Musings on the Craft of Writing

►Aut Disce Aut Discede

My experience with authors is that story-telling has been part of their lives for as far back as they can recall.  It’s true of me as well.  Authors I have spoken with express the same joy (and need) of writing.  But why are most novels so humdrum?  How is it that we (the authors) can be so exuberant about our stories and yet leave so many who read our stories so lukewarm?   The primary problem, I think, is that we don’t take the writing craft seriously.

When I began my first novel I had a premise which I (and others) fell in love with.  And so I sat down and started writing it.  I was educated, had been writing for school for years, was well-read, etc..  But between the completion of Draft 1 and Draft 2, I did the best thing possible for my writing—I schooled myself.


One of the core ways we learn is by reading from the experts.  Sure, I had read a few books on writing before I decided to be an author, but I had never truly immersed myself in the teaching.

I live in a college town and perhaps that is why, at the beginning of each fall semester, 70 page notebooks go on sale for $.15.  I bought over a dozen of these and then raided my library (or purchased the ones that the library didn’t have).  I then dedicated myself to carefully reading around 15 books on the craft of writing.

Over those few months of learning, I realized how crap my Draft 1 was.  The story was good, but my knowledge of structure, tempo, arc, etc. was poor.  I had made the mistake common to writers:

I thought that by loving books that I could somehow magically transfer my powers as a reader into being a great novel writer. 

I was wrong.   Writing is a craft, a skill to be learned and honed. Here are just a few suggestions of the books that I benefited from.  (I won’t give any reviews here.)

(Especially for beginning writers):

Art of Fiction– Gardner

Creating Short Fiction– Knight

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers– Browne


Story Engineering– Brooks (Larry, not Terry)

Fire in Fiction– Maass

Breakout Novel– Maass

Plot and Structure– Bell

There are many others which may belong on this list.  I have chosen just these few as a good launching point for those who are embarking on putting themselves to school on our craft.











One response

  1. I’ve read Maass’s Breakout Novel book. I’ll look into the others. 🙂

    December 6, 2013 at 8:01 pm

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