Monday, May 9, 2011

Books About Writing

I've done it again--started reading several books at the same time. It used to be that I couldn't do that. I wouldn't do that. I was definitely prone to do one project at a time, read one book at a time, handle one mess at a time.

Then God sent me through the school of multi-tasking. Or, perhaps I should say "multi-projecting?" [Is that a real word?]

My sweet writing friend, Donna, and I are working on a project together. We're planning a one day work shop. I'll let you know about that when a few more details are worked out. As part of my preparation I ordered a couple of books to add to my "to be read" pile.

Except, I couldn't resist thumbing through the pages of those shiny new books.

I'm already in the middle of reading specific sections of another writing book: The Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches & Proposals by Moira Allen. My skills in that area are in need of major intervention (maybe resuscitation is a better word). It's a hefty paper back volume with a detailed Table of Contents that rivals any I've ever seen. So I circled the chapters that I need to tackle NOW. I'll add the other chapters in this reference book to my "to be read" pile.

But my two new babies arrived Saturday and I HAD to see what treasures were hidden inside the covers.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books Third Ed. by Harold D. Underdown. Now, tell me, how could I NOT purchase a book about writing by Harold D. Underdown? The man is a children's literature icon. Again, the Table of Contents is NINE pages long. [I love it!] Each section provides a brief overview of that particular issue, problem or skill. It looks like a terrific quick reference guide.

I don't think I would actually recommend it to beginners, however. I remember how mind boggling such books were to me the first couple of years I tried writing for publication. So many details and requirements, dos and don'ts got me confused to the point of my brain temporarily turning to mush.

But now I'm a little more informed, a little more experienced and these pages will be dog-eared, high-lighted and spit-stained in no time, I'm sure.

The book I'm most heavily involved in now (after Saturday's parley with our mail carrier) is James Scott Bell's Revision & Self-Editing. I just got started and I'm already approaching brain mush. His Table of Contents is only two pages long. But he makes up for it with his four-page Index in minuscule type.

Bell must be a genius. He's a prolific and successful suspense/thriller writer for sure. He also has several books out for writers. This one is as jam-packed with information and exercises as his other volumes. The last chapter (#16 - 36 pages long) is a self-editing check list for novels. Ouch! My brain hurts as I read the lengths to which he goes to create those best-selling novels.

The checklist covers (in pain-staking details) these areas: Character; Plot; Opening; Middles; Endings; Scenes; Exposition; Voice, Style &Point of View; Setting & Description; Dialogue; Theme; The Polish.

Are you tired yet? Are you feeling a brain-pain coming on?

Almost everything I write is much shorter than novel length. Picture books, magazine articles, short stories, personal non-fiction stories for anthologies, blog copy. I'm reading through this check list to see how I can adapt it for such short works. However, it's making me feel a tad inadequate.

I'm coming away from each reading session with new determination NOT to be a novelist. I thought writing short articles, etc. was difficult. Wow! Writing a novel must be excruciating! I have a new level of admiration for those who do it again and again.

I am also taking mental notes of items on this checklist to help me when I start revising my Inspirational YA. (My learning novel.) Seems I have SO MUCH MORE to learn from it.

 Yesterday I read through several sections of the Check List. As I mulled over the material I realized that God has called each of us to different paths. At this point in my life I really have no desire to be a novelist. That doesn't mean I won't trudge through that swamp at some future time. But for now I'm trying to do the best possible job I can at shorter manuscripts. And I'm trying to follow God's lead for me in other areas of my life related to writing for publication. Write2Ignite! is the first thing to come to mind.

I know God has given me Write2Ignite! because I'm not only a writer at heart, but a teacher and an encourager. God called me to teach many years ago. And He called me to encourage others long before that. I know He gives us new assignments during our lives, but He doesn't just throw away the things He called us to do in our past. God amazingly uses all of those jobs, all of those experiences to prepare me for the next task on His big TO DO list for my life.

I know--He wants me to BECOME far more than He wants me to DO.

But I also know that God does have plans for my life. He does have tasks He wants me to accomplish in this life time. I have confidence in that fact and in His sovereignty in determining those things.

So I embrace Write2Ignite! with gratitude and joy. The responsibilities that go with it often keep me from the fun of writing and the excitement of submitting. But I find comfort in knowing that God's path for me and my writing is different from His path for James Scott Bell, or for you.

I've decided to keep writing what I can when I can. I've decided to be grateful for the wonderful experiences and people Write2Ignite! brings to my life. I've decided to do my best at whatever tasks God calls me to do.

After all, He is the Great Author and Finisher of my life. His plans and His paths for me and my writing are so much bigger and so much better than anything I could come up with on my own. I'll just keep turning the pages and enjoying the surprises He has for me right up to the last chapter of my life--Eternity.


Linda A. said...


Great resources. Thanks for sharing. It sounds like you are at peace with where you are with your writing career. Good for you!

Linda A.

Carol Baldwin said...

Harold's book is great. I'll add the book about revision to my resource list. Sounds like I need to read it. Sigh. How can a writer write when there are so many good books to read?

Jean said...

That;s right, Linda. At peace.

And Carol, all I can say is "Amen!"