Today is Day Seven of NaNoWriMo and my self-prescribed NaNoEdMo. In other words, this blog post is an oh-so-subtle attempt at creative avoidance. What I’m supposed to be doing is wrestling a particularly stubborn scene into submission, but try as I might, it still sounds stiff. Gah! It’s probably best to leave it and move on to another.
With the exception of today’s frustration, I’m at the fun stage of my WIP. To paraphrase a line from Debra Dixon’s excellent GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict, I fall under the category of writers who dislike writing, but love having written. First drafts are a slog. Second drafts are frustrating, but with moments of intense satisfaction. Third (and subsequent) drafts are where it’s at for me. I love seeing my story take shape, and I get a buzz from marking off chapters as polished on my progress spreadsheet. There are still a few minor plotholes and a couple of redundant subplots floating around my WIP, but they can be fixed relatively quickly when I do my final polish.
I keep meaning to do a blog post about the books on the craft of writing I find the most useful. I haven’t finished compiling it, but here are three I refer to regularly.
The one I quoted above, Debra Dixon’s GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict, was worth every cent of the ridiculous price I paid for it. It can only be ordered directly from the publisher, Gryphon Books for Writers. The book costs $19.95 plus postage (which is where it got pricey for me). Despite being the most expensive craft book I own, GMC is the most useful. The concepts it lays forth are simple: every story and every character needs to have a strong goal or desire (something they’re striving to attain), plausible motivation for wanting to attain that goal, and sufficient sustainable conflict to prevent the characters from achieving their goals by the end of Chapter One. Basically, if you took the majority of the writing craft books on the market and distilled their advice into one, you’d have GMC.
James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure. He doesn’t introduce any ground-breaking information in this book, but like GMC, he presents his ideas in a more instantly accessible language than do other books on the same topic. Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer, for example, is well worth reading if you have the time, but he often takes pages to make a point which could be summarized in a single sentence. Robert McKee’s Story is even more long-winded.
For revisions, I particularly recommend Elizabeth Lyon’s Manuscript Makeover. She introduces so-called “inside-out” and “outside-in” revision techniques which suit different writers. A brief intro at the start of each chapter indicates who might benefit from these various techniques. Further chapters focus on revising plot, structure, and characterization. Each section ends with a handy checklist which I now use as a reference when I start my revisions.
Having spent far too much time typing words which are of absolutely no benefit to my WIP, I shall return to my revisions cave.
If anyone has read any of the books I mentioned above, I’d love to know what you thought of them. Which are your favourite craft books?