February 18, 2008

WRITING ADVICE: *UGH!* to Prescriptive Writing Books


That's my response to writing books that prescribe exact formulas and imply that This Time, You'll Make It. THIS is the way to Do It!

"It" of course is To Get Really Well Published.

So -- what's the difference between the book I checked out from the library this week on the subject of weekend novel writing and say:

FONDLING YOUR MUSE (by John Warner which is inspirationally hysterical),

BEGINNINGS, MIDDLES AND ENDS (by Nancy Kress which is gently instructive),

STEPHEN KING ON WRITING (which is bizarre and entertaining),

HOW TO WRITE SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY (by Orson Scott Card which is fundamentally meant to be underlined and dog-eared),

COMEDY WRITING SECRETS (by Melvin Herlitzer which is a sober study of why stuff is funny),

THE FIRST FIVE PAGES (by Noah Lukeman which was a startlingly sensible revelation),

WRITING THE BREAK OUT NOVEL (by Donald Maass which made me stop breathing once or twice in awe),

and ALIENS AND SOCIETIES (by Stanley Schmidt which is a permanent reference)?

I can put my finger right on it!

It's attitude.

The attitude of a writer is conveyed by the tone of the book. The tone is an outgrowth of the writer's personality (which might be a public persona or the Real McCoy). Personality determines if the writer heaves themselves up in front of a room of hopefuls who Need To Be Taught The Right Way To Write. Personality determines whether the writer slips up alongside you and points out the places you need to grow.

For me, attitude is the difference between a televangelist preaching to an electronic audience (anyone else see the irony here?) and a street missionary who, after you've done a neighborhood cleanup on Earth Day together, invites you out for a cuppa or a soda and asks why YOU came to clean up other people's trash and when you ask (knowing full well what's about to happen, but not minding 'cause they seem nice, if deluded), they tell you why they came.

The televangelist and the Right Way To Do It bug the heck out of me!

The street missionary and the hysterical, instructive, bizarre, dog-eared, sober, sensible, awe-inspiring and permanent I'm glad to listen to. Even though they are total strangers -- they seem like they CARE.

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