Posted by: Fiona Skye | 15 December 2009

Writing Books?

Books on Writing

My Stash of Books on Writing

Since I tend to be somewhat of a bibliophile, I decided when I got serious about this whole writing thing that I would seek advice on how to write in books.  It made sense – I learned how to do geometry and how to play the piano and how to speak French from books.  I could certainly learn how to write from a book, couldn’t I?  Well, sure, it turned out, a certain amount of the skill of writing could be learned from a book, but like many other creative endeavours, you’re either born with the gift or you’re not and no amount of reading How-To-Write books will help if you don’t have the gift.

From a book, you can learn proper grammar and sentence structure.  You can pick up some tricks on discipline and how to outline a story.  But you can’t learn how to turn a phrase in such a way that takes something as mundane as making bread and turn it into something magical if you’re not born with the gift of writing.  I know this runs counter to certain books available on the market right now, but I blame that on the writers’ stellar agent.  Unfortunately, for every hack who gets a multi-book deal, complete with movie and merchandising rights, someone who is truly a gifted story-teller is now reading his fiftieth rejection letter and has decided to cash in his chips and go back to selling insurance.

Too bad you can’t learn how to have better luck from reading a book, huh?

And honestly, maybe it’s a bit premature for me to be worrying about finding an agent, but I live in fear of never being published.  I think (no, I hope) all writers go through this.  I know I have the gift of writing.  I believe so thoroughly in my skill and my ability to tell a compelling story.  I know – deep down, like in the sub-cockles of my heart – that I am a Good Writer.  I just hope that I can find an agent who believes just as thoroughly in my ability.  Because, I’ve decided after reading myriad books, articles, and blog posts on the subject – having an agent (or not) is what makes or breaks you in this business.  Not whether or not you have the gift of writing; not whether or not you’ve read enough books on writing.  Whether or not you have an agent who is willing to bend over backwards for you is what determines your publishability.

It’s fortunate that you can learn how to land a good agent from reading a book.

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Responses

  1. I would so buy a book if it told me it would give me better luck – actually I probably wouldn’t because the common sense part of me would insist it was just a scam but I would want to buy it.
    To be honest, I think people who are ‘natural’ writers are people who have read, a lot. They have seen and read so many sentences that forming them comes naturally to them and they usually have a wider and more interesting vocabulary. That would mean that anyone can write but to write well you have to be willing to read heaps and practise frequently.

    • That is a very good point, Cassandra. I never thought about reading and writing going hand-in-hand like that, but it does make sense.

  2. Some writers get so esoteric the work makes no sense. One time I was asked to define Literary fiction. I said it was a book that was so well written no one wanted to read it.

    Maybe I’m just an old-fashioned doctor, but I like writing that flows, and your does. Think of it this way: You are published when you click the button and perfect strangers read through your entire post. I think that’s a good start.

    drtombibey.wordpress.com

  3. I can understand your frustration with the process (I shared it a few years ago.) But…I *didn’t* have an agent when I landed my first book deal. I approached a mid-sized publisher (Midnight Ink), which didn’t require an agent.

    Penguin books did, of course. But when they started writing me emails, I got an agent pretty quickly. 🙂

    Maybe consider some mid-sized presses that don’t require agents?

    Elizabeth
    Mystery Writing is Murder


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