What Should Fiction Writers Have on Their Desk?

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Dictionary and thesaurus

Does this one seem old-fashioned to you? Why have actual booksnear your writing space when you can log onto the Internet at any time and find out the same information? There are a few reasons, the chief one being that the Internet is a big distraction from writing. In fact, you might be best served to write on a computer that has no Net connection. Also, what is your Net access goes down? In that case, you’d still have your trusty dictionary and thesaurus right there at hand. I can’t help you if the power goes out, but you could always have a manual typewriter or a pen and pad of paper handy. Keep in mind, the world existed a long time before computers came along. Even before household electricity, believe it or not. And people wrote back then, by candlelight sometimes.

Pens, pencils, paper

I mention this mainly for writing little notes to yourself, but obviously you can do just about everything a writer needs with these bare essentials. I prefer to leave little notes for myself, sometimes folders full of them, so I can look things over without having to power up my computer or have to go searching through all the folders on my computer because I couldn’t remember the name of some note file I created a week ago. But that’s just me, and obviously I’m a little old fashioned when it comes to this writing thing. Also, if you’re writing fiction and the scene involves lots of people and/or action, sometimes it can help to draw out a little diagram of where everyone is.

A baby name book

This one should be obvious. If you’re writing fiction, you’ll often have to come up with names for your characters. Sometimes you might want a specific name, or a certain sound name, that has some meaning for a particular character. Other times you just want a name that doesn’t sound boring. And still other times you won’t really care, you just need a name. One of those books with names for babies can come in handy at this point, allowing you to flip through and get lots of ideas.

An atlas

This one can be handy, too. But why have an atlas when you can just jump onto Mapquest? Besides reasons I outlined above for staying off the Internet, it’s also true that Mapquest doesn’t have everything; oh, Mapquest has the U.S. covered pretty well, and most of Western Europe, but there are still plenty of places in the world where an online map can’t help you. If you’re writing a thriller, an atlas can help you plot out where the next caper or shoot-em-up or whatever should occur. If you’re writing a horror story about a killer stalking someone in New York City, you want to make sure you’ve got the locale and street names correct, especially if you don’t live there. Even if you’re writing fantasy, an atlas can give you naming ideas for far-away lands.

A Latin dictionary

This one is a bit of a stretch, but I’ve always found it useful for a variety of reasons. A number of the world’s modern languages are based on Latin, and even some of the English language is taken from Latin. Sometimes I just want to look up the early meanings of a word or the original root of a word. Other times, since I write a fair amount of fantasy, I like to peruse a Latin dictionary in search of words or phrases that sound as if they’re from another time and land.

Something inspiring

I’m talking about whatever it is that helps you to keep the ball rolling. Whatever it is that inspires you to write. Maybe it’s a picture of loved one. Maybe it’s a paperback signed by your favorite author. Maybe it’s a blue-ribbon award you won for a story you wrote back in elementary school. Whatever it is, you should have it near just to look at it to help keep you motivated and those writing juices flowing in the old brain.

Other Writing Links

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Month One: The Kindle Publishing Experiment

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Other People Can’t Teach You to Write

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