Saturday, 19 May 2007

The 38 most common fiction writing mistakes by Jack M. Bickham

Some useful tips for the novice writer but curiously poorly written and over aggressive or negative. I agree that you and you alone are responsible for writing and the rest are excuses. But this is handled in a much richer and creative way by Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way. In terms of tips, I found Writing down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg or Solutions for Writers by Sol Stein much more useful and insightful.

It is useful as a quick editing check-list and for the advice of taking the opinions of friends and fellow amateurs with a pinch of salt. Julia Cameron would challenge his point of accepting the professional view without question. She points out that many an editor etc is a failed writer and is therefore less then neutral. Her more considered,and wiser opinion, is to be open to advice from any quarter but for you to decide if its speaks to your condition (to use a Quaker phrase). The cut this, or rewrite that may not be pleasant but in reflection does it make your prose better?

Roger von Oech in a Whack on the Side of the Head has ideas that look at the process that can work out what your condition is. First you have to be an EXPLORER looking for raw material: facts, concepts,experiences, knowledge,feelings. These often need to be off the beaten track of normal, conventional and use all your senses. Hence the need for a journal, doing one unexpected thing a week etc. Then be the ARTIST. Ask what if questions, arrange new patterns, break the rules. This is where this Book is negative by its insistence that only certain things are right such as single point of view, or a logical narrative. But you can turn this round, experiment by breaking the rules. All these books do:253 by Geoff Ryman has 253 point of views over a 7 1/2 minute tube journey,The Time Traveller's Wife fragments time and character, The sot-weed factor by John Barth has a plot based on wilder and wilder coincidences. The third stage is to be a JUDGE, reflect critically, weigh other's views but you take the final judgement. Finally, you have to be a WARRIOR and have the discipline and courage to make it happen. This is where this and the other books agree, if you want to write, then write and stop making excuses. Remember J.K.Rowling she was struggling and could only write and keep warm by going to coffee houses.

So would I recommend this book? Well read some of the others mentioned first but it does have a short sharp slap effect that can be useful getting you to stop whining and start writing.

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