By Celinda Barefield
Lately as I have been in the middle of a writer’s block, one question has been plaguing my mind. How do you write something?
I know from my own experimentation in picking up a pen and putting something down on paper that it is not an easy task. Nor is it a straightforward one. Personally, I have read a number of self-help writing books to push me along towards the answer to this question. There are crazy amounts of these books, so the question then becomes, how do you pick a book from all the others? That’s what this post is about: types of writing books - genre specific, style specific, general self-help.
This is what I look for in a writing book. First, how old is it? If it is over 20 years old and isn’t in a second edition stay away from it. Writing, like any occupation, changes. It would be like picking up a 20-year-old science book and expecting it to be up to date. It might have some good tips, but most likely it will lead you in a bad overall direction.
Second, look at the topic; a number of these books are genre specific. They have multiple books for different genres. Therefore, if you want to get to know a certain genre, like science fiction, fantasy, romance, western, Christian, or others, there are books specifically dedicated to work with that area. Just make sure you really want to associate with a particular genre before going towards a genre-writing book.
Third, make sure you peruse the book before you commit yourself to reading it. Time is precious and so is money. You don’t want to invest in a book and find out afterwards that it doesn’t talk about point of view when all you needed was help on that topic. This is where you may run into problems with general self-help books. They might not give enough help on the subject you need. That is why style-specific point books are useful; identify what you’re really trying to correct and read before committing yourself to a 400-page horror.
Lastly, I’m going to leave you with a writing exercise. Many self-help books have them. They are meant to get us writers writing, and I’m hoping it works for me. Why don’t you give it a shot?
Try this. Choose a work that you have already started. Now, look at it again, and write a new beginning from a different point in the timeline, either before or after your original beginning.
How does the story change?
Look back at both beginnings. Which better fits your story? Why?
Next time you are stuck in your writing, think about the beginning. Maybe what you really need is to jump-start the front of your story, not the back.