“Even the most prolific writer writes only one word at a time.” ― Mokokoma Mokhonoana
The task of writing a book or even an article or essay can seem intimidating. However, one has to remember that it actually is one word at a time. Word by word, a sentence followed by another, chapter after chapter and the book slowly emerges. Anne Lamott described it the best in “Bird by Bird”. The title of the book came from a childhood memory of hers. Her brother was supposed to write an assignment on birds for his summer holidays. He didn’t do anything the entire summer and then panicked on the last day. It was his father’s advice, “Bird by bird, buddy, bird by bird” that provider her the lesson that writing can be done in small, chewable chunks. In the end, it’s a principle that applies not only to writing, but any big, formidable task that needs to be completed. Doesn’t it?
“Writer’s block is just a fancy way of saying I don’t feel like doing any work today.” ― Meagan Spooner
A tad harsh? Probably.
I don’t know about Writer’s Block, but I do face writing challenges. A gaping plot loophole that you can’t find a fix to, dialog that works so much better in your head than on the computer screen in front of you, the challenge of creating a setting that can transport the reader into the world you are building. Some of these issues can take days, weeks to resolve. There are days when you sit in front of the laptop (or with a pen and paper) and hours pass by without anything happening.
What helps me (but does not avoid the problem altogether) is to have a broad outline of the story and a sequence of main events spelt out at the start. Though the characters evolve when you start writing and do not stick to the script, like errant actors bent on improvising, the existence of a broad story line helps you to get back to core of the story you are trying to tell and hence can be a helpful navigation device when you are lost.
A provocative title indeed. Write Good or Die is a compendium of online articles on writing. Rather than the craft though, many of these focus on the marketing side of writing. And that’s the bit I found rather intriguing. The world of e-books is curious and exciting. I can’t claim to understand it with reading one book – but it was interesting nonetheless.
Recommendation: Read if you seek to know more about e-books.
The Elements of Style is THE book on writing. Considered the final word and quoted in all the writing books. The amazing thing is that it remains (largely) relevant today even though written almost a hundred years ago (1918). Of course, there are certain antiquities (common spelling errors, how to break a word if it split into two pages, etc.) which amuse you. But it is creditable for a book to survive so long and remain relevant. The only thing that didn’t work for me was the focus on grammar terms – use past participle in this situation. I am too old to remember my past participles. The name is a bit of an anomaly – it’s more about writing the right English (though there are sections on omitting certain words, vague language, etc.). But a good read for a quick (Only 50 something pages) ready reckoner on writing.
One of the most successful writers of our time holds court on writing. He starts with telling us his own story and then delves into the process of writing – the do’s and dont’s. So does Mr. King offer us fresh advice we’ve never heard before? Not really – but still when advice comes from the king himself – you listen. The lessons that stayed with me were: write true (Hemingway said that a couple generations ago – but still…), write and read a lot, learn what the underlying theme of your book is, etc. The book is written in a really ( he would hate my using an unnecessary adverb here) simple style – easy on the eyes. The language is conversational and casual – fun to read. Read for pleasure and to learn about one of the best-selling authors of our times, if not for unique writing tips.
Pramoedya is perhaps the best known Indonesian author of all times. This Earth of Mankind was the first of the Buru Quartet which he wrote from jail. There were no writing implements, so he told the story in installments to other inmates and then wrote it down from memory after getting released. The story is set in the Dutch era Surabaya where the protagonist, a native, is the student of a prestigious school. The story involves his falling in love with a mixed heritage girl and the challenge they face when the Dutch assert their rights over her. The dynamics between ‘pure bloods’, ‘Indos’ and ‘natives’ are interesting and the presentation of the colonial Indonesia is fabulous. The writing is old school – so not too exciting and the translation adds another layer between the writer and the reader. However, the story continues to unfold at a good pace and the novel continues to be readable. However the story falls into a bit of an innuendo after two thirds of the book and the characters become paper caricatures. Another flaw a key mystery is unresolved. Read for a flavor of the past.
A much recommended book on Amazon. The first part of the book is quite basic. Use simple words, vary the length of sentences and the like. The momentum picks up in the 2nd part where there is some insightful advice on building character, building tension, and the perennial: showing vs. telling. There is nothing new about the advice but the examples bring it to life. I enjoyed the Part 3 -> handbook on correct use of the language – there were plenty of surprises there.
Recommendation: Read if you are looking for a writing guide.