Part 11 of an intermittent series (although it does seem to be fairly mittent until now) where I read or re-read the writing books on my shelf to see if they’re worth keeping. See previous part here
Getting this in before I probably neglect this blog for NaNoWriMo (although it’s not National and I’m not writing a Novel.) I’ve tried and failed at Nano before, more than once. Once famously writing less in November than my usual monthly wordcount. And yet I’m going for it again this year – mainly because I have December deadlines on a couple of projects – hence the ‘it’s not a novel’ – although it’s near as dammit 50k words if I hit all the projects I want to do so, yay?
Anyway back to the subject. As I said last time I’d read the other Maass book:
Which looks great, was written after 21st Century novel and is a better book. But it does suffer from some of the same problems. It tends towards more lit crit than how to. In this one Maass says some people Show – and that can work, some people Tell – and that can work too but what you need to do is write in an “Other” mode which creates an emotional attachment between you and the reader. Yeah? How? Again his exhortations to ‘write better’ (in this case imbue your words with the power to create emotion) aren’t backed up with good concrete methods on how to do that. Instead you get out of context small excerpts of books he’s enjoyed which demonstrate good writing – except, taken out of context, they don’t create the emotions he tells you they do. So, another for the discard pile.
I also read Save the Cat Writes a Novel
I’ve not read the original but have heard good things so when I saw a version for novelists rather than screenwriters I thought I’d give it a go. It’s another formula for the 3 Act structure basically – although engagingly written and a good explainer of the nuts and bolts of 3 act (with 15 individual beats and where they come in the various acts) it is in essence another formula for the 3 act structure. If you don’t have a plotting structure book it’s probably as good a one as any to buy – I’ll make a decision on this one when I re-read my ‘how to story’ books like Story by Mckee and The Writer’s Journey and others. (So again this was a little tangent.)
That’s my generic How To nuts & bolts books done – I have culled before and, as per a previous post, the Norton book – The Making of A Story – is all you need as a guide to the basics I think.
Next up are the books by individual authors on ‘How to Write’ – these ones on the writing shelf are by authors that are not on my fiction shelves, and in one case by an author I’ve not read.
Which is the one I read first:
This is… interesting. Pierre comes across as very much an individual and the book is a very idiosyncratic view of writing. I enjoyed it. I don’t think it will deserve a re-read and I didn’t really get anything useful from it. It did make me want to read one of his fiction books though. So again, another for the ever-growing discard pile.
Next up Scarlett Thomas and Chuck Palahniuk.
Drop a comment with your favourite writing book or tip here or email me via the Contact page. If you’re a publisher or Indie Author and would like me to review your writing book drop me a line!
Talking of story structure – I’m moderating a panel at the Bristol Festival of Literature which will be discussing story with writers that work in different media. It’s free so check it out and grab a ticket here