Has your writing been suffering lately? Do you find yourself lamenting not getting enough writing done? How about writer’s block, confidence issues or other things that are standing in the way of your writing? Writers on Writing, Volume 1 recently released by Crystal Lake Publishing is just what the doctor ordered.
I enjoyed the structure of the essays, which spent the first half discussing what the particular writing issue is followed by the solution. It’s so frustrating to read through writing guides that talk about common writing problems and offer flimsy solutions that we’ve all heard before. This is definitely not the case with Writers on Writing Volume 1, which is one of the most useful and practical guides on writing.
Brian Hodge kicks things off with a powerful essay for those of us who may have gotten derailed off the path of productivity and fulfillment in our writing. If you’re sick of articles and blog posts that say things like “Real writers do x, y and z,” make sure you read this essay. Here are some of the key takeaways that Brian offers:
- Be consistent. showing up is the most important thing you need in order to get more writing done
- Pay attention to the circumstances that facilitate you getting writing done, i.e. coffee shop vs. a specific room in the house, music or complete silence, etc.
- Get rid of distractions, especially the Internet
Although we can’t control what editors decide, we do have complete control over the quality of our own work. Complaining is easy. Hard work isn’t.
The second essay, this one by Monique Snyman, discusses a lot of the common reasons why editors reject stories. Sometimes it’s grammatical, sometimes it’s that ideas have been overdone, and sometimes it’s because the characters aren’t compelling enough.
Kevin Lucia sounds off on why rejection is still important. His first rejection may have ended his career because he took it the wrong way. We all think we’re the best thing since sliced bread when we start out and an editor who disagrees with us is seen as the enemy. At a certain point you have to ask yourself how badly you want to be published and know what you’re willing to do to make that a reality.
Mercedes M. Yardley helps out with the most common complaint I consistently hear from others writers, myself included: I just don’t have the time. Here’s a secret: no one does. Mercedes shows readers how to steal time. Most writers believe that if they don’t have hours upon hours of time to write that they can’t do it–not true. Her advice may seem simplistic but it’s true: novels are built word by word, sentence by sentence. And you can put those pieces together in brief stolen moments of time. She offers a ton of useful techniques to help with this including the Pomodoro method, timers, blocking distractions, and much more.
Jasper Bark offers many useful nuggets of wisdom including this: “We dream of escaping to write a novel because we can’t see any place for writing in our lives.”
Bark shows the reader how and why we keep giving in to distractions, then pinpoints ways to recognize then defeat these endless temptations and distractions. If you’ve ever wanted insights into why you let fear hold you back as a writer and why you keep running away from creative pursuits, he explains why and provides solutions. He encourages us to abandon the romanticized image we have of what a writer is like and to stop fantasizing about this idea of the kind of writer we imagine ourselves to be (which is probably way off base). Writing is–and always will be–its own reward. He tells the reader that we must have enthusiasm and excitement for our own work or it will fall flat. We write, Bark explains, because we have something to say. No one else can write the things we can and we owe it to ourselves to get started right away.
Todd Keisling talks about why it’s so important to write about what truly frightens us and why we shouldn’t run away from it (some of our best work can come from exploring these fears). We’re afraid of fear itself and it doesn’t help that our society perceives fear as a weakness. But it’s an instinctual part of being human. In order to make our writing affect readers, we must make them feel something with our words. And we need to be in touch with our fears in order to be able to do that. Don’t look away or flinch from what frightens you. Use it.
But how do you get readers to feel something with our words? Tim Waggoner covers that off in his essay, expanding upon the concept of the emotional core, saying that all successful stories must have it. It can be something as simple as the love of your family, or it can be all about the obsessive pursuit and desire for revenge and how it can ruin a person.
If you’re a writer who is looking for a different kind of writing guide–one that doesn’t simply outline a problem then leaves you hanging without any solutions–then pick up a copy of the very reasonably-priced Writers on Writing, Volume 1. All of the writers use a friendly but helpful tone. None of them uses a tone that belittles the reader, attacks them or makes them feel badly about their situation.
I can’t stress enough how practical and well laid-out the essays are. They’re an incredibly useful guide for all aspects of your writing, particularly if you need a boost of confidence or more guidance and direction and you’re not really sure what to do next. Be sure to check out the rest of the forthcoming volumes when they are released over the next few months.
Do you have a standard “go-to” on your writing shelf like Stephen King’s On Writing? What are some of the writing how-to books you have found to be the most helpful? Sound off below!