Thursday, December 28, 2006

Books! Books, books, and more books!

One wonderful person gave me a $10.00 gift certificate to a local bookstore. I love this store: it still has that dusty, musty, old bookstore smell, and the wooden floors creak as you wander through the narrow aisles. It has nooks and crannies. Books are stuffed everywhere, just chaotic enough to make it feel charmed, like somewhere in the stacks could be found a hidden, magical book.

Anyway, as I was wandering through the store today, I got depressed. Depressed! Even bummed and sad. There are more books that I'm dying to read than I could read in a lifetime.

But this is my organizing time of the year, and I've compiled a partial list of all the books I want to read in 2007. I still need a few more. I'm hoping to read two books a week, but it might be one book a week. We'll have to see.

So I'm curious. What novel has taught you the most about the craft? Please leave a comment, so I can add it to my list. I'm looking for novels that I can learn from and dissect and study.

I've read practically every writing book in the writing section of Borders and Barnes and Nobles, so that leaves learning from novels themselves. I'm starting to think that's a better way to learn. Did I mention enough times how much I love Francine Prose's Reading Like A Writer? By far, one of the best writing books I've ever picked up. It's not in the writing section; it's in the literary criticism section, usually squirrelled away in some corner.

The second thing that depressed me, is besides there being more books I want to read than I can read in a lifetime, is that there are more authors than I can read in a lifetime that are probably better writers than me. Maybe Bernita's post The Great American Novel or JA Konrath's post How Good Am I? brought it out in me, or maybe it's the fact that I'm living the day slow because I'm on vacation and down time isn't good for me, or maybe it's just the truth.

The only thing left, I suppose, is to write something no one has written yet. Somedays, that feels hard. I'm preparing to write my novel; I have two projects to finish first. I'm not sure whether I should write #1 or #2. Number one is one I'm having to work hard to make original. I think it's semi-original, because I haven't read one like it and want to, but ... I'm not convinced it's not already out there, undiscovered by me. Number two is--what's that called?--high concept. Or, rather, medium concept. It's all idea and not much plot, yet.

Writing without the pressure for money and without a deadline is hard for me. I gotta admit, I'm scared. Affirmations, affirmations, affirmations ...

9 bonus scribbles:

Edie 12/28/2006 05:23:00 PM  

Spy, I don't analyze. Every once in a while I see something that makes me think "I can do that", but mostly I let the books sink into my subconscious. I do read craft books. Right now I'm reading, for the 2nd time, Donald Maass's Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook.

One book not on your list is Tied to the Tracks by Rosina Lippi. I loved it!

Edie 12/28/2006 05:25:00 PM  

Spy, about the 2nd half of your post, you can do it. Just refuse to give up and write each book better than the last. It will happen.

Kelly Parra 12/28/2006 11:02:00 PM  

Good luck with picking the right project. It's always a tough call. =)

Bernita 12/29/2006 08:32:00 AM  

Don't worry.
Just. Write.

Jeff 12/29/2006 10:46:00 AM  

As far as the "how to" books on writing are concerned, I think the practical advice David Morrell offers in Lessons From A Lifetime Of Writing is pretty good.
I agree with Bernita. Don't worry, just write.
Good luck! :)

spyscribbler 12/29/2006 12:34:00 PM  

LOLOL ... yeah, you're right. Just write. Thanks, guys!

Jeff, I do like that book! And Edie, I revisit that book almost everytime I start a project. They're both good!

StarvingWriteNow 12/30/2006 10:58:00 AM  

I think my favorite writing-related books are On Writing by Stephen King and The Idiot's Guide To Writing A Romance Novel (NOT the dummies one). I find if I read too much of that kind of stuff that I get bogged down with "Shoulda, woulda, coulda" and I don't write anything. There's a bunch of technique books I've read that I like as well--but again, not too much at once or I'll pick my work to shreds.

Anyhow, dear, Happy New Year! Will you be at the January meeting?

Karen Olson 12/30/2006 06:38:00 PM  

It seems that everything's been done before, but each writer has his/her own voice and twist and that's what makes that writer stand out. Write the story you want to write; you can learn from reading other books but in the end, you have to find your own voice and you'll know when you do. No book can teach you how to do that. My books have been compared to Janet Evanovich and Sue Grafton, but when I started I didn't say I was going to write like anyone in particular, I just knew the kind of story I wanted to tell and heard the voice and wrote it down.

Good luck!!

spyscribbler 12/30/2006 11:52:00 PM  

Starvingwritenow--I love On Writing! That's tied with Reading Like a Writer for me. Yes, I planned my spring so I could come to meetings. Yay!

Karen--I haven't read Sue Grafton yet, but I love Evanovich. I'll have to check your books out!

I'm pretty organic in my writing, so to shove myself up to the next level, I'm really pushing myself to look at other writer's techniques and be aware of my own. I'm confident in my voice (not that it's any good, but that it's there), but I will never be satisfied with anything I write.

I'm good with that. I'll be desperately striving to be better each and every day until the day I die.