On Reading and Writing

by RS on January 19, 2011

I’ve been sick for the past ten days with a cold that won’t go away. Most of what I’ve been doing has been on automatic pilot. My writing and revising has been on hold mostly because of the brain fog. So I’m spending far too much time on Facebook reading updates or writing silly ones about the dogs. Otherwise, my time has been spent on activities where there’s not much creativity or going to bed early to read.

During the day I continue to follow the discussions on the writing list at the Internet Writing Workshop, and there’s been an ongoing thread about books on craft. Some people have mentioned Robert McKee’s Story, which is primarily for anyone interested in learning how to develop a screenplay, but many people have noted that it’s also good for fiction. McKee’s book has brought both praise and scorn. On the pro side, some, like me, have remarked that he does provide good advice on craft; others are skeptical in part because they think McKee is formulaic. I can’t say off-hand, because I haven’t delved much into his book (it’s a meaty tome).

There are a number of very good books that help with crafting, I own a fair share of them, but so far the two that have struck a chord with me has been Elizabeth Lyon’s Manuscript Makeover and Priscilla Long’s The Writer’s Portable Mentor. Both authors tackle wordsmithing, creating a distinct voice, developing an ear for the sound and flow of words, and much more.

But the old and best advice you can follow is to read, and read a lot. As I previously wrote I’ve been on this reading marathon, combing through all the reviews of books that come to my inbox, which led me to the wonderful Olen Steinhauer. Although, Steinhauer’s genre is espionage, I’ve learned so much about plotting and character development, but also voice and narrative. But as I look back at the most recent revisions I made, I realize that I still have a very long way to go if I am using Steinhauer as a benchmark for good writing and storytelling.

So where does this all lead me? More reading, more writing and more revisions. It’s exhausting and frustrating work, but I have to take it word by word, sentence by sentence. In other words, I have to follow my own common-sense advice: look at my story as a giant puzzle and make sure that each piece tightly interlock together.

1 comments
Eden Baylee
Eden Baylee

Rebeca,
Love your analogy of a story as a giant puzzle–so true.

I always loved doing puzzles as a kid, and it was so satisfying to complete them and see the full picture.

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