The Cliff Notes for Writers Books
There is one more category – cross-over books – more about reading than specifically about writing, but they belong in our toolbox. My favorite book is Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write by Francine Prose. Publishers Weekly described it this way: “Prose masterfully meditates on how quality reading informs great writing, which will warm the cold, jaded hearts of even the most frustrated, unappreciated and unpublished writers.” Wow, I didn’t think of myself that way, but never mind, the book is a gem.
The other book I own is How to Read Novels Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster. Once I got past my aversion to his professorial “Laws Of” throughout the book, I appreciated his close readings of the text and sound advice to writers. His book is sort of like going to class but you can stay in your jammies.
These two books have made me a better reader and a more thoughtful writer. Prose’s analysis of opening paragraphs speaks to one of my current challenges, how to get anyone to read beyond the first paragraph of anything I’ve written. If you’re this far into this blog series, I have succeeded – yippee! Both contain excellent reading lists; Prose’s list has forced me to reconsider many of the classics that I last read in college.
Confession Number Six
Maybe I’m really tired of working on my novel or terrified of what I read recently as the “letting it go” process where you put the manuscript in the drawer and start something new. Or maybe, you’re like me, a victim of my Aries birth sign or whatever is the proper nomenclature. All I know is that we Ariens—not to be confused with Aryans—like to start projects, work on them for some time, and then get bored. Or maybe, I’m just very scared that in this round of revision I’ll find a manuscript I still—maybe never—can send off to an agent with any sort of confidence. I want to write a breakout novel—but right now I just breakout into a sweat when I think about starting with Chapter One and digging in for revision number six.
Enough gloom—it’s gray outside my office window here in the Pacific Northwest. Only the cat finds this an appealing day—keeping the heater on low, curled up in her bed, and flaunting her carefree life!
So, where was I?
Oh, yes, starting new projects. I am thinking about—as in writing in my head when I’m supposed to be sleeping—turning my memoir, Getting to Home, into either a screenplay or a more comic novel. The comic novel appeals to me because even my notes make me laugh—a good start. The working title is And Then He Dumped Me—a universal theme my friends tell me when I mention the plot. The screenplay requires learning a whole new language and discipline, and since I’m not twenty five or close to it, is there time to execute this idea and turn it into a sales-worthy reality?
Fortunately I have only purchased a few books, the best—Save the Cat by Blake Snyder is a great book for any writer. There I go again! I also purchased Final Draft, screenwriting software I have yet to install. My thinking was that if I spent the money on the program—being a cheapskate and a founding member of the clean-plate-club—we know who we are—I’d have to use it or else!
Confession Number Seven
This final confession brings me back to the very beginning, to the unspoken truth that writers of all types and stripes know. Sooner or later we have to set our dreams and books aside, and hope that whatever we found of value inside their covers has lodged somewhere in our brain. Then it’s time to face the paper or the screen and simply . . . write.