Saturday, June 14, 2008

Books about Writing

Getting back into reading on a regular basis was easier than expected.  It also made me realize just how much I truly missed reading.  I haven’t regularly read books in years which is sad when considering that reading was one of my greatest joys while growing up. 

I recently picked up a bunch of books at once.  A mixture of “writing” books and fiction.  I’ve devoured four so far, which is a pretty good start.  My first conquest was “Telling Lies for Fun & Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers” by Lawrence Block.  As I’ve mentioned before the moment I finished it I wanted to re-read it, that’s how good it was.  Had that been the only book acquired I would probably be on my 5th read through by now. 

The second book I read was “Storm Front” by Jim Butcher.  I’m a fan of the short lived TV show The Dresden Files so moving onto the source material wasn’t a far leap. It was a quick read and more a popcorn book than anything, but the attempt at a hard-boiled detective novel mashed up with magic in the modern world was catchy.  I’m definitely picking up more in that series.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles” by Steven Pressfield was the third.  A little arty like “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg yet it had some interesting insights.  Ones that took me by surprise and rang true.  There are some nuggets of wisdom to be found in this one.

Lastly, I just finished “On Writing” by Stephen King.  Since I was a kid he’s been one of my favorite authors.  Not everything in his vast catalog is good, but a majority of them have been and a few of them have been amazing.  Say what you may about the subject matter, the man is an expert storyteller weaving complex narratives effortlessly.  “It” is a perfect example of that.

Of the “writing” books I’ve read the two that have been the most useful are Block’s and King’s.  Both of them detail the nuts and bolts of the writing profession.  The reality of a writer’s life as opposed to the popular fantasy.  They also both espouse several axioms of the writing craft. 

1. In order to be a good writer you must be a voracious reader.

2. Output is crucial to writing.  The more you writer the better you’ll be.

3. Dedication is not the only thing necessary to become a writer, but it is crucial to being a successful one.

4. You must love what you write or else there’s no point in doing it.

A corollary to #4 would be “Write what you know” also known as “Write the truth”.

On a funny side note, King mentions that his daily writing goal is 2000 words a day and that a beginning writer should aim for at least 1000.  Glad to see I wasn’t too far off the mark in my initial thinking.  He also recommends the aspiring author take a day off which I haven’t included in my challenge, but still sounds like good advice.

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