Resources for Writers – #1

A long, long time ago (heavens, it seems an age!), I wrote a post about the difficulties of historical accuracy facing writers.

Really? So kind of you – it’s here: HERE

Gosh, people are so kind.

Anyway, I have a number of books which I find invaluable when I am writing, so just to mention a few:

I have a first edition of Chambers’ Encyclopaedia; two volumes, published 1848, which I got for a song many years ago. Of course, anyone who has ever heard me sing will know that cannot be literally true – the only thing I might get for a song would be a heavy fine or a spell in prison. Or a slap. But enough of that.

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Referring back to my post on historical accuracy, I argued that even contemporary accounts of history are suspect – possibly even more so than many later ones – but as a snapshot of the world as it was seen by a group of British writers in 1848, my Chambers’ Encyclopaedia is invaluable. It gives me their view of other nations and religions, their understanding of science and commerce, and many other topics. A story set in 1848 or thereabouts, would use much of that information.

And 1848 in Europe was known as the year of revolutions – a good setting for a story or ten.

Equally, I set a long short story in 1920’s England, and many of the travel books of the time (I have a guide book to Dartmoor published in 1920) carry adverts for food, drink, hotels, buses, etc, which give a lot of the detail I needed.

Finally, Lonely Planet. My current novel, for which I still don’t have a title – don’t judge me – is set mainly in the India of 1988-ish. The 1986 edition of West Asia on a Shoestring while not being a great deal of use to the traveller of 2017, is incredibly useful to me when writing my book. I can easily get a sense of the price of everything that my English traveller of the story will encounter, and also a sense of what is available – where buses or trains might run, what sort of facilities are to be found in small hill towns, and many other things.

Obviously, our old chum Google is always at hand to help us out with our queries, but resources such as these are not only more accurate, they save us having to sift through many sites that may provide inaccurate information.

And God help the writer that uses that.

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19 thoughts on “Resources for Writers – #1

  1. I think google is not a right medium for historical facts. The reason is simple. Anything that goes in print always check and checked and checked….one cannot be careless about it! Publishers are trained for this. But with google…anyone and everyone can post anything they like without any relevancy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. To be honest, this is why I decided to write fantasy. That is so much work! Even with fantasy, there is quite enough research to satisfy me. Good for you, Mick, for doing the hard work to create an authentic experience for the reader.

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  3. I admire the fact that you take such care over your books and posts and strive (successfully) to make sure they are factually correct). I think I would find it difficult to write historical fiction. This is not so much from the point of view of researching to get the facts right but writing fiction of any sort always poses a problem for me in that I have absolutely no imagination! I am fairly sure that my entire blog comprises non-fiction and true life as you no doubt know by now.

    However, I love using reference books – my trusty, but newish ‘Oxford English Dictionary’ to make sure my spelling is correct. Having said that, I’ve found a very useful website and online tool called ‘Grammarly’ which picks up all sorts of possible and common inaccuracies in English grammar and spelling and more.

    I think my favourite book (again, a reference book as I’m not generally a lover of fiction although there are exceptions), is my timeworn and extremely tatty, yellowed copy of ‘Roget’s Thesaurus.’ I inherited it from my Mum many years ago and have found it invaluable.

    As for encyclopaedias, like you, I could spend hours pouring over them for interest although I don’t use them so much in my own writing. I have to admit that I do find Google (or rather, Bing, which I prefer) useful on occasions although I agree with you and your followers that it is not necessarily always trustworthy.

    I’ve always said though that a home without many well-thumbed books isn’t a home.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Ellie. That’s an interesting point to ponder; you say you would find fiction difficult to write, yet with the historical fiction (for example) once you have a basic plot, the factual side (research) sometimes dictates where the story will go anyway. As a self-confessed non-fiction writer, you might find that works for you – factual reporting with a little bit of imagination! I don’t know, just a thought.

      I certainly agree about the well-thumbed books and the home, though. We certainly have plenty of those! Some of those, naturally, are those distracting encyclopaedias and other reference works.

      I think at heart, I’m just a frustrated journalist!

      Liked by 1 person

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