Tuesday, April 14, 2015

7 Writing Tools You Want on Your Bookshelf Plus Win THE SHADOW CABINET by Maureen Johnson

There are people who don't do any research or reference at all when they're drafting. They put XXX or something similar wherever something needs to be verified or checked, and they move on. I wish I could be that free, maybe I would write faster. In the day of the Internet, you would think I look everything up online, right? But no. The internet is a great research tool, but it's also a giant rabbit hole down which I can disappear for hours, so apart from fact checking and pure research, I tend to keep a handful of physical references to do my heavy lifting.


  • Standard Dictionary -- I almost never use this, but I do keep one to check a definition of a word I'm not sure about. The trouble with the standard dictionary is that you pretty much have to know the word you're looking for first.
  • Visual Dictionary -- There's an online version of this as well, and both versions are great for kickstarting the brain when you are looking for related concept. Have a scene set in a kitchen? A supermarket? Don't settle for the first description or item that comes to mind. A visual dictionary can help you see the setting item by item to jump start your creativity.
  • Reverse Dictionary -- Have a word or a term stubbornly stuck on the tip of your tongue? This is the tool that lets you find it intuitively.


  • Standard Thesaurus -- It's common writer's wisdom that if you're having to resort to the thesaurus to get the right word, you're not going to find it. We often make the mistake of thinking this is because simpler is better, but the truth is that not every word you find in a standard thesaurus is going to mean the same thing. 
  • Thesaurus Dictionary -- This great tool allows you to consider or cross reference the nuances of each synonym, which helps you find the perfect word to express your meaning or to find an alternative if you have to use one to avoid those pesky echoes (repeated words) on your pages.
  • Visual Thesaurus -- This one is, unfortunately, purely an online tool, but it's handy if you have to find a related concept or synonym in a hurry.

Symbolism Dictionary

Looking for ways to build connections and imagery within your work? Ways to add deeper meaning, either for your characters, yourself, or your readers? A symbolism dictionary is a great way to start your thought process or check the meaning of symbols or images you've already put on the page.

Encyclopedia of Folklore 

  • Motif Index of Folk-Literature -- Stith Thompson's six-volume set describing, classifying, and cross-indexing Narrative Elements in Folktales, Ballads, Myths, Fables, Medieval Romances, etc. is not for everyone. But it's fantastic for those of us who geek out about such things.
  • Encyclopedia of Folklore and Literature -- Less comprehensive but nevertheless fascinating if you want to trace the use or evolution of a particular element of folklore or myth through the various retellings or uses in fiction. A great place to troll for story ideas, too.
  • The Golden Bough -- James Frazer's famous "Study in Magic and Religion" isn't an encylopedia per se, but is anthropological approach to connect folk beliefs from around the world and tie them, where possible, to fact and science, is another brilliant reference book for anyone who writes speculative fiction.


The Shadow Cabinet
by Maureen Johnson
Putnam Juvenile
Released 2/10/2015
Giveaway Ends 5/11/15

The thrilling third installment to the Edgar-nominated, bestselling Shades of London series

Rory and her friends are reeling from a series of sudden and tragic events. While racked with grief, Rory tries to determine if she acted in time to save a member of the squad. If she did, how do you find a ghost? Also, Rory’s classmate Charlotte has been kidnapped by Jane and her nefarious organization. Evidence is uncovered of a forty-year-old cult, ten missing teenagers, and a likely mass murder. Everything indicates that Charlotte’s in danger, and it seems that something much bigger and much more terrible is coming.

Time is running out as Rory fights to find her friends and the ghost squad struggles to stop Jane from unleashing her spectral nightmare on the entire city. In the process, they’ll discover the existence of an organization that underpins London itself—and Rory will learn that someone she trusts has been keeping a tremendous secret.

Purchase The Shadow Cabinet at Amazon
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Do you have a favorite reference book you like to use for writing? Do you enjoy reading books that involve myths, folklore, and magic? What are your favorites?


  1. Thank you! First I've heard of a reverse dictionary--and I want to get my hands on one :-) Helpful post...

  2. I still use the internet!! But I love old textbooks

    thank you so very much :)

  3. A bunch of tools here I've never heard of. Thanks for this post. Will be saving it!

  4. like it in books; no fav

  5. I use the Children's Writer's Word Book all the time.

  6. Thanks for this post. I hadn't heard of some of these resources and will be checking them out.

  7. I use a thesaurus all the time.


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