04 February 2011

mighty big pockets

As I stated: this time I'll turn out my pockets and tell you my tools of the trade. Obviously I have writing implements (I use a one subject notebook to expand on ideas and do outlines, but I do my writing on my mac or PC). I carry a mini memo pad and a pen almost everywhere I go. If I don't have that, I have my phone to record audio clips and take notes (cumbersome yet effective). Those aspects of writing are obvious. Don't let your ideas get away.

What I've really found useful are three books on writing. Sounds silly and all crutch-like, but if I can't write without humility toward the craft, then I may want to rethink the arduous task at hand. Take the advice of those who have gone before...

I originally picked up Stephen King's 'On Writing'...meh. It had some useful stuff, but not enough structure to utilize it as a reference book and it reads like his books...dotted with rabbit trails and obscurity.

So my three are:

'Plot' by Ansen Dibell (given to me by my brother): A very thorough examination of plot elements and when/why they would work and how to intertwine them. A little wordy at times, but very good. Again, this is specific to plot, so I use it in tandem with one or both of the following:

'The Art and Craft of Storytelling' by Nancy Lamb (sought out on my own): Probably the most useful of the three. A very thorough look at all things story: genres, plot, character, dialog, structure, focusing your creativity, etc. My copy looks like a living plant as it has multiple scraps of paper poking from the top, marking spots to which I often return.

'Spilling Ink' by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter (suggested to me by local author, Vicky Burkholder): Very much like Nancy Lamb's book, but geared toward young adults. Of the three, this is the most fun. The approach is very simplistic and it's riddled with writing tasks and challenges. Like I said, it's a little kiddish, but I have honestly found this approach to be very refreshing and useful. They give a lot of examples of what they're talking about, something Nancy Lamb does, but the purpose of the example tends to be more obvious coming from Anne and Ellen. Fun book.

So that's pretty much my arsenal. Sometimes I like to doodle 'maps' of my story ideas and draw pictures, etc...anything that jogs the memory when I go back and look at it. No two writers write the same way. I tend to try out different styles and see what works.

Also, it never hurts to have someone to bounce story ideas off of. I tend to get more creative throwing ideas around verbally. I have a very good friend (actually he was my brother's first), who I feel has read more books than most librarians. He has started providing me with wonderful critiques and posing questions that get me thinking (not necessarily in a different direction, but from a different vantage point), so to him I say thanks...he's sort of stoked the the fire under my butt to actually finish one the umpteen books I've started. And speaking of stoking the fire, something else that helps to have around: a good wife (or husband) who is tolerant, patient, supportive, understanding (and secretly creative). Big help.

One last thing is this: I try to surround myself with authors, big and small. I follow Neil Gaiman's blog and John Scalzi's blog. It may seem odd, but getting in the heads and lives of national (and international) bestsellers, gives me another vantage point into what makes them tick. Also, we have an independent bookstore near us which promotes local authors, I sometimes visit them, talk to them and pick their brains. Not only might I get nuggets of info, it makes the dream seem more like a reality. I have found that they are (mostly) normal people just like me.

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