wilderthan: ((River) Walk alone)
How To Write by John Fairfax and John Moat doesn't really cover any new ground, for me. There's some interesting stuff about how to use word, some fanciful comparisons to magic that really sound good, but there's no new practical information for a writer. Just the same old advice -- make your own space, write every day, etc, etc. Plus, for a modern writer, it's out of date. There are some things that don't go out of date, but other things do, like references to typewriters and the kind of vanity press publishing that was around when it was written.
wilderthan: ((Ashe) Smile)
I really enjoyed reading Stephen King's book about writing. I've observed several times that I know snobby people who won't touch his stuff: I kind of want to shove this book in their face and tell them that this, this book by this crappy bestselling author? This contains the Ten Commandments of writing. Stuff like kill your darlings (no, really, do) and don't say sugar when you mean shit, and write every day, write all the time. It even suggests a way of getting out of writer's block.

(By snobby people, by the by, I don't mean people who have tried Stephen King and don't like it. That's fair enough, and, I think, as justifiable as my dislike of the Harry Potter books. I'm talking about people who refuse to ever read them, not because they don't like scary books or because they just can't get on with his writing, but just "on principle".)

Two things I really, especially loved about this, though.

1) He is up front and frank about this being just his experience. The book's a conversation with you about writing, and you've got room to disagree. He's just putting his thoughts on the table and saying, hey, if they'll help, I'm really glad.

2) The idea of the Ideal Reader, his being his wife. It reminds me of stuff other writers have suggested (write a book to your favourite author, make your stories love letters to someone, etc) and King writes about it with feeling and also understanding. He doesn't pretend that Ideal Reader won't ever laugh in your face.

So, I think this is definitely a book writers should read. If only to see if they can get their heads out of their asses and listen to all kinds of experience: if they can't, then they've got no business trying to write. It's got good advice, in his opinion and mine, and something obviously works because, hey, bestselling author.

I also think that maybe you should give this to your Ideal Reader to read. Tabitha King sounds like exactly the kind of first reader an author needs.
wilderthan: ((Edea) Sinister)
Reading Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott struck me as reading two very similar books from two distinct voices. Writing Down The Bones is a personal reflection on the craft and what works for Goldberg and might work for you. It's easy to digest, coming in short chapters, and it really does make you think about what you write, how you sit down to work, whether you're really dedicated to writing. The allusions to Buddhism and Judaism and how they affect her writing are also interesting. Some of her advice seems contradictory, but really it's just that it comes from different places in the process. Some of it is the average advice you get from all writers -- keep a notebook, take it everywhere, write in it every day, just as an example -- but coupled with her experience of doing that.

I felt like it was a little bit repetitive and it didn't focus much on what to do with the writing once you've done it, but it was still worth reading.
wilderthan: ((Fujin) Won't understand)
I think The Way To Write Short Stories (by Michael Baldwin) would be quite good for someone who's never tried to write short stories and isn't very familiar with the genre. I didn't personally learn much from it, but it was a good way to get me thinking about it and formalising my ideas about how to go about it a little.

Don't really recommend buying it, though. Worth flicking through, but it's really quite light.
wilderthan: ((Ashe) Smile)
Bird By Bird is less a book about writing techniques and more a writer speaking to other writers and telling them that it's okay. All of it. All their neuroses and hang ups and setbacks. It's okay. Just take it word by word (bird by bird). I don't think I learned much from it, but just having someone say it's okay to me for two hundred and thirty-seven pages was good. There is some good advice in there about how to start writing a scene you don't know about, how to let your characters develop, how to deal with criticism, how to pull ideas out of the melting pot that is memory. There's a piece of advice that I just love and might have to try some day: write a book for your favourite author. I don't know what I'll write for Susan Cooper or Ursula Le Guin or Guy Gavriel Kay, but I know I want to try writing for them.

Anne Lamott writes understandingly, in a way that will make you smile wryly and -- in places -- probably make you want to cry. It may not teach you anything beyond it's okay, and you might find that even that you know, but her writing is lovely and worth reading anyway. I've never read any of her novels, but I definitely recommend reading this.
wilderthan: ((Fujin) Won't understand)
Lately I've been reading books about writing -- partly out of curiosity, partly to see if there was anything they could teach me. The ones I've read so far are Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction (Lisa Tuttle), The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them) (Jack M. Bickham), 10 Steps To Making Memorable Characters and Steering the Craft (Ursula Le Guin).

My thoughts, let me show you them )


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