Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Where's Your Reference Material?

This week the Word Whores are doing a 'writing space' theme that's really interesting.  I mean, I love seeing the spaces other people write in and how each of them differ in what they need and what they don't.  Some people, for instance, have shelves of reference material within easy reach. 

Looking at my current space, I see one reference book.  The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures by John and Caitlin Matthews.  I picked it up at B&N, I think, a while back because it's a pretty good one-stop source for quickie info about all things magical.  But I've only used it once and it really needs to go back on the shelf in my bedroom.  (It served its purpose and besides, I put that WIP away for the time being.)

I used to have a big honkin' copy of the Encyclopedia of Dictionaries (EOD) on the lower shelf of my desk.  I used to keep a thesaurus.  I even had a few writerly guides hanging around where I could get my hot little hands on them in seconds.  Now?  Not a single damn one has remained.  In their places, I have my expandable file folders of query information.  Boxes of supplies.  My receipt envelope.

Where has all my reference material gone?  I mean, it's not like I'm the friggin' expert on everything now.  I still need resources.  I just don't need them in book form. The internet provides numerous dictionaries for any word I might want to find.  The same thing with thesauruses.  If I need to figure out grammar or spelling, there are resources for that, too.

Now, my EOD is packed off somewhere.  In it's last few years, it turned into more of a place to press flowers and keepsakes than a reference book anyway.  I have two regular dictionaries within sight of my desk and those are a two-volume set printed in the early 1900s.  Too old to open on a regular basis, but lovely to look at.  The rest?  Relegated to other shelves, or given away to my homeschooling neighbor who only recently got a computer, or shunted off to the local thrift store.  I haven't even put them in my store because these days, who wants to buy used resource books?

Yep, thanks to the internet, the old reference materials are going the way of the Kirkland's Warbler.  There's a newer bird in town that's more flexible about everything and it's name is Internet.

It still makes me sad, in a way.  I miss the old books - the crackle of spines and the flutter of pages as I search for the information I need to make my writing sing.  Not that I'd ever go back, but I still miss it a little.

What about you?  Where's your reference material?  Are you still using hardcopy versions or have you switched to the electronic version posted everywhere on the internet?  What hardcopy reference book is closest to your fingertips right this minute?


  1. The only reference book I have is "Practical Homicide Investigation: Tactics, Procedures, and Forensic Techniques". It's the same text they use to train homicide investigators, and it requires a bit of a strong stomach to read through, because there A LOT of pictures.

    For most everything else, I use Google, but I can't find this stuff on the internet (fortunately or unfortunately?)

  2. I'm a google girl, but I have The Czech, Moravian, and Slovak Fairy Tales Companion beside me right now. Pretty riveting, if you like Baba Yagas and such.