When I sit down to work on my novel, or even this blog post, I want a keyboard (or at least a touchpad) and a screen. I’ve waxed eloquent elsewhere about the Scrivener writing app and its more portable versions for the iPad and iPhone. You know that I love me some digital words. I set my schedule on iCal, my to-dos on Wunderlist, and reach out to the world on Twitter (@mnj23). But I still can’t let go of my paper journal, and my writing benefits as a result. Continue reading
Tag Archives: writing resources
You’re awake. Instead of writing the Great American Novel—or even a mediocre one—you’re reading our blog. Okay, then. We offer a topic; you respond. Let your fellow writers inspire you, and return to that manuscript refreshed.
What’s the most helpful book on writing that you’ve read recently?
Imagine a cabin. Or a stone cottage. Imagine the only sounds you hear are the wind whipping through the trees and birds chirping. Imagine the fresh, earthy smell of the woods after a storm. Imagine solitude. Imagine writing without interruption. Now, imagine you’re wearing a cardigan and rocking a stern pout. You know, the look that implies you’re giving your story a good scolding. You smugly sip coffee and celebrate your own genius. Sounds like a fluffy dream, right? A little too perfect. A little too staged.
But before you write this fantasy off, hear me out. What I’m proposing can be doable regardless of what is going on in your life. I’m talking about literally carving out vacation time to focus on writing without interruption. Namely, doing a residency or going on a retreat is what comes to mind for most people, but if that is not an option there are other ways to find solitude to write.
The point is to get out of the house! Get out of your familiar space, which is teaming with distractions. Laundry can wait. And the dishes for that matter. If you have a job, you’ll likely have to get creative with your time. And if you also have kids, that can be an added challenge. In this case, ask you partner or a friend for an hour of solitude and then run like mad for the door!
If you read Poets & Writers, the March/April issue had some great suggestions for alternative writing spaces. If you have the time, but not a lot of money, P&W suggests going camping, or begging to borrow, at no fee, a relatively isolated space from a close friend (a cabin, houseboat, submarine. O.K., that might be a little extreme). They also suggest just writing outside. Take a hike and write when you reach the top. Find a nice tree at the park. Go to the library. Or if you have a shed, hide out in there. (Though in my own experience, I’ve found still being present on my own property counterproductive, as small creatures can still find me. And do. Even with the doors to the studio locked!)
There are always bus rides (hail, Jeff Zentner) or train rides if you are fortunate enough to live near one. Though the latter might cost you a pretty penny. I can’t imagine how fun it would be to write on a train. And there’s also the perk of saying you birthed your story on a train.
However, IF you are in a place that you can take several days or weeks to yourself, I highly recommend a residency. Some are just weekend long retreats, others a month or longer. There are countless writers and artist colonies all over the world. Short spurts of isolation to write are great, but once you get on a role, if can be very difficult to stop.
And, yes, they cost money!
But don’t write of residencies for monetary reasons. Many writer’s colonies and retreats offer fellowships that you can apply for. In fact, Rivendell is offering fellowships, funded through the SAF, for parents of children 12 and under. For those who don’t meet this requirement, Rivendell also has other fellowships available for first timers. (If you can’t tell from this post and my last, I absolutely love this place! Hence the PR. Though, let it be noted, all the gushing is my own unpaid enthusiasm.)
Whatever way you decide to “get outside” is one step closer to consciously choosing writing. Henry David Thoreau “went to the woods…to live deliberately…”, and I am certain he was onto something.
As an optimist, I assume the best about my writing. Of course I’m writing (almost) every day. Of course my manuscript is coming along beautifully. I’ll be finished in a couple of months.
When I completed WriteOwls’ Write by Midnight in February, the most useful tool in the whole month was the daily writing log. And it’s because I’m an optimist.
When I actually recorded my daily writing progress, I could no longer simply assume the best. If I didn’t write one day, that day had a big blank line beside it. And that objective record forced me to be realistic instead of just optimistic about my writing. Continue reading
I’ve been reading a number of books on writing lately, so I’d like to share a few recommendations with you.
1. The Scene Book by Sandra Scofield.
Most of the books on writing that I have devoured over the years have looked at putting together an entire novel, but this book drills down to the level of the individual scene and delves into what makes these building blocks of a novel work. It’s a thoughtful and insightful guide to this aspect of storytelling, and I learned a lot in the process of reading it that I’m looking forward to incorporating into my own writing.
2. Novel Metamorphosis by Darcy Pattison.
Pattison taught an intensive course on revision at the conference I attended in September, but I couldn’t get up there a day early to attend it, so my sweet husband bought me the book as a consolation prize. It’s as much a workbook as an instruction manual, so wait on this one till you have a finished draft in hand. I already have a running list of things that need to be improved in the next draft of my manuscript, but digging into Pattison’s perspective on revision gave me a solid approach to the process.
3. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.
Written by two editors, this book gives great advice on improving your own writing that can take it from mediocre to exceptional. My favorite aspect was that most examples came from manuscripts the authors had actually edited, so I could see how to apply the advice in real life. A passage that sounded just fine to me would be taken to the next level with their editing techniques.
What books have you found most helpful in developing your craft?