Those who don’t write read books about writing

A little while ago I had an Amazon gift certificate to use, and I decided that I would buy something that would be a useful resource, something I might go back and refer to time and again.

I am a bit of a writing-book addict – I love Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, as you know, and Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Godlberg, and I have also been looking at Will Write for Shoes: How to Write a Chick Lit Novel which is actually a nifty little book, full of useful tips for getting a book written hard and fast (and despite the title is written by a very serious sounding woman, who has a very succinct method for plotting a book in 400 pages, and written in 3 months) and also a slightly more complicated book called The Weekend Novelist which has baffled me a little but seems very useful if only I could concentrate and not become completely hypnotised by the circular plot diagrams. 

I am having trouble with my plot. I love my characters, I love my protagonist especially. She’s totally awesome – well, she is in my head anyway – and looks like Susie Porter. I love the fictitious place it’s set, and I kind of like my voice. But the plot! Argh. I know basically what’s going to happen; I have a beginning, middle, a black moment (when everything falls apart) and end, but it’s such a tangle. 100,000 words is a lot of words to get lost in. So, I thought, what I really need is a book on plot (because two is not nearly enough… but I know that my real motivation is procrastination) and found the one in the photo above on Amazon which got 5 stars with 83 reviews (it has to be good!). And then I noticed you could buy two other titles as well, get all three together at the same time and save 60c! So of course I thought a book on Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint would be interesting, and while I think I am quite comfortable with writing dialogue, I said to myself “Wow, you know, you can always learn a little bit more about how to make conversation sound more natural,” and I had to agree with myself. “Yes,” I said. “And you will save yourself 60 cents.”

After all that I was convinced that I would surely finish my first draft and if that is the case what I will really need is “Revision and Self-editing”.

As you can see, I have quite a lot of reading to do before this novel gets written. Hmm.

And the pipe cleaner in the foreground? That was a photographic accident. The house is awash in pipe cleaners at the moment. It’s Lily’s latest thing.

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23 Responses

  1. Sarah Y says:

    Yes, yes, and yes. Plot is the hardest for me. And not getting lost in a whole big book. You should see my shelf of procrastination i.e. writing books. But the one I’m using currently is Elizabeth George’s book on writing a novel. She’s a mystery writer so she has great things to teach about plotting.I read her book, took copious notes, then have actually been writing my book.

    Actually writing. Weird.

  2. I have lots of books – and even more photocopies of excerpt from others – I could lend you if you want. I don’t live too far away. They do help in the abstract; unfortunately when it comes to sitting down and doing the work, you’re still alone.Keep on going, though!

  3. jen says:

    I am not a writer, but am fascinated by the idea of writing. I bought a few books to peruse anyway hoping one day I might feel like I know enough to start one myself. Good luck with your plot!

  4. Kitty says:

    I LOVE Bird by Bird… especially the bit where she says she wishes for ‘mediaeval curses to rain down on’ a writer who claims writing is like dictating words from god (as if!)I am a world-class procrastinator and also have an impressive library of writing books. But it’s like they say, no one will publish a book you haven’t written. Eventually I pulled my finger out and got on with – I used my birthday last year as my final deadline and, miraculously, managed to meet it. I also had a writing ‘contract’ with myself and a couple of fellow frustrated novelists at – I found this really helpful!

  5. shauna says:

    Hehe… pipe cleaners rule!I just went click click click and bought Will Write For Shoes… I seem to be doing an awful lot of impulse buying from your blog lately Claire! 🙂 Hope you enjoy your new purchases!

  6. Melissa says:

    Oh. Thanks for pointing out the pipe cleaner. It was a nice little moment after reading along with your tangle of good intentions, industriousness, susceptibility and detours on the creative road. While the road may be long, it will get there. And as you say, you will have learnt a lot!

