Reading about writing

I had a conversation with a friend who I hadn’t seen for awhile yesterday, asked him how his writing was going and he told me he was reading some books on writing.

Not writing, not yet anyway, but reading about it.

And admittedly, he does need some help with some writing stuff. I’ve always made myself available to give him pointers, which he usually takes on board well. He has some really great ideas, it’s just the execution of them that needs some work and I have total faith that if he works hard at it he’ll end up with some really solid work.

I just hope that he doesn’t spend all of his time reading about how to write and not actually writing, because I think that no matter how much ‘study’ or ‘research’ into writing you do, you can’t actually make progress until you yourself are putting words down on the page. Putting the things you’ve learned into practice, finding out what does and doesn’t work for yourself.

It made me think about the books I’ve been reading lately – Kerryn left all her books about writing with me while she heads out overseas and I’ve read a couple so far, though, I’m pacing myself and not reading any more until I get back to work on Lifelines (am focusing on the editing/rewriting books in the collection first as that’s where I think I need the help).

Prior to this, I’d read…. maybe three books on writing? Steven King’s ‘On Writing’ just because I do enjoy some King, and, one or two others which didn’t really excite me a whole lot. I think I write fairly well, though of course there are things which can be improved. There is always room for improvement. But I think I’d much rather be writing than reading about it, and I really enjoy learning through experience.

I’m a little bit like that. You can tell me how to do something, but until I actually put that knowledge to use I’m not going to really connect with it, that became very apparent to me when I was in design school – I’d find myself running my hands over my keyboard, mimicking the strokes that the teacher was making on the screen so that I’d remember how to do different things.

Anyways… what books about writing have you read and found really helpful? Are they helpful just from reading them, or is it not til you start applying the principles in those books that things really click into place?

Novel Update: I did over 1k last night, and really really wanted to keep writing, but it was just after 10pm, Lauren was stirring and I knew I should be sleeping. So, back into it today. I’m hoping that I can pull this section off, and hopefully make some firm decisions on a couple of things that are coming up in the novel – I really need to so that I can keep pushing forward at a good rate. Confident I can though! Looking forward to it πŸ™‚


10 thoughts on “Reading about writing”

  1. like you, I need to DO, not only READ.

    I’m working on Anne Lamott’s Bird in Hand. more because I love her voice… πŸ™‚

    I’d rather read novels, non fiction too, than someone telling me HOW… but that’s just me…

  2. I read “On Writing” for the first time a few months ago. It’s an interesting book. Some good advice (and some bad advice), but it’s also kind of an odd book. It’s only about 10 years old, right? But it already feels like a relic from another age. In a lot of ways it’s a pre-Internet book.

    One strange (and outdated) argument King makes is that authors shouldn’t have to do most of the heavy lifting of marketing a book — that their only job should be writing their books. I suppose that’s easy to say when you’re a famous author, but for 99% of the rest of authors out there, it’s imperative that they do as much marketing and promotion as they possibly can.

    Since I teach composition, I’ve collected dozens of textbooks about writing. Those have helped me become much more effective at revising and editing, but they don’t help much on the creative end of things.

    1. Well, it’s not as though King has to do his own marketing! lol These days authors definitely have to do more of the grunt work, specially new writers. Ten years or so is a long time these days. Some things get outdated a lot quicker than that.
      I really think that when it comes to books about writing, you have to take what works for you/feels like a good fit, and leave the other bits. There is no one way to do anything, and everyone works differently.

  3. I’ve read a lot of books on writing (but not Stephen King’s). The main reason for doing so was to alleviate the loneliness of thinking about the topic all by myself. The important thing is to be always thinking about what you’re doing and looking for ways to get more out of yourself, improve your skills, extend your range and become more fluent. Reading about it helps, especially if it keeps you motivated.

    There are some excellent books on writing and some books that are a complete waste of time.

    Two I like are The Weekend Novelist and The 3 am Epiphany.

    You’re a fluent writer though, J.C. (I liked your story.) What you need most is more time to yourself.

    1. hmm yes, time, that’s the tricky part for me πŸ˜‰
      Thanks for commenting, and the compliment! I’ll have to see if the library has those books, I like the sound of the 3am Epiphany! I have a few of those myself.

  4. I’ve read a couple of the Writer’s Digest writing series. They are kind of helpful, but I read them more to re-inspire me. I find they’re more helpful at the editing stage, when you’re consciously looking at word choices and metaphor and flow.

    When I’m writing, I like to read about other people writing, and their trials and tribulations. Makes me feel part of a writing community.

    1. Yes, I love that feeling! It’s one of the best things about being part of the blogging population, there are so many wonderful people working on their writing, and we’re all a part of it.

  5. I wholeheartedly endorse King’s book. I found it straight forward and not that heavy on anything other than the cold hard facts. I appreciated that. Skip the autobiographical section though.

    That Lamott book sounds familiar. I was sure it was called Bird by Bird or something like that … but if it’s the one I’m thinking, it’s the only other book next to King’s that I recommend.

    Read one or two, but no more. You can’t get too much more from reading after the first couple. Do, and find your own path, methinks.

    1. Yeah, I am all for finding your own path, and dead against doing everything by someone else’s book. I’ve found after reading through a couple that the core information is very similar from book to book anyways, so if you’ve read a couple decent ones you should be set.

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