THE ENDS AND THE MEANS
There are hundreds of books, thousands of books on how to write. And many of them are important. But if we pay attention to details ONLY we can lose. (As e. e. cummings says, “he who pays attention to the syntax of things, will never wholly kiss you.”)
In one of my critique groups, when we get a new piece of writing to evaluate, if it is, for lack of a better word, “good,” we get into the writing and forget about evaluating. This is the magic of the written word in fiction and non-fiction. This is where we want to take our readers.
Like in learning to read — if we stay in the beginning stages and sound out every word, we stay in trouble. We need to move on. We do need to remember the good ideas books on writing teach us, but perhaps recall them only after we’ve made our First Shitty Draft as Anne LaMotte says in Bird by Bird. In fact sometimes I label my drafts “FSD.”
For those interested, here is a list of books on writing that I have found useful (not in any particular order):
Dwight Swain, Techniques of the Selling Writer
Debra Dixon, Goal, Motivation & Conflict
Jack M. Bickham, Scene & Structure
James Scott Bell, Plot & Structure and The Art of War for Writers
Dara Marks, Inside Story
Christopher Vogler, The Writer’s Journey
Nancy Kress, Beginning, Middles & Ends
Jeff Gerke, Plot versus Character and The First 50 Pages
Sol Stein, How to Grow a Novel and Stein on Writing
Donald Maas, Writing 21st Century Fiction, The Fire in Fiction and Writing the Breakout Novel
and the best and most and exhausting workshop — Writing the Breakout Novel Intensive)
Larry Brooks, Story Structure, Story Engineering, and Story Physics.
The online class by Lisa Miller, “Story Structure Safari” was the best attempt I’ve ever encountered to put all of this together.