WQ – Learn to Think About the Concepts
Reading a book about management isn’t going to make you a good manager any more than a book about guitars will make you a good guitarist, but it can get you thinking about the most important concepts. – Drew Houston
It seems like everyone is a published author these days, and thus everyone seems to have an opinion about the “proper” way to pen a novel. But, as any writer can say, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to novel writing. Just because the pros can crank out a new novel every few months doesn’t mean the average writer can do the same by copying the pros’ writing methods. So, why bother looking for “tips and tricks” to write a novel?
As Houston’s quite above implies, a book about writing won’t make a good writer out of anyone. But, it is important to think about the concepts the writers of these “how-to” books are presenting. I like to think that reading any book on writing (such as Stephen King’s or Ray Bradbury’s for example) is like discussing techniques with a fellow writer. These books aren’t holding onto the secrets of the writing universe, but they are holding onto ideas that helped these author’s and may help another author grow.
One example from my writing journey is after I read King’s On Writing I paid more attention to my use of adverbs and did my best to avoid them. I think this has improved by writing because of my style, but another style or genre may need those adverbs (humor or satire come to mind). I didn’t focus on adverbs because King said they shouldn’t be used, but instead because of the point that if there’s an adverb then the verb isn’t as strong as it needs to be. When I read King’s look I started thinking more about the tools I had for writing: my experiences and how they helped shape me as a writer. I wasn’t looking for a quick solution but rather for concepts that would help me develop.
Whenever I see any “write your book quick” articles or books I feel bad for the young writers that only find disappointment with these because the techniques don’t work for them. I love when I see writing advice that is very upfront with readers and emphasis that the advice is what worked for this writer in particular and may not work for someone else.
So, no, I don’t think it’s bad to read books on writing so long as they are read with the purpose of expanding knowledge. Look for the important concepts, not techniques. Concepts can be helpful for anyone, techniques may be helpful only to a few.
What are some of your favorite “concept” writing books?
Side note: This morning I read a similar article on Live to Write – Write to Live that you can check out for a similar discussion.
Until next time,