It’s funny… For a long time I thought about sitting down and writing some fiction. And while I was thinking about it, I picked up a number of books about writing. You know… a small library of them. Now that I’m no longer thinking about writing fiction, but actually doing it, well… those books — most of ’em anyway — strike me as a little hollow. There’s only two of them, really, that I can flip through today and say with confidence, “this is something useful.”
The first of these — Conflict, Action & Suspense, by William Noble — proved to be an eminently practical and useful “how-to” sort of book. I’m pretty certain there’s nothing in this book that isn’t ably covered by your standard college-level “Creative Writing 101” course… then again, I haven’t had that course.
The second is On Writing by Stephen King… which is really not a how-to book at all; it’s a bit of an attitude adjustment for those who think they might want to put some words on a page, and a gift, really, for those who will.
And a third is mostly for fun. Mind you, it’s chock full of good stuff on the business of writing, but John Scalzi’s irascible, sometimes caustic collection of essays, You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop is largely Scalzi just, well… being Scalzi, through and through.
I can say with certainty that none of these books will help me write the Great American Novel. Quite the opposite; between them I’ve figured out that I don’t want to write the Great American Novel… I want to tell a wicked good story.