Friday, October 2, 2009

Schoolin’ About Writin’

I never took a creative writing class in high school. In fact, I didn't care much for English class, always opting to do some kind of alternative communication project when available (think videotaped speech, pantomime, or interpretive dance), rather than write a paper. Maybe if they'd called it Language Arts, like they do now, I'd have been more interested.

In college, the only English class I took was a required technical writing course. Why did engineers need to learn how to write anyway?

In graduate business school, we had plenty of writing to do, but itBuzzword Bingo wasn't very creative, unless you thought playing buzzword bingo counted ("searching for synergistic solutions and proactively pursuing paradigms is all well and good, but moving forward at the end of the day..."). Creativity was mostly limited to accounting. (CEO to CFO: "Do you know how much 2 plus 2 is?" CFO: "Sure. Whatever you want it to be, boss.")

It wasn't until many years later that I decided to write fiction. I'd always been a voracious reader, so how hard could writing be?

My first efforts weren't pretty.

But I took a few writing workshops, got into some good critique groups, and, um, read a lot of books about writing.

A few favorites:

On Writing by Stephen King

Write the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

How to Write A Damn Good Mystery by James N. Frey (not that James Frey!)

Don't Murder Your Mystery by Chris Roerden

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

There are tons of other books on the "How To Write" shelves. Some offer step-by-step plans, some put you through "boot camps," and some promise to help you churn out a book in a month or six weeks or ninety days. Whatever works for you.

Me? I usually feel like I'm just winging it.

What's helped you with your writing? Any special books? MFAs? Writer retreats? A six-pack on the back porch every night? 


(This entry is “simul-posted” on InkSpot.)



Elspeth Futcher said...

My go-to book has always been "Write Away" by Elizabeth George; mainly because we seem to approach writing in a similar manner. However, the six-pack on the back porch also has its appeal!


Stephanie Faris said...

I was first learning to write BEFORE Stephen King's book became the definitive how-to. It's funny...he put that out around the time my personal life took me away from writing. I read it, but I had no idea until recently that it had become the one book all writers MUST read! So, of course, I had to go back and read it again. I wish it had been around that first year I was starting to write.

Alan Orloff said...

Elspeth - I don't believe I've ever read Write Away. Hmmm. I would have marked you as a wine drinker.

Stephanie - Yes, well, Mr. King does know a few things about writing. And about making money. Thanks for stopping by the blog! Visitors always welcome.

Elspeth Futcher said...

You're correct about the wine. But to not take beer when offered would be rude.

Word verification: quatine

To be said in a very upper-crust English accent: "Quatine is it please? I heve a train to ketch."

Patricia Stoltey said...

Another good book is Stein on Writing by Sol Stein. I've taken quite a few continuing ed classes over the years as well as attended writers' conferences. They all helped. And I'm still taking classes, by the way. Tomorrow is a 3-hour class on scriptwriting, and later in the month I'm taking a 3-hour class on humor writing.

Alan Orloff said...

Elspeth - Yes, etiquette is very important, especially when alcohol is involved.

Patricia - I've read the Stein book and it's good. He's written a few, I think. I've found classes are good, too, if for no other reason than to get your batteries recharged.