Helpful Writers

So, I’m a writer.  No two ways about it… although I’ve had a hell of a time bringing myself to admit it.  That silly hesitation stops now.

In the last year or so I’ve become increasingly aware of the number of books written by professional authors about writing.  I blogged in September about the book A Year of Writing Dangerously and it continues to be a wonderful source of inspiration, but it’s not the only book I’ve been digging around in to find some ideas.

The best book of this genre that I’ve read recently is Sometimes the Magic Works by Terry Brooks (author of over 25 fantasy/fiction books).  I was looking at ‘writing books’ in the weeks before my birthday in June, and Cullen surprised me with this gem on my big day.  The book reads like a chapter book; half autobiography, half writer’s guide to writing fiction.  I’ve read the whole thing once through, along with perusing it on separate occasions for thoughts on influences, relationships between writers and publishers, show vs tell, and how story-telling has shaped Terry’s life since he was a young boy.  He talks a lot about living between two worlds: the realm of reality with day-to-day doldrums, and the realm of his books.  He finds it difficult to be completely present in reality for extended periods of time because he is constantly, constantly, thinking about the other world.  His world that he created and knows as well anything in the realm of reality.  I can relate to that.  My blue leather journal is perfect for those moments of random inspiration or distractedness.  Even at work I keep an email to myself open in case I need to send some ideas along.

A few other books have been gifts in the last few years (some were from/to myself) and they’ve all had their strong points.  My favorite kind of self-help books about writing are those that you can open to any page and get a hint of how to proceed with your writing.  Some have lists of daily exercises, some have symptoms of writers’ block and ideas on how to overcome that wretched mess of days when your brain shuts down and your creativity goes on holiday.  Even better are the books like In the Palm of Your Hand that have excerpts of writing, well-known or previously unpublished, that might spark a memory or brand new idea up in your noggin.

I love reading these books, having such insight from professional writers about their approaches to the writing process and what their experiences have been… but to really learn about writing fictional works, I read fictional works. I’ve read some autobiographical works, some poetry and non-fiction, but my heart remains true to my first love.  Fiction.  I read it constantly.  My reading of fiction has changed now though, now that I’m a writer.  I read not only for the story, but for the content and the style.  I seek out the adjectives and verb forms that different authors like to use, and debate about whether or not words like theirs would feel right in my style, in my book.

Reading now with the purpose of becoming a better writer is like learning a new language: I know what I want to say and every day I’m getting better at communicating it.

Plan for next Tuesday – writing more about the book!

ps: less than two months until Christmas!



About jmmack

Full-time swim coach and pool program manager in the Seattle area. Swimmer, writer, cross-stitcher, HP fan, wife, sister, auntie of two nephews, human to a feisty Jack-Russell mix.
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1 Response to Helpful Writers

  1. Pingback: In Defense of Classical Studies | The Innumerable Uses of Language

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