Book Review: The Writer’s Book of Wisdom (Part 2)

Hey everyone. Sorry this is a day late. I was dragged kicking and screaming to our neighbor’s New Year’s Eve party. WHich is possibly the most boring thing that can happen to me. There’s no one my age there, and no one bothers to talk to me, so I end up watching T.V with the six and seven year olds.

Which I can do at home.

But it is over, and I won’t have to do that again until next year, thank heavens.

Welcome 2014, and Good bye 2013.

And now on to the review. We ended with Rule 17: Just write. So gues what rule we start with? If you guessed Rule 19, you need to go back to kindergarden!!

Rule 18: Resist distractions.

My mortal enemy.

My brain jumps all over the place, and it takes all my willpower to straighten it up.

STORY TIME!!!

So, a day or two before I started NaNoWriMo, my friend mentioned that Supernatural was a really good show. I had started watching it about six months ago, but gave up when one episode started out really hokey (The one where Dean was gonna die from the electrical shock. I thought there as just gonna be this miraculous cure. There was, but it wasn’t the climax, which was refreshing. Plus the miracle cure made sense… ish…).

I tried it again, and to quote Cecil from Welcome to Night Vale, “I fell in love *instantly*”

So throughout NaNoWriMo, I had to battle schoolwork, novel writing, and Supernatural. Somehow, I didn’t fall (too) behind on homework, finished, like, six and a half seasons of Supernatural, and finished my novel in one month.

Is that even possible? Because, it happened, but it sounds impossible. Huh.

But the book says that writing groups can bad for your novel, since they take away your writing time. While I agree they do, they also connect you to other people in the business, and you can make good, likeminded friends. And maybe your group will have a free-write time, or you can start one, where everyone just writes. Who knows? It could be fun!

Rule 19: Produce multiple drafts.

Please please *please* revise your drafts before you let people see them. Especially editors.

A writer friend of mine gave me his thirty two page story and asked me to edit it. I was appalled by the sheer number of grammatical and spelling mistakes. When I asked him about it, he said that he hadn’t looked it over before giving it to me. Well, then.

The plot of the story was really good, and the culture he created was really interesting. I just couldn’t get through the mistakes and the superfluousness.

So learn to love editing. Or, at least learn to not despise it.

Rule 20: Think of your first draft as a blue-book essay exam.

For those of you not familiar, a blue book exam is kinda like standardized testing in college. And there is an essay, much like any given essay your teacher makes you write for a test. You basically come up with a few general ideas and start scribbling frantically.

This is the whole idea of NaNoWriMo, where you try to write 50,000 words in just one month. Just write as quickly as possible. Don’t think, don’t blink (wait, what?), and just write. If you’ve taken the writing portion of the ACT, channel that energy: Just get the frigging thing over with so you can sleep and ignore the fact that you probably just failed it.

Rule 21: Ignore the length of your first draft.

This is a good thing to keep in mind. While we are frantically typing like chickens with our heads cut off (can chickens with their heads cut off type? Dear google, I have a question for you…), we don’t write very well. No one does.

You may not write terribly, but you don’t write the best that you can. Our brains don’t naturally work in the most concise, interesting way. They just don’t. You will put extra words, sentences, paragraphs, whatever. Don’t be afraid to take a little off the top.

Remember the friend I told you about? The one whose grammar and spelling was all over the place? He handed me this stack of papers. 32 pages. “So when will you finish?” I asked. He looked at me.

“It’s done.” Seeing my… disconcerted.. look, he quickly assured me, “Don’t worry. This is only the rough draft of a rough draft of a rough draft of a rough draft of a rough draft.” “Of a rough draft of a rough draft.” I added. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I kinda have this sharp sense of humor.

He gives me this look but can’t contain a small grin, nodding. “Don’t worry. It will get a lot longer.”

Needless to say, he built up the wrong places (explaining stuff I didn’t care about) and let the right places fall to the wayside (his main character spent three years in a mental asylum and had a mental breakdown.)

