When I decided I wanted to write a novel in my retirement, I knew I needed to learn about the craft of writing. A class at the local community college was my starting point. It helped, particularly by providing encouragement. I knew I needed a lot more, however. I started looking at books about writing. Yes, there are a lot of these things out there. I knew I didn’t have time to digest them all. I went to a local bookstore and scanned the shelves. I had already determined that I was going to buy something that day. It had to be concise, easy to deal with, complete, and pertinent to writing a novel. These did not constitute a well-thought list, since I formulated it as I drove to the local mall where the bookstore was located.
One book caught my attention: “Writing Fiction for Dummies” by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy. It was about writing novels, it was relatively inexpensive, it was on the shelf, and it looked simple and well-organized. The academic elitist inside me said “Don’t buy anything with “Dummies” or “Idiots” in the title. I resisted those urges and bought it. I did the right thing.
It turned out to be exactly what I needed. It discussed the whole novel writing process from the very beginning to the publishing and editing processes. I knew this world a little from my own academic writing, but the process of conceptualizing a novel and the issues involved in a novel such as characters, point of view, voice, and dialogue were all new to me. I needed a good primer and this was it. I haven’t published or completed a novel yet, but this book got me started, and I recommend it to any aspiring novel writers.
It wasn’t enough, however. It was a good start, but I knew I needed more education in the craft of writing, so I decided I would be reading one craft book along with whatever else I was reading. I learned that what I was wanted to write was in the “Thriller” genre, so I needed to learn the rules of the game for thrillers. Much work was needed. I scoured some used book sales for craft books, sought out recommendations from successful and aspiring writers, and kept my eyes open for whatever was out there that looked pertinent for my own ambitions.
A few of my finds, in alphabetical order were:
- Bell, James Scott “Plot and Structure”
- George, Elizabeth “Write Away”
- King, Stephen “On Writing”
- Le Carre, John “Conversations with John Le Carre”
- Le Carre “The Pigeon Tunnel”
- Phillips, Larry, ed. “Hemingway on Writing”
I have read some of these. Everything I have read from this list has some value, and I have harvested a few nuggets of gold from each of them that struck a chord with me. The others are on my to-do list. If any blog readers have suggestions, please put them in the comments section.
Some things I have learned from what I have read on this list.
- Writing is very idiosyncratic
- At my tender age I still have a lot to learn about the mechanics and process of writing
- Writing is hard work
- If you want to be successful, you have to make writing an important part of your life.
- Writing (and learning about writing) can be a lot of fun in itself
That’s all for now, back to my reading list.