Thursday, June 9, 2011

Continuing My Writer's Education

I am all about making goals. I am slightly obsessed them. For some reason they motivate me really well ... maybe it's because I feel like I'm in competition with myself? I'm not sure, really, but I know they work for me.

So today I made a new goal, in effect immediately, that I hope to continue every year for possibly the rest of my life.

I was on Amazon, looking for a book on editing that I could read while I'm revising the current WIP (which is almost at 30k now, and *fingers crossed* I'm hoping to have it almost finished by next week, and ready for revisions before the end of June. I'm writing about 3k a day in it. Mind you, the only reason I've been able to maintain this blistering pace? I'm not working this summer.)

Anyway, so I was looking for a book on editing, and I was blown away by all the writing books.

Now, I've read several books on writing in the past ten years or so, sure, but looking at all those rows of tip-stuffed tomes, I could've slapped myself.

Why am I not delving into this vast spread of knowledge and expertise all the time? It's right there, just waiting for me!

To be honest, I think one of my weaknesses is my tendency to assume I've reached a plateau, and in a sense "arrived." I still have TONS of room for improvement. I will always have room for improvement, even when I've been writing for 40 years.

To be REALLY honest, sometimes I get a tad bit arrogant and decide I don't need to read books on writing anymore.

This mindset is SILLY. Not to mention WRONG.

So new goal! Read 5 writing/editing/some other writer-related skill-improvement books a year.  5 is a nice, solid number, not too many, but enough that I'll be semi-saturated with writing advice throughout the year, especially all those things I technically already know, but tend to forget (like over-using "to be" verbs).

I'm also contemplating writing up posts about the books I read, and how helpful they were for me.

I think it's totally doable. My husband is a bit wary (he says I'm already really busy). But I think I can do it. This year (since it's already June), I'll test out 3-4 and see if that's too much.

In slightly related news, I'm also contemplating doing a "1k a day" goal next year. That's 365,000 words total. Just the thought of that makes me salivate. I KNOW I can do 1k a day. It's so manageable. That's the beauty of the whole thing. 365k sounds monstrous, because it is, but 1k? No sweat.

SO. Back to writing books. Anybody have recommendations for me? What's the best writing (or editing) book you've ever read?


  1. I would recommend Stephen King's 'On Writing', but I am sure you already have that one! I love to re-read it when I get a bit disheartened.

    1k a day sounds good. I'm in an '8ok in 80 days' challenge at the moment. If I manage that, it would be a good goal to extend.

  2. Sarah: Can you believe I actually haven't read it? I've watched bits of writing talks he's given, and I've read quotes from the book, but I've never actually picked it up and read the whole thing. It's definitely on my list, however.

    80k in 80 days also sounds quite doable. I think 1k can seem intimidating to some, but once you figure out you CAN do it, just keeping on with it becomes a cinch.

  3. On Writing is fantastic. I've been buying a bunch of these books lately, and while I haven't read them all yet, all have come highly recommended:
    Save the Cat - Blake Snyder
    Hooked - Les Edgerton
    Characters and Viewpoint - Orson Scott Card
    Plot & Structure, Revision & Self-Editing - James Scott Key
    Story Engineering - Larry Brooks

  4. Larry Brooks has a blog that I love-"storyfix"-he is all about making writing better. He posts at least once a week. He's looking at the story "The Help" in his blog right now and talking about why it's so successful.
    I have 2 of his books that have helped me so much: "Story Engineering" and "Story Structure-Demystified". I finished a story for middle graders and I just knew something was wrong. Reading his books helped me figure out what I did wrong and helped me look at writing in a whole new way.
    Both books are available on amazon.

  5. Rachel: I've heard fantastic things about Save the Cat. Isn't that technically about screenwriting? I've heard it's great for anyone wanting to improve tension, structure, and character arc.

  6. Executiveredhead: Thanks for the recommendations! I'll have to check out that blog, too. I follow Wordplay, which is also an excellent "writing tips" blog. Good stuff!

  7. You might also want to check out Holly Lisle's online courses - How to Think Sideways is fantastic, and she's got a lot of tips for real-life writers. (When you get stuck, when your characters are standing around having barbecue, when you need to jump-start your muse...)

    Also, you might check out "Writing Down the Bones" by Natalie Goldberg for bite-sized prompts, and 1 page of inspiration at a time.

    And finally, I love "The Journey from the Center to the Page" by Jeffrey Davis. I attended a retreat with him a few years ago, and it is life-changing to write in conjunction with yoga.

  8. The Lili Effect: Thanks, those sound great! I'm loving these suggestions.

  9. Jaimie: Yeah, I'm definitely going to check that one out because people keep mentioning it, and I've heard a lot of good stuff about it.


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