Like all writers, I am fascinated by my own craft and trade. I gobble up websites and books about how other people write, preferably successfully, though not always. There is, I think, a little bit of fear, even cowardice, involved in this, at least for me. I am hoping to have secrets revealed to me; I am waiting for someone to hand me a silver bullet. There is the illusion that someone has found the one way in which to write which will make every story work every time. But mostly I want to see all the ways, each subtly or radically different from its cousin, in which stories really are conceived, told, and retold. Writer’s sites and books are paradoxically good for this too.
I have quite the collection of books on writing, particularly those with writing prompts. I suffer from terminal laziness and fear of new things, so I am attracted to anything that promises to bump, lure, or beat my brain into writing those first terrible words. Exercises tell me to change perspectives, change tense, change style. Write shorter, write longer. Write poetry, write prose, write nonfiction.
And you know what? I read the books with great enthusiasm and then I put them away. Sometimes, something I read will sink into my brain far enough that it crops up again in my next project, usually without my noticing at the time. But it sort of misses the point of the books. Do the damn exercises.
(You might imagine, from this, that I am the type of person who has difficulty committing to resolutions, diets, exercise programs, and serial fiction. You would be correct.)
But in my striving to create material for the blog that will be interesting enough for strangers to read it and relevant enough for me to write it, I lighted on this little-used collection of mine. So, in an effort to increase and improve my own writing and perhaps direct readers to resources for their own use, I started Working Reviews.
In Working Reviews, I will demonstrate a handful of exercises from one book over the course of several weeks. You will get a snippet of fiction alongside my comments on the process of writing it.
I have three goals in doing this. I want to review these books that I have so lovingly collected and see what they are really made of. Within that, I particularly want to look at how well these books, typically aimed at literary style writers, translate into commercial genre writing: how much do they offer to the writer of fantasy, romance, science fiction, or mysteries? I also aim to increase my own production and break away from the crippling sense that only “official” projects deserve my attention.
Continue on to the next post, then, for the first installment of Working Reviews.