Black)
An annual directory of newspapers and magazines, book publishers, markets for poetry, stage plays, TV and film scripts – lots of articles on subjects of interest to writers.


The Writers’ Handbook (Macmillan)
Also annual, and covers much the same ground, but as this one is purely for writers, in more depth. Also includes small presses, audio books, and a great deal more. It too has lots of articles of interest to writers.

Together, the last two books cover virtually everything the writer can possibly want to know about the markets for his work.

And, if you have the necessary equipment, there are inexpensive CD-ROM versions of many reference books which allow you to search them in every possible way. Focus Multimedia (www.focusmm.co.uk) has many titles of use to the writer, and is well worth a look.

There are also free-to-use and entirely searchable on-line versions of the original Brewer’s Dictionary and Roget’s Thesaurus on the Biblomania website, which you will find under My Favourite Sites.

Books of use to crime writers


Encyclopedia of Forensic Science (Brian Lane)
A well-written, easy-to-understand encyclopedia which has the crime writer in mind. Not bang up-to-date, but certainly worth having.


*Blackstone’s Police Manuals
An invaluable source of police procedure and the law, updated annually. There are four main manuals, covering Crime, Evidence and Procedure, General Police Duties and Road Traffic.


*A Writer’s Guide to Police Organization and Crime Investigation and Detection
The title says it all!

*These two cover British policing only.


Jill McGown
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