As an author I believe it’s imperative to strive to improve your work. For that reason I like to look at successful authors (or not so successful, but able ones) and see what insights they might have on this multifaceted craft we call writing. I don’t want to say that I’ll try to do reviews of this kind frequently because I’ve discovered that any long term planning is like the kiss of death when it comes to blogging, but I’ll definitely keep my eyes open for good writing advice. When I can, I’ll endeavour to share this research with you.
I couldn’t start a blog post on writing guides without mentioning Stephen King’s “On Writing.” Lets be honest the guy could wipe his arse on a blank piece of paper and I’d want a copy. He can do no wrong in my eyes; I consider him the best living author and would even go as far as saying he’s a literary genius-original I know! It doesn’t take much to figure out that I’m a huge Stephen King fan.
Stephen King: On Writing.
The book isn’t what one would traditionally call a Writer’s guide or manual but a more of a personal look at his life and methods. This book reads very easily and you don’t have to be interested in writing in order to like it, it is entirely aimed at Stephen King fans be they authors or lay persons.
Structure wise, it is separated into two parts with the first half going into some detail about his childhood, his reading, writing and movie going habits as well as his early days as a teacher and his break into publishing. Despite the autobiographical feel, it allows the reader a glimpse into the life of the man and his influences to large degree.
The second half of the book is where it really gets interesting, because that’s where the Authorly “advice” comes in by way of his habits. He doesn’t analyse or advise so much as he breaks his own process down; we are told for example that come rain or shine he has to write a few thousand words every day. There is no talk of waiting for the muse to strike or of other obligations or delays, he just writes. Through mention of his process he mentions problems or stumbling blocks he might have had with projects such as the ending to the “Stand” (if memory serves) or the length of time and research it took him to complete “It,” so this book works best if you’re familiar with his work. There’s also mention of the fact that he writes with music blaring, which I thought was a very cool touch.
The other thing that struck me was that he advises authors to read (well ok duh!) both good but also bad books in order to be able to make the distinction between the two. Personally I’ve often struggled with this because if a book does not interest me I zone out, which is an issue. Also, I believe life’s too short for bad books but all the same, the advice is there, and it’s from Stephen King for chrissakes!
The other guide book I’ve read recently is Chuck Wendig’s “250 Things You Should Know About Writing.”
I hadn’t read any Chuck Wending before this, but I’m totally sold on the guy now. He takes writing advice and makes it a really memorable and fun read through a mixture of metaphors and profanities (I mean who doesn’t love a bit of profanity?). He’s brutally honest about the difficulty of being a writer but is also encouraging about being unconventional and original especially when it comes to self-publishing and eBooks which offer the budding author more flexibility than conventional publishing.
One of his subtler touches was the suggestion that you shouldn’t actually buy said book because everything he says in there can be found for free online; which is true, but I promise you you’ll be missing out on a great little book if you do. It is laugh out loud good, and his drive and enthusiasm are thoroughly contagious. Totally worth it. He’s also published other books in the same vein, and even though he probably doesn’t want me to buy those either, I probably will eventually.
Lastly my third contribution to this post isn’t a book at all but a podcast with only fourteen entries.
When I first discovered this guy I was chuffed because he’s a true writer. He loves and explores the craft even though he’s not well known and as far as I can tell not even published. I tried googling and amazoning him but to no avail. I can find none of his work regrettably.
“So how do you know this guy is any good?” I hear you ask in unison. Technically I don’t, but my gut tells me he is because this blog is masterful in its production and I was very sad to see that it only lasted 14 weeks. You can hear the death rattle signs at about the 11th or 12th recording where he starts to waiver with the regularity of posting, and ironically he says that the irregular offerings are not a sign of the dying podcast, but lo and behold they just stopped coming soon after that. All joking aside though, I was quite saddened by this because it was a really good job and it had potential for greatness. All that said, it does not diminish from the excellent advice already on there nor from the interviews he’s done with some very interesting authors. I hope sincerely that one day he’ll pick up where he left off and give us a glimpse of his writing. Who is this man I speak of? They call him Brad Reed.