January Meeting Notes

What is your favorite book on writing?

We had a newcomer at today’s Saturday Writers Group. We always love seeing new faces.

New writers often ask, how do I learn how to write? How do I plan a novel and get that first draft written? These are big questions.

Luckily better writers than us have tackled them. Our discussion circled around several times to the same question, what is the best book on writing? We all had our favorites. Here are just a few we discussed.

On Writing

By Stephen King

Stephen King is definitely a master story teller and it’s no surprise that his book on writing is a favorite among several of our Saturday Writers.

Zen in the Art of Writing

By Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury is another master story teller and his book on writing, Zen and the Art of Writing is another favorite of our members.

Heinlein’s Five Simple Business Rules for Writing

By Dean Wesley Smith

Science fiction author Robert Heinlein made his living writing genre science fiction by following five simple rules. Dean Wesley lays them out in this book.

How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method

By Randy Ingermanson

Wanting more practical advice? Try the Snowflake method.

The first two books on the list may help you with creative. Heinlein’s rules deal with the discipline of writing. The snowflake method deals with the bare bones of how to plot out a story, taking you from a single sentence to a fully drafted novel.

Those are our picks for best books on writing. What would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments, or come next month and tell us in person.

Ten Years Later

2010 - Happy New Year!
Image by Patrick Hoesly via Flickr

All day yesterday on Twitter, people were posting their thoughts with the hashtag #tenyearsago. They were remembering and highlighting where they were ten years ago and how their life had changed since then.

As a writer, I’ve come a long way in ten years. I wrote a lot of words in those years. I completed several NaNoWriMo novels. I participated in several online writing communities and real-life writing groups. I read many books on writing and applied them to my stories. I made new writer friends. I started a website about writing.

And in those ten years I learned a lot about myself and my writing. Some of the things I learned…

  • Strong emotion can drive a short story. It’s actually one of the best inspirations for a story.
  • Regular writing practice makes the words flow easier. Julia Cameron’s morning pages are a good way to incorporate daily writing practice into your life.
  • There are two kinds of books published about writing – “How to” books on craft and books that motivate you to write. You can learn from both, but the best way to improve your writing skill is by just writing.
  • If you push through to the end of a story, even one that you don’t like anymore, you can learn more from finishing it, then abandoning it for a new story.

How far have you come with your writing in the last ten years? What have you learned?

Less Guilt, More Fun

One of the things I like most about our writers group, the Saturday Writers, is that we are each at different stages with our writing. And because of that we each bring unique insights to the group.

For me, I’m still in the hobby stage of writing. Writing has been with me for many years, but it is still a dream, not a goal. I dabble in it, I don’t seriously pursue it. And knowing that about myself I can throw off the guilt that we women take on too easily.

No “I should be writing more.” No blame, no guilt trips. Just writing for fun. Writing for the sake of writing. Because I want to work on a story, not because I have to. And that is an okay place to be. When I’m ready to make writing a bigger part of my life, it will be there.

But like any good hobby, I spend a lot of time thinking about writing and studying books on writing. If I pack enough writing knowledge into my brain, then when writing takes center stage in my life, all that learning will be there, ready to use.

The book I’m currently reading is One Continuous Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers by Gail Sher. I really like her four truths. They are:

  1. Writers write.
  2. Writing is a process.
  3. You don’t know what your writing will be until the end of the process.
  4. If writing is your practice, the only way to fail is to not write.

I understand #2. After all this study and reading on writing, I understand that writing is a process. You don’t just flip a switch and instantly become a bestseller. It takes time and effort, like any occupation or hobby.

#3 also makes sense. You have to finish the story to see what it actually becomes. It certainly never looks like the story I had in my mind when I started. But if it bears some resemblance, I’m okay with that.

#1 and #4 are my sticking points. I don’t have the daily practice of writing. When I did write daily, even just in a journal, I found that my “official” writing, whatever story I was working on, came out so much easier. So my challenge is to get back into the daily habit. Because I want to work on my story daily, not because I have to. Less guilt, more fun, more writing.

Where are you at on your writing path?