Wouldn’t that be an exciting thing to read? His gradual degredation of sanity until he has a moment of clarity and escapes? I thought so too, but my friend didn’t seem to. He just said it in the prologue. It took up less space than letting us know his name and that he lived with his mother.

But I’m getting off topic. Since he built up the wrong places, most of my corrections (even more than spelling and grammar combined) were crossing out superfluous sentences and in more than one case, whole pages. When I was done, I probably crossed out ten pages worth of his writing.

Granted, he has more than enough material, since his story covers a lot of time. But still, just realize that just because you write a really really long book, it doesn’t mean it will stay that way. Same with a really really short book. You likely skipped over a lot of parts or built too many places up.

Rule number 22: Practice mechanical learning.

Basically, copy the first 1000 words of your favorite story longhand, then type them up. The book says that it will help you find your style.

I can’t attest to it that much. I know the benefit of leaning heavily on a source before finding your sea legs. I did the same thing with my next series. (You know, the one that started out pretty much as a word for word rewrite of “The Poisoned Chalice” from Merlin?)

And the story that I just finished was pretty much just an Medieval England InuYasha the first time I wrote it. Now (IMHO) it has a life of its own. So who knows? This might work.

Rule 23: Seek the wisdom of others.

Writing the verb might be a solitary action, but writing the job requires some kind of ability to be in the public. Not only that, but you are never ever the best person to edit your story. EVER. Not to brag, but (I’m bragging) I’m the best editor my friends know. They have said so.

In middle school, one of my friends would always give me her essays to look them over. And she thanked me when it came back covered in red marks. She doesn’t know what she did wrong. If she did, it wouldn’t *be* wrong.

An outsiders view is essential for seeing where your story is confusing (your brain has at least a rough mental map of events, but if you don’t explain the events well enough, the reader won’t, which creates frustration and rolled eyes and sighs of, “I’m not reading this. It’s stupid.”).

(Constructive) Critism is the best thing a person can get. Better even than blind praise. Learn to love it. Or at the very least, learn to accept it and learn from it. Your story will thank you, and maybe even reward you with chocolate. Or you can just reward your*self* with chocolate. Either way.

Rule 24: Keep yourself open to serendipity.

Serendipity, so you don’t have to google it, is a crazy, random happenstance (if you know what I’m quoting here, again, you are awesome). These are “subtle gifts from the muses”. Because nothing, I repeat *nothing*, I repeat NOTHING is random in writing. So go with the flow, and if you start to go down a random tangent while writing, don’t forget to pack your toothbrush!

I was writing during NaNoWriMo, and one of my characters who got amnesia met a guy who she becomes her friend. (Nothing more, all you romantics!) I went to bed a little after I first introduced them, at about midnight (Luckily during the Thanksgiving Break).

I was staring up at my ceiling going over my story when I accidentally thought of the two of them as siblings. And they became siblings (though they don’t know it yet!)

Rule 25: Borrow (and steal) from your favorite writers.

I think I’ve said that I copied “The Poisoned Chalice” enough. But let’s talk Shakespeare (all high school level English students just fled in terror. I don’t blame you.) I don’t think he created a single original work. He just took the idea and the characters, and made an interesting twist.

And we still read him to this day, much to high schoolers’ dismay. We read *plagiarism* in *school*. So the lessons, kids, is PLAGIARIZE! You’l be famous.

But I didn’t tell you anything. Nope. Not a thing. You shouldn’t plagiarize, and you must come up with completely original writing.

*crosses fingers*

Rule 26: Always have a notebook and pen on hand.

At least at school, I do. I usually have two: one for my class, and one for writing. When I get inspired by something, whether it’s my English teacher saying ginger gets rid of seasickness or my psychology teacher talking about regaining sight, I always write it down in the margins. If you do not, you will forget. We have all had that brilliant plot flash only to forget it later.

If you haven’t, you are part of the lucky few.

I have said it before and will say it again: write.

Rule 27: Keep a read-in-progress nearby.

The book says that you should mark up your book with underlines of ideas you get. But most of my books come from the library, so I can’t do that. But they do say “read”. And you should. A lot.

