January I'm focusing on getting ready for our National Novel Revision Month. The NaNoWriMo org does this in June, but why wait? I plan to be writing another novel then, so now's the perfect time to revise NaNoWriMo projects. I didn't write another novel because I focused on editing three others. One I've since gotten back with revision notes from my agent and have already revised again. Fear not, I have plenty of projects to work on with you, so we're in this revision nightmare together.
Today I'm giving you some tools; books that may help. Honestly, I've used these books uncountable times and they are tops on my reference shelf. You can buy tons of books on self editing, but I don't think you really need them. I'll post more about editing with expert insight from publishing people so save your money. Next week, I'll put up links for editing advice. If you ,have any suggestions that you think should go on the list because they've been helpful to you, let me know and I'll include it.
My advice is not to sit and immediately read the following books. They're references, so consult them as you need them. There is so much information, you won't be able to retain it all.
- The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. This book helps you to reveal character emotions without repetitive, tired phrases (like 'He quirked an eyebrow, questioning her claim.') They list physical signals, internal sensations, mental responses, cues of active/long term or suppressed emotion. Plus, there's a handy tip for each category. I have found this book invaluable. If you find yourself reading the same emotion indicators over and over, or realize you need to 'show' rather than tell, reach for this book. The co-authors also put out other books which may help when you're refining the manuscript, such as Emotion Amplifiers, Negative Trait Thesaurus (flaws for you characters), and Positive Trait Thesaurus (character attributes).
- The Oxford American Thesaurus. The thesaurus on your computer, no matter which word processing program you use, is still very limited. I have a trusty, beat up and mangled copy of the Oxford Thesaurus within arm's reach. (I prefer it to Roget's which I don't feel is as comprehensive.) Choose better, stronger words in place of weak or overused ones.
- US News (or AP) Stylebook. Everything from how to properly capitalize titles, make plurals or possessives, to when to use 'whom' is in this tiny treasure trove. I used it all the time when I was a reporter and when I wrote magazine articles. I still use it writing fiction as a quick grammar reference. You don't need (or want) a thick book on proper grammar. This book does nicely.
- Oxford or Webster's Dictionary. Yep, I know your word processing package has one built in. Again, it's not complete or exhaustive. Keep a dictionary on hand because sometimes you need a deeper search.
- Encyclopedias. If you're writing a story about a witch, then The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft by Rosemary Ellen Guiley needs to be on your desk. There are specialty encyclopedias for just about every subject, from science fiction to vampires to folklore and more. Shop around for your subject and keep it handy.
There are books by famous authors like Stephen King's On Writing which gets rave reviews, and books by the not-so-famous. Bookstore shelves and online retailers are full of them. Peruse the inventory, maybe something will catch your eye and work for you, but don't go crazy and buy a ton of them- I guarantee you won't use them all.
Finally, ask your writer friends which books they like. It's always good to check around because you'll get so many different answers and one choice has to work for you. Start building your reference library now.