Monday, July 07, 2008

Reading & Writing

I've kept my promise to myself to have a fiction binge. In the last several weeks I've finished four novels and started a fifth. I had a radical realization recently that my attempt to discipline myself as a writer by depriving myself of reading fiction until I'd fulfilled certain daily expectations regarding work on my own stories was counter productive. To the max. Because of my exceedingly high (some might say irrationally high) expectations this 'discipline' almost banished fiction reading from my life. Except on those occasions when I cheated. And then that sense that I was cheating tainted the experience.

The intent was to encourage more productivity in my own writing and it failed. Miserably. I should have known better. Fiction writers must read fiction regularly or the wellsprings of their inspiration dry up. They must read it regularly to hone their craft. Reading lots of fiction in a variety of styles and genres is more valuable than reading how-to books on the craft of fiction writing.

Now that I've realized this, I must find a way keep fiction reading on the agenda without banishing fiction writing. I do tend to let pendulums swing too far sometimes. Then there is the NF reading that supports my writing in one way or another--either research related to a WIP or research related to the craft of writing. Striking a balance among them is tricky.

I've got two books related to writing craft checked out of the library right now and both are exciting me. They have very different themes.

The Sincerest Form: Writing Fiction by Imitation
by Nicholas Delbanco

This is an anthology of short stories organized according to the technique being discussed. Each chapter deals with a different technique and features a short story by an American author in the 20th century which exemplifies one particular application of that technique. The story is analyzed regarding that technique and then ten exercises are proposed for practicing the technique in imitation of the featured writer.

The book is intended for use in classrooms and workshops but I'm sure its usefulness isn't limited to those environments. I'm finding it helpful already and I've just read the introductory matter.

Here, take a look at the table of contents.

The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers
by Christopher Vogler

This one focuses mostly on plotting stories based on the archetypal plot of the hero's journey in myths. This is founded on the work Joseph Campbell did in uncovering that common plot and the character archetypes that populate it.

I just got my hands on this one. When I first heard about it online several months ago, I checked our library system and it wasn't in it. Then a couple months ago I spotted it on the new books list and got in line. I strongly doubt I'm going to get to renew this one in three weeks.

0 tell me a story:

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