Mustang’s Guide to Desk References

As the main contributor to ‘Mustang Patty Talks Writing’ (okay, the Only contributor,) I thought I would share the resources I believe every writer should have at their fingertips. I know I’m not the only one who has an extensive library of writing books, but the HUGE choice of these tombs is daunting for some folks.

So, which books do I find essential? (They sit on a shelf just over my desk.)


I bought a box set of Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, Thesaurus, and Vocabulary Builder several years ago. Each volume is an excellent size to keep on your desk and have at your beck and call.

  1. Dictionary – Spelling – You know when the word just doesn’t look right – (DO NOT always TRUST any spell-checker.) Ensure you are using the word correctly by looking up definitions.
  2. Thesaurus – Finding synonyms, so you’re not always using the same word within your text. The use of the thesaurus is a tremendous help.
  3. Vocabulary Builder – The Merriam Webster edition helps me by introducing new words and quizzing me on their use. Marketed as a guide to preparing for standardized tests like the SATs and ACTs, the book is written in an easy-to-understand manner.

Style Guide(s)          

I have several.

  1. My favorite is ‘Elements of Style 2017,’ because it is organized in such a way, I can always find what I’m looking for.
  2. ‘The Chicago Manual of Style,’ is used by the majority of publications, so I own both a hard copy, as well as subscribe to the online resource.
  3. ‘APA Style Guide’ is another resource – each of these guides has a specific type of writing outlined. ALWAYS check with any submission guidelines to determine which guide is used by the place you are submitting stories.      


I cannot stress enough how important it is to EDIT your work before you share it ANYWHERE. Nothing will make a writer look sloppy and amateurish than spelling errors, obvious grammatical mistakes, or missing words.                            

(I’m a judge for an online site and a teacher of Creative Writing, which is one of the biggest downfalls of the beginning writer. Nothing will make you look like an amateur when you submit a work that hasn’t been edited.)                                 

If had to choose a favorite resource. In that case, I probably refer to ‘Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors’ by Kathy Ide.


The guide I keep on my desk and I’ve needed to replace time or two is ‘The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need’ by Susan Thurman. The book is easy to understand and user-friendly. (I find this book so useful, it is what I give away when I do Author Takeovers on Facebook.)

Character Development:

Since your characters’ development is a crucial element of your storyline, there are LOTS of references out there. My personal favorite is ‘Creating Character Arcs,’                         by K. M. Weiland.

Plot Development:

Along with character development, it is imperative for your storyline to be fully developed. Frequently, your original idea needs to be fleshed out, and taking the time to read some information helps me a lot. My favorite book for inspiration in this matter is the Writer’s Digest book, ‘Crafting Novels & Short Stories.’

The foreword is written by James Scott Bell, who writes excellent guides about story structure and he is considered one of the best Writing Coaches around.

Guidance and Inspiration:

I have several books by my favorite authors, which are mostly their thoughts on the writing process. These non- fiction books are wonderful when I’m experiencing a ‘block,’ or when I need to be reminded why I spend so much time in my den, pecking on keys.

                                  ‘On Writing,’ by Stephen King

                                  ‘On Writers and Writing,’ by Margaret Atwood

                                  ‘The Book on Writing,’ by Paula Larocque

These are just a few of the books I turn to while writing. I hope you will consider this list to be just the beginning of your search for the right guides.

Not everyone will find the same books as me to be a useful resource.

SO, if you have a favorite book on writing and the process that I haven’t listed, please leave a comment, and share your secret!

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

Published by Mustang Patty

I am finally a full-time author, who writes legal thrillers, how-to- books, short stories, flash fiction, a tiny bit of poetry, and Blog posts. My published works include 'Guilty until Proven Innocent,' 'Innocent for the Moment,' and 'Moment by Moment.' This is a trilogy called the Jill Adair Series. Additionally, I've written a collection of short stories about my dogs, Howie and Bernie - with a 2nd Collection coming in late 2021. I'm also coordinating an Anthology of Short Stories called, '2021 Indie Authors Short Story Anthology.' This book will be available on on August 1st of 2021. (The 2020 Indie Authors Short Story Anthology is currently available on - the collection includes 30 stories, written by 18 different Authors from three continents.) I am married to my wonderful hubby of over 37 years, and I have two grown children, named Heather and Gregory. I've been blessed with two beautiful grandbabies, Heather Rose and Logan Ernest.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: