Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Favorite Writing Books


You can go to any bookstore and find a multitude of “how to” books on just about every aspect of writing, from how to get the first word down to how to find an agent, from publishing your book to marketing. It’s all there in the tall dark bookshelves of your favorite bookstore. In fact, most bookstores have an entire section on writing (though, in the last few years, many bookstores have merged the writing section with reference). In any event, if you want to learn how to write, then go down to your favorite bookstore and find the book that suits your needs.
When you get to that little independent bookstore on the corner, I want to urge you to look for two of my favorite writing books: On Writing by Stephen King and Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. Why? Because both are about the creative process and writing life with a whole lot of biography stirred in. Both of these books are both small. You can stick either of them in your handbag (if you’re male, you can put one in your overcoat pocket), and catch a word or two at lunchtime. You can take them everywhere with you.
On Writing is a memoir on Stephen King’s life as a writer. Part one is his C.V., or more properly his Curriculum Vitae, about how he obtained his writing experience and the writing jobs he has held over the years. Part two is about what it takes to be a writer, and includes the tools her utilizes every day. He does not paint a rosy picture of writing, but a constructs a realistic panorama.
Zen in the Art of Writing was first published back in 1973, and has been reprinted several times. This lovely little book contains ten of Bradbury’s straightforward, intense and colorful essays. Like King, he writes from a biographical point of view, utilizing his own experiences to illustrate the truth about the writing life.
While my bookshelves are packed with many writing books I have collected over the years, the two aforementioned books are always within reach for a quick read. In order to be a writer, you must write. It’s also important to be realistic about what the writing world is like. Many writers, including me, have not quit their day jobs. I know one author who has written six novels, most of them on the best selling list, and he still works part-time. I love to write, have profited a little bit, but I know I will be at my job for quite awhile.
As for my writing, I just finished chapter 24 and approximately 45,000 words, and believe I have about five or six chapters left to go. I am getting really excited about concluding draft two. Then I must face the hard work of editing, adding, and taking away. This stage will be more intensive as, after two drafts, I feel I have crafted a good story.
Happy writing all!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Just in General

I was surprised when Zac Petit from Writer’s Digest asked if they could quote me in their magazine. At the Writer’s Digest Forum, a question was posted regarding opinions on the best ingredient of a novel, the choices being plot/premise, style, characters or setting. I chose characters. Why? Well, since writing my entire response here might constitute plagiarism, you must go to the sidebar on page 10 of the March/April edition of Writer’s Digest, to read what I said. Writer’s Digest is one of the best magazines out there for writers, along with The Writer. I read both religiously.

I am still writing my novel, with my goal for completion for April. I am being lenient on myself, not committing to a strict deadline of 12:00 a.m. April 1. My goal is have the entire second draft completed by sometime during the month. Thus far, I have written 41,014 words. I already have a novel (40,000 words or more), but the story is half to three-quarters finished. I have anywhere from 20,000 – 40, 0000 words left to complete the story.

If I write 1,000 words per day, it will take me 20 days to reach 60,000 words, or 40 days to reach 80,000 words. Either way, I would reach my deadline. If I feel really industrious, I could write 1,500 words a day for the next 20 days and produce 30,000 words, and be done by the end of March.

I want to find markets for three short stories I have written. Persistence is the key. Robert A. Heinlein’s Rules of Writing from his essay On the Writing of Speculative Fiction, published in 1947, are well known to many writers:

1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
4. You must put the work on the market.
5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

These are excellent rules. I have given extra thought to number three, since many writers disagree with refraining from rewriting. However, Heinlein’s intent is very clear. As writers, it is our job to create a first draft that is polished and ready for the eyes of an editor, agent or publisher. Think about words, plot and every aspect of your story, and make changes as you go along. Once you put “The End,” you are done. While I agree with this rule, I have not yet gotten to the point where I do not go back and make changes.

Now it’s time for me to work on my novel. I am on chapter 23 to be exact. Until next time…happy writing, and write like it is.

To Go Oxford....or Not

Do you use the Oxford comma or do you omit it? Some grammar sages say to either keep it or omit it, unless omitting the Oxford comma will...