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Joined: 02 Mar 2004
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Location: People Republic of Northern California
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These follow-ups pasted in from the thread that started up in News and Noise

- Actually, John, I wrote the entire first draft of Demonkeeping straight through without an outline at all…I also didn't rewrite it beyond about four pages that my British editor asked me to cut, which improved the book, and cutting back the sarcasm a little in the first chapter, which was too harsh to start with…

Tell me that you revised as you went at least…pleeeeeeaaaassse!


- I used the change of Points of view to power the suspense, cliff hanging each of the characters at the end of the scenes. I learned that technique mainly from reading Stephen Kings early stuff, specifically Salems Lot.

Would you suggest any other authors and books as being particularly good sources for learning various writing techniques?

I wrote in the Author's Blessing that all books reveal perfection, by what they are, or by what they are not. That's sort of the answer to your question. Regardless of weaknesses, and sometimes because of them, we can learn from all books. Want to know how to pace? Read Grisham. Want to disseminate esoteric information to the reader painlessly? Read Crighton. Don't, however, read those guys to learn character development. Elmore Leonard does great dialog, but he's hard to emulate. You want a mulitiple point of view book that is brilliantly paced and just beats the hell out of you with suspense? Silence of the Lambs. You want to learn about narrative voice? Read funny authors, satirists, they tend to lead with a strong voice. Read the kind of thing you want to write, and learn from there. If you came away from a book saying, "That was great!" then that book can teach you something about writing. By the same token, sometimes a really bad book can help you learn as well, by making mistakes obvious, so you can avoid them in your own work. Never underestimate the teaching value of a really crappy book. I'd suggest Judith Krantz for this. I used to keep a copy of Princess Daisy by my bedside when I was writing my first book. Whenever I felt like I didn't know what I was doing, or that I'd never be good enough to get published, I'd crack old Daisy, and there I would find the confidence to go on, for if that steaming mass of illiterate moose moss could become a best-seller, I certainly had the chops to at least get in the game.

As for shortcuts to learning your craft, I don't think there are any. The only thing I knew after writing my first book that I didn't know before was that I could do it. As I wrote my second I encountered a whole new set of problems. You have to write your way through the problems. You have to solve them, go around them, back up and take another route, but when you encounter that situation again, you'll at least have an option -- you'll have experience. When you read, you'll be looking for how another author solved that problem -- something you weren't even aware of before you'd encountered it.

(Think about your car. If you've ever toasted a thermostat, you'll immediately know what the problem is when someone describes it to you. You'll know because you paid someone to tell you what was wrong with your car, then paid to have it fixed, and it was doing exactly the same thing. Now you'll look like a genius to the guy who has never blown a thermostat, but it's mearly that you had encountered that problem before and replaced it. Later someone will tell you that a car will function perfectly well without a thermostat as long as it's not cold out, so you could have solved the problem with a screwdriver and five minutes, instead of a hundred bucks and an afternoon of being talked down to by a guy with seven teeth. Writing is like that. I'm the guy with seven teeth. )

Carry on.

Post Thu Aug 05, 2004 3:03 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website

Joined: 29 Mar 2004
Posts: 2295
Location: SF
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This is way off topic, but you're gonna get us in so much trouble if my mom catches you saying that about Princess Daisy.
Lynn, Reading Kafka in a hospital is generally redundant. Better just to wander the halls randomly opening doors.

Post Thu Aug 05, 2004 3:33 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
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