Manuals for writing - not.

I'm a hoarder.  But that's another blog.

Of course I hoard books.  Read books, unread books.  You come into my office and it looks like one huge pile of books, but trust me, I have things organized.  Self-help books here, romance pile there, books that I've always wanted to read over there...and the writing books.

Ah, yes, the writing books.

You know what I'm talking about, and I'm sure you've gotten them yourself.  Everything from "Story Mechanics" to "Writing Fiction for Dummies" to "The Nighttime Novelist" to "Write Your Novel in 30 Days".  Well, not everything, but a pretty good amount.

I mostly enjoy character explorations because, honestly, that's what drives stories.  You can't have a story without a character.  Although your setting could be a character, in a sense, it still needs to interact with others, even if it's the weather.   Here's the problem with reading books on writing.

You get to hear everything you ever wanted to know about the author, but were afraid to ask.

Do I care if you wrote 50 books under a pseudonym?  Do I care if you won "many awards" that I probably never heard of?  Do I care about your wife/husband/children/significant other/polyamorous family unit?

No, no, and no.

However, this is what you'll get in some of these books.  Not help.  It's a push for their own novels or books, or a toot of their own horn or, "This is the only way it works."  The Breakout Novel series is notorious for that.  "This is how to write a book, and everything else is dead-on wrong."  I threw that book under my bed with the dust kitties and right now it's holding up one corner of the bed frame.

The purpose of writing books, I think, is for those writers who:

  1. are washed up (Stephen King wrote On Writing at a time when he was, well, a writer only and didn't have his head in the real world for a while - and, I'm sorry, but I DON'T think that's the best book on writing that I've ever read in my life.)
  2. think writing can be taught
  3. believe they can teach writing to those who don't have a clue
  4. foster the illusion that all readers can be writers as well.

Writing takes talent in addition to hard work.  The guys who say it's 99 perspiration and 1% inspiration are so full of it.  It's more inspiration than just work.  Putting your butt in the chair is part of it.  You can get the concepts right - character + character + conflict = story - but unless you can put some life into those concepts, you'll have just a bunch of words going nowhere.

The End

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