Writing: Resources and Ideas

March 26, 2008

I love to write and am a freelance writer who is into history. I use my blog as incentive to write and to hone my skills. My goal is to get published in mainstream magazines and to get my book project published.

Recently on the advice of others I obtained some excellent sources of ideas that also serve as quick references. I highly recommend having them close at hand.

1. Almanac: New York Times World Almanac
Not only a truly awesome book of facts, but if you leaf through it at random with notebook and pen in hand it’s surprising the ideas you can come up with.

2. Desktop Concise Encyclopedia: The Penguin Concise Encyclopedia.
Although only one volume, it is amazing how much info this contains. Again take the time to read it at random every now and then, ideas will be found.

3. AP (Associate Press) Style Guide.
A must in my opinion and at around $12 US it’s a bargain. Most of the major news sources and modern publications use it.

4. World Atlas: I have an 8 1/2 x 11″ size one that fits into my backpack and yet is very well done. It is indispensible for seeing where countries fit into the world. Not only do you need to know about the country, but its setting in the neighborhood, for example what countries are adjacent to it.

5. National Geographic Magazines.
I am fortunate to have a large collection of these. Great for finding article ideas. I also have the 100 year index they published in 1988. Invaluable quick search for subjects that they have covered, especially on the obscure.

6. Time/Life Yearbooks.
These are usually on the newsstands yearly and older issues can be picked up cheaply at garage/yard sales. Nice source of information for a specific year. They are a great addition to your reference library.

7. Dictionary and Thesaurus.
This goes without saying. Far better than those in word processors.

So with these in hand I can now write, write, write……….if only I can find the energy and time. Seriously though, I highly recommend these as excellent items to add to your writers library.

Wikipedia: Useless or Useful?

February 14, 2008

Wikipedia is useful. Just remember that this is a site that can be edited by anyone, yes anyone. That means that it is not an accurate site. If that is the case, then what good is it to a writer or researcher?

The answer is that it is an extremely useful tool provided you remember the nature of the site.

For me and other writers it is a fantastic starting point for ideas and as a pointer to other sources of information. It always gives me a good overview of a topic. Then I go from there to other sources to confirm facts or to find more reliable sources. I take the key info from Wikipedia about the subject and list them in point form. From there I either disprove, confirm, or add more facts from other sources. As a starting point though I find Wikipedia invaluable.

Wikipedia is NOT an reliable, accurate source. Remember this and then use it as just another tool. Good journalists always confirm facts with multiple sources wherever possible. The same holds true here. For me it is a powerful tool to uncover ideas. I just have to remember to use the complete toolbox to write the articles that are sometimes inspired by my Wikipedia searches.

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