  7. We have all been wearing pipe cleaner spectacles over here this past week. And Ari also made a pipe cleaner web-blaster, a la Spiderman. Those two would get along a treat, I think.x

  8. Christina says:

    Just to divert yourself, could you write a book with Vampires in it? I have a horrible urge to buy Twilight and Im sure its rotten, what we need is a well written Vampire novel you know*L* ; )

  9. Kirsty says:

    I love your conversation with yourself.

  10. Allison says:

    Hi Claire,I recently read about how Kate Grenville writes and I found it really fascinating. You might too.She basically writes out bits and pieces, paragraphs here, sentences there etc and then somehow just jig saws them all together and there she has her novel. She said she used to try to structure it, but the end result was always laboured and not quite right.I read about this in her book “Searching for the Secret River” which was about how she came to write “The Secret River”. It’s mainly about her her trip to England and the motivation behind her story, but it did have those little pieces on technique.Good luck!

  11. Not to be an enabler, but…Orson Scott Card’s Character and Viewpoint is also very good. And (free!) my editor has some great articles and talks on plot and revision up on her site:

    Plot (and writing books) are my weaknesses too! 🙂

  12. frog says:

    Finally, something that makes academic writing look easy. For procrastination, I always go back to the digital archives. There’s always one more document to read.

  13. Trish says:

    I also have a stack of How To Write books, with everything ‘Bird by Bird’ to ‘Will Write for Shoes’. My theory is that everyone has their own way of writing, just like there are as many learning styles as there are kids in my daughter’s classroom. When you find the book that tells you how to do it in language you can understand, the writing will flow as though the floodgates have been opened. Or so I’m told. I’m still searching for that book, but with all these trips to Borders and Amazon I figure I’m starting to narrow it down… sigh.

  14. Kate says:

    These look excellent, Claire! I have to thank for recommending Bird by Bird – I really enjoyed it.You might enjoy this video I found – I found it very inspirational for my writing.

    Hang in there – keep on going!

  15. mommyknows says:

    Thanks for all the great links to books. I am going to get ‘bird by bird’ for sure.

  16. theaxx says:

    I’m guessing then, you already have the fabulous “Little Red Writing Book”…?thea.xx


  17. Bek says:

    I am so impressed by anyone who writes. It sounds like high highs and low lows! As for pipe cleaners, I can relate. Pipe cleaners and foam space stickers and masking tape are everywhere in this place.

  18. Alisa says:

    I had a book recommended to me ages ago when I was in my ‘learning to write a short film’ phase called ‘Story’ by Robert McKee. It is a fabulous book, really easy to read and full of ‘that’s a good idea’ moments. Sorry, the last thing you need is another book to read!

  19. aleta says:

    Man you make me laugh girl!

  20. Leisl says:

    I’m just so impressed that you are actually writing a book. My book is, alas, just a phantom in my mind.I’m sure it will be terrific when it’s done. Hurry up so we can all read it!

  21. Erica says:

    If you can stand any more recommendations, might I suggest Deb Dixon’s “Goal Motivation and Conflict,” and Dwight Swain’s “Techniques of the Selling Writer”? Also, Don Maas’s “Writing the Breakout Novel” and its companion workbook. These are the three I go back to time and again when trying to work on so many different aspects of craft.

  22. denice says:

    i strongly and enthusiastically recommend “on writing” by stephen king. strongly and enthusiastically. i have read so very very many books about writing, how to write, how to edit, how to find your story, how to get through writer’s block blah de blah boring. i read “on writing” last year and it is, in my opinion, the only thing you need. i am not, in general, a stephen king fan. can’t stand his fiction, to be honest. but this book? required reading for people who really want to write. most books about writing are written by people who ONLY write books about ‘how to write’. stephen king actually writes books and he knows what he’s talking about in this one. go to amazon now and place your order – you won’t regret it.

  23. Amy says:

    Thank you so much for this post. My husband is bravely venturing into the world of writing (or rather, putting his writing out there) and I’m always looking for any resources that might help him along the way. I’m going to pass your list on to him. Cheers!

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