Thursday, March 17, 2011

How to write

Confession time.

I have never read a book on writing. I haven't read Steven King's book on writing, I can't even recall the title right now. My boyfriend downloaded a preview of it to his Nook but the pages were Mr. King talking about his childhood, giving a history of his life. He said he'd buy it for me if I wanted. I said maybe later and later hasn't come yet.

To some this might not be a big deal but to writers... there's probably a few jaws dropping. A lot of writer friends have at some point talked about books they've read on writing. Steven King's book is the one EVERYONE recommends. If you read only one book on writing that is the book to read. I'm sure if I asked, my writer buddies would rush to recommend the ones they loved and learned a lot from.

But I'm not asking and I won't be anytime soon. You see, I was an art freak in high school and went to college for a year (and half) for art. My high school art teacher was amazing, I loved him, my other artsy friends in the class with me loved him. The only people who didn't love him were the ones that took Art I and II thinking it was a slacker class then found out there's a lot more to art the putting pencil to paper. My art teacher stressed one rule and it was this:

Do NOT read how to book - more specifically how to draw books.

How to draw books were nothing more than another artist trying to make you draw the same way he or she did. That was just wrong in my art teacher's opinion. Everyone's artistic style was different and using a how to draw book only stifled an individual's style. We had to discover our own style and nurture it.

That's how I feel about writing books. I see interviews with writers or authors giving tips and saying, "Read as many books on the craft you can." What I hear are my art teacher words. Do not use how to books. So i say no to how to write books. I'm not going to read them and let them tell me how to write. That's stifling my style, hindering my creativity. Yes, I will pay attention to grammar rules and punctuation. I will learn about fluff words. I will listen to advice on sentence structure. I will ask for help and consider suggestions. But I'm not picking up a book to do that.

I just can't.



  1. I agree with this. I've noticed, often one writer will criticize another, because they are not conforming to their own style.

    I mean, I've done that as well, found that a fellow writers style just is not my thing and so I don't like it. This is why I tend not to offer writing advice but to say, you just need to sit down and write, find yourself that's the only way you'll discover your voice.

  2. I have to admit Patricia that I have similar feelings. I don't go out of my way to read books on the craft of writing, I hate reading people telling others the right and wrong way to write, something that is so personal and subjective, even when they stress the caveat that in certain instances the rules can be broken.

    Why? Because just by saying something is a rule or a strong guideline I believe you put a roadblock in someone's subconscious, a mental barrier that can stifle the creative process.

    I DO however, love reading about how writers I know and love (and, perhaps even loathe) went about their writing lives. I love reading the tips they have to share about the process, the techniques they use, and I love it most of all when they contradict each other completely. If I think an idea or a technique will help me, I follow it and try it for myself; if I think it's not for me I leave it alone, no big deal.

    Writing is amazing in the amount of directions it can be taken. It's great sometimes to listen to guidelines and advice, but it's horrible to be told what not to do ...

  3. I get what you mean about "how to draw" books. I could never get into them... back when I enjoyed drawing. Now when anyone mentions to me that I should draw this or that, I say "no!". I don't know what happened to me. LOL :)

    The only book I've ever read (at least partially :D) on writing is a book called On Writing Well by William Zinsser. It's humorous and makes so much sense. It's aimed toward non-fiction writers, but I think most chapters can be applied to any sort of writer. I guarantee you won't regret reading it, and you'll start realizing things about your writing (and other people's writing too) that you would have never realized before. I've learned SO much from it!

  4. I've never found books about writing to be very useful, but "On Writing" by Stephen King really is an excellent book. It's mostly a memoir with a section of writing tips (which I found to be very non-judgmental). Although I found it very motivational, anyone who likes Stephen King would probably enjoy the memoir parts. :)

    I used to read books about writing all the time as a kid because I thought it would make me such a Real Writer, but I grew out of that pretty fast!


  5. Writing books are not necessary at all. Some people like to read them (I do) but what works for one person, doesn't necessarily work for others...

    One of the biggest pieces of advice Stephen King gives in his writing book is that writing books are not the way to learn how to write... writing and reading are... So I think you're on the right track.

  6. Luke, I like reading how other authors got to where they are now as well.

    I just don't want them to tell me how they think I should write. Advice is good, trying to force someone to write your way isn't.
    Think I will get Stephen King's book, I'm not against memoirs.

  7. I feel the same way as you, Patricia. I have had books recommended to me but have never bought them.

    The books I use most are my dictionaries and my different thesaurus books. I believe writing, painting, crafts, music, are all art forms. And art is an expression of what is inside the artist. I know in each art form there are certain basic rules. For instance, you can't write music if you have no idea of the different notes involved; you can't create a good book if you don't know basic sentence structure and spelling. But that is where art moves away from rules. You build on the foundation, but everyone builds differently and ends up with a unique creation - some better than others. How-to books cannot help you create your finished product. They cannot supply you with the inspiration you need to craft a story, and they cannot build your plot for you.

  8. I LOVE On Writing. It's not so much about how to write, but about letting yourself write and following your dream.

    Do you read writing blogs? I find I learn a lot from other writers, pretty much the same as the Stephen King book, but free and interactive :)