DIYMFA QOTW 12: Books, Books, and More Books!

My dream house … no, really. Image courtesy business.linkedin.com

This week, Gabriela tried to break my heart, I think:

You don’t need to own every book in the world …

Huh? But-but-but!

Wait, there’s more:

but there are some essentials that every writer should have on his or her shelf.

Oh! That’s different.

In DIYMFA, Gabriela breaks down the three essential things writers need to do (my paraphrase here): write, read, network. As she indicates, many of us would probably jump full into the writing and networking pools but neglect to attend to the reading pool.

Writing is what we do, right? So that’s essentially a no-brainer. But …

Can I be honest with you, my Cavelings?

I had a harder time with networking. It took every bit of grit I had, from head to toe to 1) reach out to a writing community with my stuff and 2) to engage a Beta reader. I was horrified. How silly, right? After all, the plan is to write something and put it to market. If I want the universe to read it, why would I not want my peers to give me feedback so what I was putting to market was worth the paper (and e-paper) it would be printed on?

Let us be clear: I know from feedback. I hold a doctoral degree and if anyone has ever been to graduate school, you know what is involved — write, send for review, revise, send for review, revise … get the picture?

It is EXACTLY like this. Image courtesy blog.patrickrothfuss.com

So, yeah. Eventually, I got it. I needed to network, to develop a writing pack: I am the leader of my dog pack at home, but could I be a good pack member, like with people who were writers? I bucked up and participated with a local writer’s group (and thanks to the people as well as the exercises, I have another upcoming book release!) and while I have not been active for about a year, it was one of the best things I could have done. I also engaged a Beta reader for my last release and got fantastic insight.

Until I checked out DIY MFA, I thought I also knew from reading. I read. A lot. Check!

Not so much.

Gabriela is very clear — it’s not the volume but the quality. What is in our arsenal that makes us better writers? She offers the ABC approach:

  • A = anthology of short-form literature,
  • B = a book of prompts, and
  • C = a craft reference

For those who’ve been following this space for a while, you know my love affair with Ray Bradbury (a master of short-form lit). PK Dick, Zelazny, and others are on my go-to list as well. I cover prompts with flash fiction. There are many blogs and sites available that offer daily, weekly, and monthly writing prompts of all lengths. I think we talked about Stephen King’s Writing text, which, beyond the nuts and bolts of academic writing, was my primary craft reference once upon a time. However, DIY MFA fits nicely in that niche (sorry, Mr. King). I would dare say that I include the work of some fiction writers in category C as well because, since they are in my genre, I learn something new about the craft, each time I read them. I also include the mechanics of academic writing since much of that muck helps us form good sentences, include proper punctuation, and so on.

So, to the question(s) of the week: What are your essentials? What are your go-to “read like a writer” resources?

 

3 comments on “DIYMFA QOTW 12: Books, Books, and More Books!Add yours →

Comments are closed. You can not add new comments.

  1. First, congratulations Andreé on your newest release! Hobnobbing can be difficult for we introverts, for sure!
    As to your question, Can I list all 3 (a-b-c)?! And/or I’ll offer some that are in a couple categories. Like you, I like King’s On Writing. A writer-friend is reading a Margaret Atwood how-to writing book, presumably on craft, so I think I’d like that as well. Others I’ve had luck with and inspiration from over the years (if I’m not reading something from a market to which I’d like to submit): Natalie Goldberg (esp. Writing Down the Bones and Old Friend from Far Away; if memory serves, the latter contains craft advice and prompts) and the inimitable and oft-mentioned Anne Lamott and her _Bird by Bird_. I also really enjoy reading and benefit greatly from the Paris Review’s interviews with novelists, poets, and dramatists (e.g., “The Art of Fiction” No. whatever). Recently I’ve read one on William S. Burroughs and Annie Proulx (both I highly recommend and can provide links to, if anyone’s interested). I’m reading some in the horror genre lately and _The Best Horror of the Year_ Volumes 1-6, I think it is, I would recommend for the anthologies, edited by the trailblazer and icon Ellen Datlow (really take anything Datlow recommends and you can’t go wrong, as an aspiring spec-fic author). Oh, and George Saunders’ collection of stories, Tenth of December. I read all over the place, in and out of the genre(s) in which I write. Last, I like to leaven it all with poetry and blog-reading as often as I can.

    1. Thanks so much, Leigh! It seems that you have a well-rounded bookshelf of go-to items. And yes, please feel free to share any and all links!

      1. Bradbury, as you mention, is awesome, too. He had such great ideas—and the gumption to chase them down and put them on paper. I like Joyce Carol Oates for short stories, too, and when I was a kid, enjoyed King’s short story anthologies (Skeleton Crew, etc.). I feel that, as writers, we can really benefit (and derive enjoyment besides) from reading outside the genres we normally choose to write in. Probably why I have a (totally applicable and useful in the real world; har, har) degree specializing in 20th C. poetry. 🙂 I’d add here that at CCs and unis, you can possibly audit or take continuing education classes in writing as well as genre-reading (my uni had sci-fi and detective fiction, once upon a time; so it’s not just literary stuff and all the boring white American/Western male canon of years past, thank goodness).