what just arrived in the mail…

January 6, 2010


So I thought I’d talk writing books. There are a few that have changed how I think about writing stories.

Writing the Natural Way by Gabriele Lusser Rico

This is a book I borrowed from the Vic Writer’s Centre but I’m not sure it’s still in print. I picked it up because it was unlike any other writing book I’ve seen. The tagline is ‘Using Right-Brain Techniques to Release Your Expressive Powers’. Sounds interesting, right? I still haven’t finished it but a great idea I picked up is to use mindmaps before writing something. Say you want to write about grief, you write the word in the middle of a page with a circle around it, then you draw lines branching off to every idea that comes to mind, and branch off these branches further, too, if you want. Then, using the mindmap as a guide, you write your piece using ideas from it.

The idea is that when we write linearly, we can get stuck in writing things that aren’t truly unique and don’t truly come from us within. This is because of how we’ve been taught to write, from the left side of the brain and not the right. We sometimes write what we feel we should write and that limits our creativity. And some of us perfectionists won’t play with ideas in writing, we just want to write perfectly. The pressures limit us, and mindmapping, or ‘clustering’, as the author calls it, helps us break through those pressures and allows us to play with ideas.

Story by Robert McKee

This is a screenwriting book, but it applies to novel-writing, too. I’ve tried to finish it a few times, but I don’t seem to get halfway through it because it inspires me to get started instead of reading. (Plus it is huge.) Anyway, I learnt from Mr McKee about different plot structures and the importance of making every scene count and move the story forward.

The Little Red Writing Book by Mark Tredinnick

First of all, I love how this book is written. It’s got this lyrical style that still gets to the point. It’s not specifically for fiction, but it’s still very useful. It’s a general book that I read for inspiration and to remind me of important writing things that I may have let slip a little.

The Soul of Creative Writing by Richard Goodman

I only found a little of this book useful, namely the first few chapters. But fortunately, it’s broken up into aptly titled chapters, so you can just read the parts relevant to you if you want. (I read the whole thing.) What resounded with me was the talk about style. How important it is to say things right, how many millions of ways there are to say something, and how it’s up to you, the writer, to pluck from those millions the one that means most and sounds best to you. It’s a good thing to remind myself of.


2 Responses to “what just arrived in the mail…”

  1. M.J. Horton Says:

    These look like awesome reads! Have you tried Your First Novel by Laura Whitcomb? It covers all the bases, methinks.

  2. maidenfine Says:

    I got Wild Ink for Christmas! I’m really looking forward to reading it. Story by Robert McKee is definitely also on my to-read list. Larry Brooks over at storyfix.com has recommended it several times and since that site makes my brain explode in wonderful ways, I know I need to read that book. I also agree that Your First Novel by Laura Whitcomb is good (so is A Certain Slant of Light by the same, but that’s not a writing book).

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