Sunday, July 18, 2010

How much writing advice do you need?

Yesterday, my wife and I went to Tattered Cover to find a book. Ok, she went to Tattered Cover to find a book for her graduate level writing class; I went to avoid working on getting together the last of the stuff neccessary for the Theoricus initiation that I am doing today.

(Actually, I am doing the Theoricus initiation right now---this post is actually pre-scheduled...much like the last night talk shows are filmed during the day, and perhaps even days before they are broadcast.)

And while we were there, she found several books on the writing craft (creating characters, writing various types of stories, etc.) that she thought I would be interested in. I was...to a certain extent. My interest was not too great because I was sticking to a budget (an advance for a job that I am doing this coming week); and the honest fact that leafing though the books, I recognized most of the advice from other writing "how-to" advice books.

I have gotten to the point where I think that I am better off not buying any more writing advice books simply because most of the information feels like simple repeats of information that I have read in other books. Quite honestly, I have hit my limit on how many how-to books I can squeeze into my library. And my budget (time and money).

Of course, this brings up the question of how many books on writing does an aspiring writer need? (This also can be asked of how many books on magic does an aspiring witch or magician need?) At what point in time does a writer hit the point where another how-to book is not actually going to make that much difference in their craft?

It is not like they are going to suddenly quit publishing books on writing. As long as there is a steady stream of aspiring writers, there will be a steady stream of books aimed at improving their craft. But at a certain point, it is better to keep your money in your pocket---unless you have a specific problem to solve.

I suspect that in part, the market has so many books because it allows aspiring writers to feel that they are improving their craft without actually doing any work. It is like reading books on magic, ethics, relationships, business, etc. Reading a book gives you a nice buzz---you are trying to improve your skill and knowledge; but unless you are willing to roll up your sleeves, it is just wasted effort.

I do not think that there is a single professional (as in "I make my living writing") writer who would rate reading books on how-to write as highly as they would actually doing the actual work of being a writer. If you want a crash course in writing, and a big boost in your skill, suffer though National Novel Writing Month or something like it (aka actually complete an entire novel). Learning to write from books is like learning to play golf without ever swinging a golf club.

Write, write, write. Does anyone really need more advice than that?

3 comments:

Naila Moon of the Grey Wolf said...

I suggest YOU write a book on "How To Write" and get it published. ;-)
Or maybe how not to write. *grins*

tamirisc said...

Each person learns at their own level. I remember a certain person once telling me, that how to write books, are written by writers, who could not get published any other way, than to write a how to book.

As to books on Magick, I think it comes to the point that anyone in the path, is evolving, therefore they may start with Cunningham and advance to Crowley, or is that the other way around?

As my wife suggested, perhaps you should write a book on writing, or magick, although I thought you were, working on such a book?

S. J. Reisner || Audrey Brice || S. Connolly said...

Absolutely agree with you! :)