A good book on writing needs to do a couple of things.
First, and most books get this right, is to instruct. It should teach you something about the craft of writing. It should tell you things you didn’t know before, or make the invisible visible.
Elements of Style is a great old stand-by of this type, and probably one of the first writing books you read. ‘Omit needless words’ still rings in my head every time I try to edit something.
The second, and this is harder, is inspire, to actually make you want to write.
I always looked at Zen and the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury as a shining example of inspiration. It’s really, really hard to read it and not want to write with gusto. It’s less successful in instruction, but that’s not what he’s going for, really. Ray Bradbury let all his subconscious do the work; we mortals need to know how to build houses before we burn them down.
The book Starve Better: Surviving the Endless Horror of the Writing Life by Nick Mamatas is one of the few that does a good job of both. It’s an excellent book, well worth the time of any writer interested in writing things so other people will read them. Continue reading
10,000 is a funny number.
In most libraries across the country, you’ll find one book that focuses on that number like a hawk. That book, of course, is Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcom Gladwell.
The book describes the success of many people, from the Beatles to Bill Gates. The author attributes their success to mastery over their given craft, and posits that this mastery comes from 10,000 hours of deliberate practice; inborn talent is only allowed to grow if the person commits to practicing that skill in a deliberate way for long periods of time. This is not the only piece of the success puzzle that Gladwell posits, but it is a large one, and one that’s being debated.
What’s implied by this theory is that in order for a person to be a success, they must specialize at an extreme level. They must get really, really good at a single thing.
One of the people who’s put in their 10,000 hours is a comedian named Louis CK. He’s been in the stand-up game for quite awhile now; he has a successful sitcom, stand-up specials, and roles in Hollywood films. By any measure, he’s a great success, a seminal figure in pop culture today. Continue reading
These pages all started out blank.
“Kill your darlings.”
“Show, don’t tell.”
“Write what you know.”
As a writer, it’s easy to believe that there are certain rules of writing that, if followed, will result in your success. Rules are comforting, in a way. They offer certainty.
The problem with this is that writing is not certain. We can see the end result, pick that apart, and see what works for us. We can fiddle and tinker.
Rules are a different matter. Continue reading
NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month.
Every November, for the past few years, tens of thousands of people have signed up, gone to writer groups, and made a pact to write 50,000 words in one month.
Since it began, it has also been easy to find people criticizing NaNoWriMo in all sorts of ways, and for all sorts of reasons, most of which focus on how smug such writers can be. I cannot speak to all the criticisms here, but I can say that writers are not just insufferable in November; they’re insufferable the other 11 months of the year too.
Present company, uh, excluded. Continue reading