Monthly Archives: September 2008

Neil Gaiman’s Journal – Inside the head of a successful fiction writer

Neil Gaiman is best known for his fantasy writing in comics (such as the SANDMAN series), novels, children’s books, and screenplays. He’s hit various bestseller lists over the years, and has received 3 Hugos, 2 Nebulas, 1 World Fantasy Award, 4 Bram Stoker Awards, and more.

I got introduced to his journal about three years ago and I’ve been reading it ever since.  His journal is an amalgam of answered letters from readers, commentary about his life as a writer, reviews of other authors of note, discussions about free speech, links to intriguing websites, and whatever else catches his eye.

There is a search tool for the website, so you can dig around to see if he has posted on a subject of interest.  There are also answers to common questions hidden away in the FAQs section.

Dorothea Brande’s BECOMING A WRITER–helping writers overcome behavioral problems

I found out about Dorothea Brande’s BECOMING A WRITER (ISBN 0-87477-164-1, published 1934, reprinted in 1981) the same way I did Ueland’s IF YOU WANT TO WRITE, by looking in the bibliography of Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY.  And I’m so glad I did, for this book tackles several core behavioral problems that can plague writers.

The 1981 reprint also includes a forward by novelist and creative writing teacher John Gardner as a bonus. Here’s what he has to say about Brande’s book:

It’s an astonishing thing that Dorothea Brande’s Becoming A Writer should ever have fallen out of print, and a lucky thing it is now back in the light where it belongs.  The root problems of the writer, whether the writer is young or old, just starting out or much published, are no different today than in 1934….

Brande’s book is mostly about the psychology of writing, not the craft (except for finding one’s voice as a writer) or business side.  Her focus is to help the writer improve in productivity and originality.  To do that, she has the writer do numerous exercises, write morning pages, and practice meditation techniques.

Here’s a quote from Chapter Two, What Writers Are Like:

After you have begun to see what it is to be a writer, after you learn how the artist functions and also learn to act in the same way, after you have arranged your affairs and your relations so that they help you instead of hinder you on your way toward the goal you have chosen, those books on your shelves on the technique of fiction, or those others which set up models of prose style and story structure for emulation, will look quite different to you, and be infinitely more helpful.

This book, combined with Mundis’ BREAK WRITER’S BLOCK NOW, helped me this past spring to come up with a specific plan to conquer my submissions block problem once and for all.  Neither book mentions submissions block by name, but their techniques work for any sort of behavioral problem a writer is facing.

Writing-World.com – Articles on all kinds of writing

Writing-World.com is my first place to go when I want to learn about different kinds of writing, especially if it’s an unusual niche like greeting cards or quizzes.  They also have extensive articles on the business aspects of being a writer.

The website is broken down into sections such as Beginner’s World, Commercial Corner, International Writing, Children’s Writing, Creative Nonfiction, etc., and each section is broken into subsections for easy perusal.  Sometimes I like to visit the site and poke around randomly to see what catches my eye.

Writing-World.com is also handy as a brainstorming tool if you need to come up with new ways to bring in income as a writer, because so many different types of writing are covered.

Goal for this blog – round 2

I’ve been blogging for over a month now, and have discovered what I want to do with this blog.

MY GOAL FOR THIS BLOG (REVISED)

To bring attention to the best books, websites, software, and DVDs I can find on the profession of fiction writing.  Most posts will be on a MWF schedule.  Once a month on a Saturday I’ll post what I’m up to as a fiction writer.  However, the blogosphere is overflowing with blogs that cover the day-to-day life of a writer, so I’m sticking to writing reviews instead of blogging my personal life.

Also, there is such an overabundance of stuff out there for the budding fiction writer that my reviews will skew positive since I’ll be trying to draw attention to the gems.

That’s all.  I’ll have a new review posted later tonight.

Jerrold Mundis’ BREAK WRITER’S BLOCK NOW

Writer’s block is one of the hazards of the writing profession.  If you don’t write, you don’t sell.  So keeping the words flowing is crucial to being able to pay the bills.

Jerrold Mundis goes straight to the point in his 88-page book BREAK WRITER’S BLOCK NOW (ISBN 0312053940, April 1991, out of print).  He deliberately wrote the book to be read and the exercises done in one afternoon sitting.  Let me repeat that–not months, not days, one afternoon.

Mundis makes his living as a writer, but also does one-on-one counseling with writers who have writer’s block.  The way the book is structured makes it clear that he bases the steps on his counseling sessions, which last one afternoon.

I got hold of a copy of the book through Inter-library loan about four months ago, and completed it in one afternoon as recommended.

The reader alternates between doing exercises to figure out what is going on in his or her head, and reading about foundation skills and techniques used to break writer’s block (labeled soft, firm, hard, and nuclear–the worse the block, the more intense the techniques used).

Mundis cuts to the heart of the matter when he says that the three destroyers of productivity are:  1) Perfectionism, 2) Fear, and 3) Baggage Train (i.e. worries about money, cravings for fame, determination to show “them”, etc.).  He also points out that when looked at closely, baggage train feelings are often rooted in perfectionism or fear.

It’s a shame this book is out of print, for I’d buy a copy right now for my reference shelf.  There are used hardback editions available, but they are quite pricey (average cost about $50).  However, if for some reason I had trouble with writer’s block in the future, ordering a used copy would be the first thing I did.