Books I've read on writing
Years ago I read a book titled The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. I loved that book. It’s short. It’s filled with concise instructions on grammar and word usage. I bought an updated version recently and once again I loved it. That book was my first step toward taking writing seriously.
My desire to write a novel has always been thwarted by the overwhelming prospect of coming up with all those words. Each attempt was met with the writer’s block crock by the end of the first chapter. Having the tenacity of a politician’s promise, I gave up. No harm, though; I never told anyone about my writing aspirations. Each failure was my little secret. This time, with this and earlier blog posts, I’m not keeping my aspirations all to myself. I plan to report on my progress from time to time and solicit help and advice from my online readers.
I’ve always thought completing a novel would require writing all day long every day for months at a time. I can’t do that. I get tired quickly. In the past I could never stay focused long enough, too many distractions, too many excuses, too little time. Today, I write for an hour and my brain feels fried, my back aches. Finishing a novel was beyond my potential.
Then I found a book containing what might be my answer. I have a gold membership plan with Audible.com and listen to a new book every month. Thomas Sowell’s works on economics, Ayn Rand’s and similar works on Objectivism, and personal growth books are my favorites. My interest in those subjects made listening to books during my daily exercise sessions an easy fit. I looked for books on Audible about writing. I found one from Ayn Rand: The Art of Fiction. I listened to it but it was hard to follow; after a recent re-listen, the material began to make more sense. Her approach to writing is similar to her strict and pure approach to philosophy. She has an understanding of plot and character development beyond what my mind can currently grasp. I will learn from her but that level of learning will take a lot of time. I’m not ready for her yet.
Then I found a book called Writing Habit Mastery by S.J. Scott, a prolific author who writes 2000 words a day and has completed a number of books using his techniques. His process suggests that writing a novel is not impossible for me. Whether or not the result will be any good is a separate issue. But I now believe I can do it -- finish a novel. For me, that’s big.
The key is writing rough drafts first. Don’t edit, don’t let your critical mind slow you down. Your creative mind can work unhindered for short bursts with plenty of breaks. Once the first draft is complete the editing process begins.
I also listened to a book called Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark with fifty ways to make your writing better. I have listened through that book three times and will listen at least once more before I read the kindle version and take notes. Some of the tools described are already in my writer’s toolbox; the book confirms and firms up what I know. I have either overlooked or was never aware of many of the other tools listed in Mr. Clark’s book; understanding these new tools will impact my writing. This book will make me a better writer. I feel certain of it.
The last thing I found on Audible, so far anyway, is titled Building Great Sentences, Exploring the Writer’s Craft by Professor Brooks Landon. This audio version of a video course illustrates the craft of developing sentences in a manner that exposes writing insights which both please and surprise me. I thought I was good at creating sentences. This author has a high regard for longer sentences and his method for creating them makes for great reading. Though I like to give my work rhythm with varied sentence lengths, I’ll be using what I learn from him in this essay and in all my future writing.
The authors of these books suggest other books, many of which I will read or listen to in the future. There is a goldmine of knowledge out there. I can see myself learning the craft of writing well beyond the completion of my first novel.