How to Write?

Before I get into today’s post I must offer you my most sincere and humble apologies for the lack of book review.  Again.  I’m now really getting absorbed into Fiver and the gang’s flight to “Watership Down”, but of course that means I have not finished it as yet.  Next week.  Promise.

Through my procrastinating serendipitous travels in the internet this week I came across an article about writing how to books and how needless they are.  I admit I have never read one, bought one, used one as a coaster, for the reasons the author suggests.  I read a wide smattering of books that encourage my writing to grow in the direction I want it to – and this includes occasional samplings from various genres.  When I read narrowly, primarily romance, I found myself writing specifically to that end.  All stories I wrote and thought of had a love story that was critical to the book and also served as the main purpose of it.  Plot was vaguely defined and built up around the characters and always seemed to struggle against the “norm” of the genre.  As I stepped away from the comfort of the HEA my writing seemed to evolve.  I can’t quite explain it.  Although there are certainly some books I’ve read this past year that resulted in me saying “THIS got PUBLISHED?!” those same books also pushed me to evaluate what I thought worked in a written format (for me as a reader) as well those things that failed abysmally didn’t.  I found my writing evolving and improving through critical consumption and analysis of the written word and without utilizing any manual or guide.

What do you think?  Have you bought a how-to manual or three?  Used it/them?  Do you think the manuals are necessary or that, as the article states, an author needs to be well read above all else and manuals about writing are ultimately unnecessary?  [I’m not talking about books regarding the publishing industry, btw, primarily because the industry is complex and it’s helpful to have a guide aiding and abetting your agent research and the like.]


12 responses to “How to Write?

  • Joanne

    I so agree with the article you linked to. I’ve even heard that a writer shouldn’t take “writing” courses in college, as they tend to lose their own voice when they do. The only how-to writing book I’ve used was one a year ago, a how-to on how to put together a nonfiction proposal. So that wasn’t really on the craft of writing, but on the structure of a particular, and necessary, form/package.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Joanne – In my mind it only makes sense to pick up books relevant to the industry including those about putting together a proposal for non-fiction work. I’ve heard that can often be a rather complex endeavor. I have yet to read a “how-to” book on writing but have picked up varying tidbits of interest from other writers that have given me things to think about applying to my own work. However, most such things wind up being organizational because, well, I often don’t organize a manuscript very well as I’m working.

  • Merrilee

    When I started writing fiction (many years ago), I bought a slew of instruction books. They’re all currently gathering dust. Once you’ve got the basics down, they really have nothing more to say.

    But there are useful books out there. Not so much the “how-to”, but the ones that make you think. Sol Stein is a good one for that, and the recently discovered Everything I Know about Writing by John Marsden.

    The Artist’s Way is great for really digging into your creative side, but there’s a fair bit of pseudo-spiritual gobbledygook to wade through.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Marrilee – “The Artist’s Way” sounds very interesting! I like books that encourage introspection as I can’t help but think that enables an artist for potentially more profound work. For me, the books I pick up that relate to writing are those involving grammar. Sometimes commas and semicolons baffle me in their diverse uses.

  • Laura Marcella

    I love craft books on writing! But I’m not an idiot. I understand that those “how-to manuals” worked for THEM and might not necessarily work for me. I know I have to read a lot in the genre I’m writing (all the books say that anyway) and I have to write a lot more than I’m reading (and all the craft books say that, too). I like the inspirational ones like Writing Down the Bones, The Right to Write, and Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul. They help me out of writing funks, boost my spirits, and keep me writing, writing, always writing.

    The article was great especially that anecdote about the kid who wanted to be a writer but never wrote. There’s no point in reading a hundred books on the craft if you’re not going to write. It doesn’t work like osmosis!

    • kimberlyloomis

      Laura – Haha! You’re so right about reading about writing and never actually writing! Support when you’re in a writing funk is incredibly important and I think you for bringing that up. It’s something I rather neglected in this post and certainly worth thinking about. Reading stuff within the genre you are writing makes a great deal of sense. You know what’s out there, know the style that has appeal, and might even have an idea what themes have hit saturation point (please, YA, enough with the Vampires already!!!!).

      I just might see if any of the titles you mentioned are carried at either of the libraries around me. Thanks for the suggestions!

  • Glynis

    Yup, I’ve read some of the how-to-write books. In fact, I still have a few of them from when I belonged to the Writer’s Digest mailing list. I did get a couple of good reference books out of the deal. I did do some of the lessons too. I think I learn more what NOT to do that what to do.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Glynis – I feel that learning what NOT to do thing! I think that’s actually why I’ve not been reading genre books in general lately. So much of what I manage to grab (I think I have a bad radar for these things) winds up being examples of just such things.

      Fair to my victims readers or not, my blog kind of winds up being my exercises. If nothing else it has proven to be very useful in strengthening my writing voice. 😉

  • Anna Carrasco Bowling

    I have some writing instruction books, and I like the ones I’ve kept (passed along the others.) I see them as a buffet. I can take what I like/what works for me and leave the rest. Suggestions rather than orders, as it were. My goal is to find out what works *for me,* so there’s no harm in seeing what worked for someone else and giving it a try. If it works for me, maybe with some adjustments, great. If not, no harm done and it will work for someone else. Vive le difference.

    As my chosen genre is romance (tried other things, they all seemed forced and left me feeling like something was missing) I will take a look at new books geared toward writing that genre, but the contents have to click with me, or I’m not going to get anything out of it.

    • kimberlyloomis

      Anna – That’s a good point. Advice, written or verbal, is something we always have a choice in taking in or not. Rather like feedback from contests – sometimes the advice works and sometimes it falls under that category of “ummm, no”.

  • Jemi Fraser

    I think a vast amount of reading is incredibly important – but it never hurts to hear advice from others as well!

    • kimberlyloomis

      Jemi – I agree. Ultimately, I seem to flock to advice in persistence as well as organization just because I can’t help but think others have gotten those down better than I have. [I still have yet to figure out how to organize my current project and just keep putting it off.]

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