The initial concept for this post morphed several times before I finally settled on this: Favorites From My Nonfiction Stash. At one point it was “Favorites From the Stacks,” where I’d spend a day digging up old research materials. Then I thought, “Well that would just give way too much away if I were to ever publish that shelved project.”
The second idea for today’s post was “Fiction Favorites.” I then realized I’d already done that; it’s hard keeping track of topics one’s already discussed over a seven year blogging career! By the end of April I’ll have over 150 blog posts to my name, and that’s insane.
Finally, I settled on sharing what nonfiction titles I already own and use consistently in this writing journey of mine. There’s going to be some titles that are very specific to my region, with a few randoms thrown in. Naturally, anyone can use these resources (well, anyone can use any resource they choose).
So, without giving away too much when it comes to my stash of shelved WIPs, here are some favorites from my nonfiction at-home library.
True Ladies & Proper Gentlemen
You know that moment when you find something that’s pure gold? When it’s the perfect resource and just what you’ve been looking for? That’s exactly how I felt when I got my hands on this. From the downright absurd to things that actually make sense, True Ladies & Proper Gentlemen is a must have for anybody looking to write historical fiction. Well, Victorian and perhaps even Regency historical fiction. I doubt it would be pertinent for a story set in the 1960s. In an era where genre-mashing is a thing, who knows? It very well could!
Tourist Trains Guidebook
If you’ve been around this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I love trains. And trolleys. All things trains and trolleys. I really wish I’d written about my visit to the Florida Railroad Museum last summer with my aunt’s family. Alas, I wasn’t feeling all that great due to that state’s high humidity. So I didn’t even consider it. If you love riding the rails like I do, then this is a great resource. In fact, I’ve already marked off several attractions in its pages, and I hope to cross off several more within my lifetime. I think it’s time for a spring picnic at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum…
Plot & Structure
If there’s one area I have trouble with when it comes to writing, it’s most definitely plotting. Give me research and I’ll run with it for months. Give me character development and I’ll be able to tell you everything about them after several weeks of work. Give me an outline and I’ll format that thing for you without any problems. Give me plot points and that’s where you’ve lost me completely. Maybe I should just write nonfiction instead of fiction? Eh, even then I’d still need to know where I’m going! That’s why I really like books like this; they help me put all the pieces together. I just need to do it!
Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains
Even as a Pennsylvanian, I often forget just how big the Commonwealth really is. That’s why I love small books like this because they give me a glimpse into a part of the state I’ve only ever heard of and have yet to see. I’m positive my cousins, who live closer to Erie than Pittsburgh, have seen more of the Allegheny Mountains and the Poconos than I have. Fun fact: the Allegheny Mountains, often referred to as the Alleghenies, also extend down through West Virginia and Virginia. They provide a gorgeous backdrop for any journey along Interstate 79. I need to do some more exploring…
And here we are with yet another Pittsburgh-themed book. I did say there would be several of these, did I not? I wrote about these steps in a post a few weeks back, and I really do want to try exploring a few of them this summer. In a region such as mine, it’s easy to see how these steps came about and why they were important to the movement of people in the city’s early days. Especially in areas along the North Shore and Mount Washington. Many steps have been lost, but many more have been preserved. Pittsburgh Steps by Bob Regan is an incredible guide for those looking to explore the city’s many neighborhoods on foot.
A research rabbit holes. You love to love them, and love to hate them at the same time. But I really needed something like this to help at least somewhat visualize what the city could’ve looked like in one of my historical adventure WIPs. The Images of America book series is a very valuable resource for any historical fiction writer, and I highly recommend you pick up one or two of them, if there are any available for your chosen subject. Many things about Pittsburgh look the same, but so much more has changed. That’s what I love about owning historical records such as these.
Home Improvement 1-2-3
I hope you’re not too surprised by this one, but does fall into the nonfiction category. So I hope you’ll forgive me for including it! However you choose to react to a self-help DIY book is up to you, but this really is one of the absolute best resources out there for me. Even though I have a dad, who’s also my landlord, I know he won’t be around forever to fix whatever goes wrong. So I picked up this book a long while ago. They’re actually rather hard to find, and it was by chance I saw it on my way out of the store one day. I highly highly recommend picking up something like this.