Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My new favorite book on writing

My new favorite book on writing is Thanks, but This Isn't for Us: A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your WRiting is Being Rejected, by Jessica Page Morrell. She's witty, yet brutally clear. Fun, yet helpful. I haven't read a ton of truly brand new information, but I did see some of my own mistakes described in there, already inspiriing some revisions to my work-in-progress.

I also feel very affirmed as a writer. You might remember how in my last post, I confessed to feeling a bit like a faker because I can't seem to write organically very well like my writing idols? And how Anne Lamott (who is quoting E.L.Doctorow) describes writing a story like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. Actually, I remembered it as driving through fog, so it's entirely possible someone else in the writing world compared writing to driving through fog, seeing a tiny bit of the story at a time. And now I'm trying to use a story board, plotting all my plot points in advance. It's FUN and I like it, but I also feel a bit like a heretic for doing it, even though I think it's working well for me.

ANYWAY! There is a point to this!

In Thanks, but This Isn't for Us, Ms. Morrell says, and I'm going to quote her here,
One bit of accepted wisdom that drives me crazy is when famous writers claim that writing is like driving in the fog without the headlights on and that you can make the whole trip that way. Who are they kidding? Driving without headlights in the fog is maddening and a hazard to other drivers. And what's the point of stumbling along clueless and blind as your shoulders tense at each approaching curve? I'm all for the writing process being fun and a way to express our deepest passions. But I believe in headlights and want to suggest you need a more working-class version of the writing life. You need to see yourself as a skilled laborer, not an artiste who awakes each morning wondering how best to flirt with your muse.

OH MY GOODNESS. I LOVED this. I loved it because it spoke to my deepest fear that I'm not really a writer because I don't hear from my muse and have my characters do all kinds of unexpected things while I watch, amused and amazed, from afar.

I still LOVE my idol-writers. Obviously, the organic method works for many, many people, so I'm not bashing it at all. But I'm a follow-the-rules kind of girl and I always thought writing this way was THE way to write, if you were a "real writer." Plenty of writers trash "plotting" as something that real writers don't do. That's all I had read about from the books on writing that really stuck with me.

Now I have a new book on writing to stick with me. :)

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