Rule 28: Create an anthology of your favorite literature.

I haven’t done this, but it seems like a good idea.
I know that I’m gonna take interesting/funny lines from Tamora Pierce and James Patterson. Another is going to be the poem “Sympathy”, and I have quite a few more ideas. And make it ongoing. That’ll make it fresh and interesting.

And make it pretty! Like a scrapbook.

Rule 29: Feed on words.

The thesaurus will be your best friend. Every time you hear a word that you don’t know, ask the person how to spell it and roughly what it means. My mom once used the word “chauvanist” about a year ago. I asked her what it meant (basically, a negative connotation of a patriot), and it turned out to be pertinent to my novel.

Merriam Webster has a word-of-the day email. So does dictionary.com. No doubt there are others. They’re free, so take advantage of them. Write down the ones you don’t know down. You are a wordsmith. You wouldn’t want an architect in your house who doesn’t know how to use a level or crown molding or whatever.

You don’t want to read a writer who writes at an eighth grade level. It’s just not interesting. The best books teach you a few interesting words.

And be sure to use words properly. Peruse doesn’t mean to skim over, like most people think. It means to look through carefully.

Rule 30: Subscribe to magazines.

The books gives a whole list of magazines you need to subscribe to. I don’t subscribe to many magazines, and the book gives about a billion magazines you need to read, but as long as you get one or two, you shouldn’t be too bad off. (Personally, I have no desire to get any, so I won’t. But if you like reading magazines, have fun!)

Rule 31: Carry a camera.

In the technological world we live in, most phones have cameras that rival cameras that were just cameras from only a few years ago. So I don’t think this will be too difficult. Whenever you see a pretty or inspiring scene, snap a picture.

Rule 32: Write as therapy.

It helps. If you publish a novel, walk up to your enemy (if possible) reading your novel. Don’t talk to them, just make sure the title and your name are clearly visible to them. Heck, write them into your story as cruel villager one and two, who die painful and agonizing deaths at the hands of a soldier who just happens to be based on you.

Just don’t take it too far. When I was young, I was bullied by a couple of girls, so I wrote them as main villains. And they were horrible villains. You could kinda tell they were based on people I hated. On the plus side, a character I based on myself killed them. So I have that going for me.

But be careful.

Rule 33: Think of writing as a hobby.

Think about it. You’re (if you’re writing fiction) creating a whole world. It might basically be our world, but the events in your story didn’t happen exactly the way you write them.

You are also creating people with personalities and quirks that, to your knowledge, don’t actually exist. So you’re playing make-believe for a job. How cool is that?

Rule 34: Buy and study a grammar book.

Or, if you’re still in school, pay attention to your English teacher (I know, I know. It’s nearly impossible. But at least try). Grammar can be uninteresting, but the proper grammar makes you appear smarter. But never let proper grammar get in the way of a good-sounding sentence.

Because the rules of grammar say that the answer to “Is this Mary?” is “This is she.” But that should only be reserved for prim and proper characters. Most people *do* say “This is her” (or him!)

Rule 35: Master the metaphor.

I’m sure the term “metaphor” was drilled into our heads since, like third grade. “A comparison between two unlike objects that doesn’t use like or as”.

But what does that mean? “The spires of the castle speared into the sky, scraping its surface with their jagged black points.” Spires don’t spear. Spears and swords and other weapons spear. They cannot actually scrape the surface of the sky. But they give you a picture of tall, pointy black spires that I was trying to convey.

So… learn metaphors. How to do that? Just read. You don’t need to read for metaphors, like your fourth grade teacher believed. Just read, and the metaphors will come to you unconsciously.

Rule 36: But try not to overdo it.

Too many metaphors are confusing and weird and just stupid. The way to avoid them? Try not to force them.

If the metaphor doesn’t come to you when you’re writing, and you add one in just to add one in, that’s too much. It’s not *terribly* common, but it’s definitely common enough to warrant a position in this book.

I’ll post the next twenty or so in a few minutes!

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