When I was between the ages of twelve and thirteen, I had completely decided that I was going to be a novelist. I loved reading novels, right? So writing them is like reading them, only backwards…. right? I had never even finished writing a short story before. To solve that problem, I got just about every book from the library about writing.
I tried to follow all of the advice from these books at once. For example, I wrote outlines for stories. That literally sucked every bit of fun out of writing. One book suggested using as few words as possible to get your point across. I tried to do that when writing a poem. That poem had zero rhythm or anything else that makes a group of words into a poem. (I like being wordy anyway). Somewhere else I read that you should try to write with others. Almost nothing destroys productivity like working with others does.
Since then I have stopped trying to follow rules and to instead simply try to write. Despite that, I have found several quite excellent books about writing that are great inspiration. Not a single one recommends writing outlines.
The first of these books is Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter. I didn’t know who either of those people were; it was just the next book on the shelf. The book is all about writing, but it is also just fun to read. The authors give pointers on every area of writing. At the moment I can’t remember why I liked this book so much even though I have read it at least twice. I guess it’s time for another reread.
Unlike Spilling Ink, I got Writing Magic: Creating Stories that Fly because of the author, Gail Carson Levine. Gail Carson Levine is best known for her book Ella Enchanted, even though I like The Two Princesses of Bamarre better. My friends and I went through a phase when we were really into princess books. Anything by Levine or Shannon Hale we read. Writing Magic is excellent because it uses examples from her own books as well as tons of others. One thing that she emphasized was always saving your writing. She claims that once you hit teenagerhood, you won’t remember childhood when you are an adult. The only way to remember what you were like is if you save all of your writing. I don’t know if I believe her, but I have still gotten into the habit of saving everything. I might want something later even if I think it is terrible now. That’s why I have way to many “unfinished drafts” for this blog, and I’m so annoyed that that I lost the post that was meant to be published last Thursday.
I like No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days by Chris Baty because it reminded me that writing is fun and only insane people attempt to do it. This book is about people who kill themselves while writing a 50,000-word book in a month. I have told my dad about it several times because his reaction is always the same, “30 days? No way. Did you read that right?” Then he asks why you can’t just spread it over a longer period of time so it’s not so painful. Then he seems to almost decide that he’s going to do it. Chris Baty was the person to start NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I haven’t done it yet, but I’m planning on doing it some day…
The last book I like for the writing inspiration isn’t a writing handbook at all. It’s The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy by Leonard S. Marcus. It is a collection of interviews with authors such as Brian Jacques, Lloyd Alexander, Madeleine L’Engle, Jane Yolen, and many more. At the end of each interview the authors give advise to anyone who would also like to be a writer. Because of this book I have unforgiving grudges about authors that I have never read because they did not properly appreciate Lord of the Rings.
This summer I have been rereading favorite childhood books which is reminding me of old childhood dreams. Maybe I will finally reach my goal of finish a short story. After that, I’m sure to write a world famous novel.