Probably the people who make the most money off of writing, as a group, are those who publish books on writing and give writing seminars. It’s easy to spend a lot of money on these things with no assurance that our work will see publishing/financial success.
But what are we to do? Most of us didn’t apprentice to successful writers when we were ten years old, and the colleges and universities didn’t offer creative writing programs until more recently. We have to get our education where we can.
That said, I’d like to recommend a book on writing–Les Edgerton’s Hooked, about short story and novel beginnings and structure.
Putting what I learn into practice is the big deal for me. I can’t keep the notes from dozens of books and seminars in front of me, consulting them constantly while I write and revise. Does that information sink into the undifferentiated mass of stuff in my subconscious and surface automatically when I need it? I hope so, but often I’m unsure.
For me, the three most important elements of learning are repetition, repetition, and repetition. Did I mention repetition? Edgerton is a pro at reviewing concepts, building on them, and solidifying his ideas in the reader’s mind.
He also suggests an exercise I found useful. It involves taking a number of novels, short stories, and movies you’re familiar with and identifying the three basic elements he wants us to be aware of:
- the inciting incident that causes the protagonist’s initial surface problem;
- the surface problem caused by the inciting incident; and
- the underlying psychological problems that now must be addressed.
Doing this exercise has honed my awareness and has given me ideas to improve my existing fiction. It’s also turned my head around regarding the opening to my memoir.
I’d like to suggest Hooked to writers who haven’t discovered it yet–and urge my fellow bloggers to respond with books that have helped them and at least one way they were able to internalize what they learned.