What Reference Books Do You Need?

by Meredith Cole

When I started my first book, I carefully collected a dictionary, a thesaurus, a baby naming book and various writing and formatting books and lined them up on my bookshelf. I also added our giant French/English dictionary because it looked weighty and important. I was a writer and I needed to show the world I was serious about my craft.

So when do I crack open and consult all these tomes during my writing process? Uh, almost never. I think I’ve opened the baby naming book once or twice. I get to that point in the story where I realize that all my secondary characters have names starting with the letter “P” and I need to fix it right away. But I find baby naming websites much faster and easier to use (quick–what’s a Lebanese boys name that starts with an “R”?).

But the dictionary and thesaurus have gathered some serious dust over the years as I’ve grown to want the instant gratification (and the immediate results) from online sites. If I can’t remember how to spell something, Google will sometimes even help me out by suggesting the correct spelling. I find this so helpful that I manage to suppress my uneasiness about how much information Google is collecting about me. It’s also great not to have to leave my computer and interrupt my writing flow since I write often somewhere other then my desk in my office.

I just had to go out and buy a new bookshelf so I could pick up all the novels piled onto my floor (reading for contests creates quite a lot of clutter!). Perhaps it’s time to get rid of the dictionary and thesaurus and make some more shelf space. But then I think–maybe the Internet will go down and I’ll need to know something right away! So I keep them and tell myself I’ll crack them open again one of these days…

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