Inside a Writer's Mind

Inside a Writer's Mind
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” -- Oscar Wilde

Monday, 29 August 2011

Ways Around Writer's Block

This last week or so I have found myself struggling to find the motivation to work on my latest project. It is not often that I’ve struggled with writer’s block in the past, so I’m not exactly sure how to address it. Writing this post is one strategy—at least I’m writing, even if I’m not working on my novel.

Schools of thought on the topic of writer’s block seem to differ. Some say you need to push through it; sit down at your desk at the same time everyday and try to squeeze out a thought. While others suggest leaving your writing aside and doing something else for a while, until you naturally feel the time is right to return to your project and carry on. I don’t know what I think. Having tried both of these approaches I’m still not sure.

At least I know I’m not alone. I read that Henry Miller had periods of time when he struggled to write a sentence and that when his partner came home at the end of the day they both pretended he’d been working productively all day. Even though he was sure they both knew he’d barely marked the paper.

Those times when I have felt blocked I’ve searched the net for inspiring quotes or reread favorite novel passages.  If you have any thoughts or strategies you would like to share please do.

Otherwise, keep writing!   

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Excellent Books on Fiction Writing

There are a lot of books out there that offer advice on how to write fiction. I started collecting them years ago, possibly as a way of actually avoiding writing: I figured if I was buying books on the subject, even if I wasn't practising it, at least I was keeping a foot in the stream. I'm not sure the logic was sound, but I can tell you I have found some of the books extremely helpful, others less so, while many were a waste of time.

Granted, it does depend on what stage of the journey you are at, and on what you are looking for: Are you are looking for ways to begin or motivation? Are you looking for ideas about developing or improving your craft or technique? Are you looking for agents or publishers or are you keen to know what they are looking for?

Below is a list of books that I've found very useful and/or have seen recommended in a number of places.

For the beginner:

This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley; On Writing by Stephen King  (Both offer practical advice and motivation.)

For the already committed:

The Poetics of Aristotle by Stephen Halliwell; Story by Robert McKee; Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass; On Becoming A Novelist by J.C. Gardner; Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain; Rhetoric of Fiction by Wayne C. Booth; The Art of the Novel by Henry James; Fiction Writer's Handbook by Hallie Burnett; The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler; Stein on Writing by Sol Stein; Plot and Structure by James Bell; The Writer's Essential Tackle Box by Lynn Price; The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman; Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King; Revision and Self –Editing by James Bell

And, for the ready to be published:

Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents by Jeff Herman (Refers to U.S. market); Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2011 (Refers to U.K. market)

You can get all of these books from somewhere like for around four hundred dollars, which is about the same price many book doctors charge for a manuscript appraisal. (I’ve paid double that for a manuscript appraisal and gotten far more useful information from the books.)

I personally think studying books like these, written by people who have spent decades writing, selling, and/or teaching how to write fiction, and making notes on what you can apply to your manuscript to improve it, is the best way (along with regular fiction reading and writing) to develop your fiction.

Hope some of this is useful.   

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Fiction Writer's Inspiration

Why am I doing this?

This is a question I have often asked myself, in regard to a number of things, but particularly writing. And having looked into this a little I have found some interesting theories and surprising reasons why people write, as well as some really inspirational quotes on writing in general.

Here are a few sites I found interesting:

Why Do Writers Write?

Why Do Writers Write?

Mark Coker: Why Do Writers Write?

"A writer writes not because he [or she] is educated but because he [or she] is driven by the need to communicate. Behind the need to communicate is the need to share. Behind the need to share is the need to be understood."  Leo Rosten

And my favourite, from my daughter:

"When Daddy sells his book we can go on another holiday."

And here are are some quotes I found inspiring or instructional, or both:

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."  Mark Twain

"Write what you care about and understand. Writers should never try to outguess the marketplace in search of a salable idea; the simple truth is that all good books will eventually find a publisher if the writer tries hard enough, and a central secret to writing a good book is to write on that people like you will enjoy."
Richard North Patterson

"Only write from your own passion, your own truth. That's the only thing you really know about, and anything else leads you away from the pulse."  Marianne Williamson

Most of these and many other great quotes can be found here:

Keep Writing!

"You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist you must learn your craft—then you can add all the genius you like."  Phyllis A. Whitney