In Stephen King’s book, On Writing he suggests one of the best ways to educate yourself as a writer is to read, read and read some more. I whole heartily agree. Yogi tea agrees. On one of my tea bags, on the little tag it said, “To learn read, To know write, To master teach. Richard Hugo does not but I’ll talk about him later in a post down the line. I agree, and I have been following Mr. King’s advice by adding reading as a must do on a daily basis.
To Kill a Mockingbird- Harper Lee–
I think one thing that helps as a writer, when you are in the process of working on something, is to read books that maybe are familiar to what you are writing. I don’t think everyone will agree with me on this, but I find that it gives me a momentum by placing me in that mental state of where my book is located or neighboring.
I’m not writing at the moment though, I’m reading. I’m reading to Kill a Mocking Bird. It’s must read, a can read, must always read. Not only is it a fantastic story it is a study of craftsmanship. A reader’s book and a writer’s book. Truly, it is remarkable in so many ways. If you haven’t read it since you were twelve, pick it up again, and then pick it up again.
I’m also reading The Red Pony and Of Mice and Men-John Steinbeck
I like and don’t like Steinbeck. I don’t know what it is, because his writing is amazing, but for me getting through a 100 page book by him is like trudging through molasses. I haven’t figured out why this is the case for me, it may be the pace, the subject matter, maybe there is a little bit of work involved in reading Steinbeck and I get tired. Something worth exploring.
The Sun Also Rises- Ernest Hemingway
My first Hemingway novel. This book in particular is the closest relation to what I am writing. The relationship being the situation; people living outside of their birth countries, but the similarities end there (style of course is different too but where would modern writers be without Hemingway?).
I just finished a play called Beautiful Bodies by Laura Cunningham. I couldn’t stand it. I’ve yet to read a play about women with an all women cast that I like. Is it possible to have a group of women together and not have them crying about men? I mean don’t women talk about other things? I’m so sick of the stock character 30 something woman so scared about not being married or having a kid and crying about how she has no worth. I never can relate and I find myself being able to easily predict the next line all while verbally coughing out an “oh god and oh pleeze,” so often that people in cafes turn to look over at me. All that bitching aside there is a good monologue in there that I plan to use for an upcoming audition. Play bad, monologue good.
I just read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones- This like King’s book on writing is a great source of inspiration. The combination of Goldberg and King helped me to figure out why I was stuck on my own story.
If you are bored with what you are writing your reader’s will be too.
It occurred to me that the reason I was stuck is that I didn’t like the section I was writing. My book is based in truth, ultimately it is a fiction but the first draft was taken from my journals and I was keeping things in the order events as they occurred. I was sitting in my room after finishing Writing Down the Bones and thinking about my book and wondering why I wasn’t writing. I thought about the scene I was currently on when a voice passed through my head, “I don’t really like the new character I’m introducing. I don’t think the scene is that interesting but I should write it I can always cut it out later.” Then I thought, “Why? Why go through the effort of writing it if I’m going to cut it anyway? Who cares if it really happened, it doesn’t work.” Immediately I tossed it out.
In King’s book he mentions a formula he learned from an editor ( I think it was an editor):
Second draft=1st draft-10%. Good Luck.
I think I like getting rid of stuff. It’s a new pattern and It feels, well, freeing.
Lastly, three more things: 1) In regard to building up my toolbox (King’s writing rules) along with the reading daily, (If I’m not reading a book I read at least one magazine article a day. Right now my journal of choice is Parabola.) I’ve been going back to the basics, yep the writing basics like infinitives and gerunds the grammar. I’m just working on basic grammar toning up but I need to pick up Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, every writer I’ve read has said a writer needs this book. 2) King says he likes writing to music. I really like this aspect of doing writing as art because I do find music that I think fits my mood and my rhythm, the Beat writers did this all the time. Sometimes a book just feels like music. It took me a while to find the sound but since I have my writing speed has actually increased – When my book is finished I should probably thank such bands as; DeVotchka, Beirut, Arcade Fire, Rufus Wainwright, Andrew Bird, Damien Jurado, Rupa & The April Fishes, Third Street Gypsy Rag, Gogol Bordello, The Hawk and the Hacksaw, Jose Gonzalez, and Gregory Page. If you listened to just a few of these musician’s you’d recognize a thematic sound and it fits my book’s tone, I feel it weaving into my work. Also thanks Pandora.com. 3) my latest book on writing is Ursula K. Le Guin‘s Steering the Craft. I’ve just gotten into it but already I think it’s going to be a good one.