A new book in my ever-growing collection of volumes about writing, Hamlet’s Hit Points is somewhat different, because it is a book at least nominally aimed at game masters willing to improve the structure of their roleplaying scenarios, upping their game. But in laying down the foundations of a system to structurally map stories, Robin D. Laws manages to create a tool that works for games, for fiction and for movies/screenplays.Continue reading
It sounded so simple, right?
Pick a few short story anthologies, and use them as a writing handbook. To learn how to write short stories.
Until they ask you to actually name the frigging books.
To make a list.
Because you need to make a choice.
Who’s in, who’s out?
I was looking for a book, and I found two.
I did some digging on my shelf for Damon Knight’s classic Creating Short Fiction. As I mentioned, I started talking about short fiction with my friend Claire, and I wanted to check out if Knight’s book held some momentous secret I had forgotten.
For the uninitiated (but then, what are you doing here), Damon Knight was one of the greatest short story crafters in the field of science fiction – he is the author of To Serve Man, that was adapted in what is possibly the most famous episode of The Twilight Zone – and he also was an editor and critic. He was one of the founders of the SFWA, and of the Clarion Workshop.
He is the man that, as a critic, defined the idiot plot.
His writing handbook focuses on short stories, and it is quite good all things considered. It was originally published in the early ‘80s, but it is still well worth a look. Continue reading
But in the end I did not make it.
I went through a ferocious bout of insomnia, and when I finally could not stay in bed any longer listening to the wind outside, I got up, fired the PC up, and wrote a book.
Not a big book. A short handbook for writers.
Ten thousand words – 76 pages in paperback.
I uploaded it on Kindle about two hours ago, and then as I was at it, I also prepared a paperback copy. It will be on sale in two or three days – in Italian.
Well, OK, I cheated – I had the notes for my courses and workshops here on my hard disk already, so I only had to pick the bits and pieces that I needed, and fit them together, and then add a few examples, and create a cover.
And now I have my own writing handbook – very short on theory, but with lot of exercises, and a quirky approach to prompts, character creation and worldbuilding.
Nothing too original, admittedly – but original enough to be unique on the Italian market, as far as I know.
And hopefully it will serve as a good advertisement for my forthcoming workshops.
And really, back in the days when I created my folk-horror series, I was used to write a story, create a cover and publish the ebook over a weekend.
In the last three weeks I’ve published three ebooks.
Looks like I’m on my way back to the old standards.
You know me – I love (and sometimes hate) writing handbooks and books about writing in general. I have a huge collection and the fun thing is, there is a nugget of wisdom even in the most trite and blah of the How to turn yourself into a novelist books.
I especially like books written by authors I respect and whose fiction I love: Lawrence Block, Holly Lisle, Ursula K. Le Guin, Rachel Aaron, Chuck Wendig…
Or Jake Bible.
And I just got his Four Weeks to Finished, that is the sort of agile, no-nonsense book I expected from him.
If, as it looks, I’ll have to ramp up my production in the next weeks and months in the hopes of keeping my house from being repossessed, I know Jake Bible is the one that will provide some solid facts and a working method.
So, while I read the book (there go my carefully-planned writing schedules), you take a look at Jake’s page – and check out his podcast, while you are there.
On the subject of writing handbooks, I think I already expressed my unorthodox views – as far as I’m concerned, if it works for you it’s fine.
Me, I collect the things – and my friends know, and often give me writing books for my birthday, or for Christmas.
One thing I think is a pity is, most writing handbooks are written with the absolute beginner in mind – they spend all of the time talking about Point of View, Show Don’t tell, Infodumps and Exposition, and then maybe they give us the short version of the Hero’s Journey.
Nothing really wrong with that but, ok, let’s say I got that part by the time I was 16 and by the time I was 20 I had learned – thanks to authors like Tom Robbins or Elmore Leonard or Lawrence Block or Karl Hiaasen – that all of that stuff was good and fine and writing was something else altogether.
So I do collect writing books, but I really really cherish advanced books.
And I was given one for my birthday – it’s called Narrative Design: working with imagination, craft and form, it was written by Madison Smartt Bell, and it is a book about reading. Continue reading
I’ll admit it – I’m a sucker for a good book about writing.
I find writing manuals and books about the craft hugely entertaining.
There’s always something good to be learned, always some bit that can spark a whole new line of thought.
In this sense, my latest catch is exactly the sort of book about writing I love.
The Art of Character, by David Corbett (Penguin, 2013), is both an entertaining read, and the sort of book I’ll go back to in the future, and which will have me thinking as I read, write, watch movies.
This book hits deep.