I have always loved books about writing. One of my favorites, William Zinsser's "On Writing Well,"helped shape my nonfiction writing style. I also adore Annie Dillard's "The Writing Life": she discusses not the craft of writing but the process; the writer's journey and struggles. She writes,
This writing that you do, that so thrills you, that so rocks and exhilarates you, as if you were dancing next to the band, is barely audible to anyone else. The reader's ear must adjust down from loud life to the subtle, imaginary sounds of the written word.
From Natalie Goldberg ("Long Quiet Highway" and "Writing Down the Bones") to Anne Lamott ("Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life"), I can't get enough of writers on writing.
And so it is that I have a strong desire to go out and buy books about writing. There's the "Portable MFA in Creative Writing" -- why pay upwards of $20,000 for more schooling when I could get a book? There's the "Idiot's Guide to Writing a Novel"--I don't think I'm an idiot, so the book should make it easy to write a novel! Oh, and there's"How to Write a (Damn) Good Novel"--it has "Damn" in the title, so I know it must be excellent.
But sometimes I think that reading these books is just another way for me to procrastinate. So I'll go for some time on my own. I spent four hours at a bookstore today sketching out the plot and characters of a novel. Just like the Ronald & Cynthia story, I've had the idea for this one in my head the past year or so. And while staring at my notes, I realized I had to eliminate one of the characters altogether. She had been a major character; in fact, she was possibly going to narrate! But once I got rid of her, things made so much more sense and the story began to come together.
I'm excited. After I had decided not to jump in immediately to an MFA program, I felt a little lost: But this gives me direction and an achievable goal.
And as for "Ronald and Cynthia," I've finished the draft; I think a lot of it works, but I need some distance from it before revision.
(Cross-posted at wordpress)