I read a lot, usually 150-200 books a year, and I recently decided to turn at least a little bit of my reading time into something I could call productive with regard to my writing career. (Beyond the very nebulous notion of reading widely in your prospective genres, that is. I think I can safely say I've got that one covered.) I normally read fiction, but from now on I'm going to try to read at least one nonfiction book about some aspect of writing or publishing a month as well. Writing tips, editing methods, inspiration, the publishing process, something.
Feel free to suggest your favorites. I've got a very short list to work from right now.
And then, of course, at the end of the month, I'll blog about the book I read. Somehow I just knew I'd eventually end up writing about reading about writing. It seemed... inevitable.
What Writing Book Did I Read This Month?
In honor of the impending chaos of NaNoWriMo, I chose to read Rachel Aaron's 2k to 10k.
Why Did I Pick That Book?
I confess the fact that it was short and only cost me 99 cents had a great deal to do with my decision making process.
But more than that, learning to write faster without sacrificing quality is something I'm very interested in. When I started writing again last October, my very modest goal was to write 500 words per day at least 4 days per week. ~2000 words per week.
Starting in just a few days, I'll be taking a serious whack at NaNoWriMo and my goal is to write ~2000 words per day. Compared to last year's goal, that's a bit of a step up. And it's important to note, I think, that I have not somehow located four times as much writing time in my daily life to accommodate this change.
So, you know, writing faster would be nice. Writing faster and still writing well would be really nice. I'm sure the Inner Editor would appreciate it if I didn't just slap a bunch of unintelligible nonsense down all over the page in the name of hitting the goal every morning.
What Did I Think of It?
I enjoyed the book. It was a quick read. It was helpful without being preachy. There wasn't any fluttery nonsense about the drama and glory of art for art's sake and it didn't read like an instruction manual or a textbook either. It was just a very down-to-earth, sometimes humorous, account by a hard-working author, telling me about how she gets things done.
If you've never read a book on writing, you probably won't understand how rare that is. One of the reasons I don't read a lot of writing books is most of them make me feel like I'm an idiot and I'm doing everything all wrong and I'm never, never, NEVER going to sell a book if I keep carrying on this way. Or, if I get one of the starry-eyed, speshul snowflake versions, maybe I will sell a book, but I'll do so by betraying the very nature of art and I'll never be happy again.
This book wasn't like that. Aaron lays out her process and gives good examples from her own work, as well as creating a blue print that can be easily modified and integrated into my writing life. There's no earth-shattering revelations in here, just good common sense ideas put together in a way that's accessible and adaptable.
I also liked that Aaron used examples from her own work for the most part. There are some of the usual big-name hits in there--I have yet to run across any book that talks about plot structure that doesn't mention Star Wars--but I loved all the little bits and pieces from her own experiences. I feel stuff like that really helps to ground the advice. It's not theoretical analysis; this is what actually happened.
I don't think you'd have to be familiar with the Eli Monpress novels to relate to or understand the examples she gives, because they're general enough and well-explained, but since I recently read the series, I got the lessons and a few little glimpses behind-the-scenes too. :-)
What Did I Learn from It?
The book turned out to be exactly what I needed exactly when I needed it. As I noted in my year-end review post, I'm looking for a way to go from being a pantser to a plotter and 2k to 10k provided me with just that. I'm using her plotting guidelines to put together Guardian and I plan to use her writing method as well. I particularly love the idea of the Knowledge, Time, and Enthusiasm Triangle.
Yes, I drew one out and stuck it up next to my monitor. Don't even try to pretend your surprised.
I'm also planning on keeping track of my productivity right in my Scrivener project, which is something it hadn't occurred to me to do before. I doubt I'll see the benefits of that change right away, but I like numbers and data and I'll latch onto any excuse to play with a spreadsheet. Particularly if I can tell myself it's not procrastination; it's for SCIENCE.
I should probably have started doing all that already, so I could get some data on my plotting productivity too, but it didn't occur to me until now and I'm pretty much done with the pre-work at this point. Maybe next time.
When going through the plotting steps, I found the timeline particularly useful. I've done some timeline work before, but that was always a part of revisions and I usually only bothered writing down the scenes I'd actually written. This time I put in the things that happen off the page too, like what the villains are doing and when people do boring the things like eat breakfast and go home for the night. I found at least three plot holes doing just this step alone and shifting things around now, before the writing, was so much easier than it would have been otherwise.
Would I Recommend This Book to Another Writer?
Absolutely. If you need a good plotting method, or are looking for ways to eek a bit more productivity out of you day (and really, who isn't?), this book offers some great stuff. Even if you're not in the market for a whole new process, you'll probably find at least a few tips worth your while in there. Like I said before, it's a quick read and it's down-to-earth. Also, if you're like me and you enjoy the behind-the-scenes kind of stuff, it's interesting to hear Aaron talk about problems she solved and choices she made while working on the Eli Monpress series.