As a rule, I try to avoid reading how-to or theory books, because I prefer to follow my own instincts and find my own way in life. Too much reading on a subject – let’s say parenting, which my life mostly revolves around these days – only leads to eventual conflicting information and viewpoints, and a whole hell of a lot of confusion and second-guessing oneself. At least it does for me. The authors of these types of books don’t know me or my family and our specific circumstances, so I feel they aren’t qualified to dictate how we do things. If I’m looking for advice I’d much rather turn to friends who do know me, and may have been in similar circumstances. In this respect I am wealthy indeed, because I have a wonderful community of supportive friends.
Same goes for writing. I figure I can muddle my way through better on my own because I’m the one who’s most familiar with the particular mechanisms of my brain and how it likes to develop a process for writing. I did buy one book to help me outline and flesh out the basics, Ready, Set, Novel, which I started with the best of intentions, and is now gathering dust on the shelf. I’m the sort of person who doesn’t get to know what her characters are all about until she starts writing them, and I found it impossible to fill out before I’d begun my story. Someday, I may get back to it and finish filling it out now that I know more about these people.
Other than that and my copy of CP Style which I’ve had since the early 2000s and my j-school days, that’s it for writing assistance. In this instance I’m not against it, but I don’t want to fill my head with all kinds of how-to information and have that drown out my own creative process. When I find all the things wrong with the manuscript when I’m done – and I know there are many at this point – that’s where I can turn to experts to help me solve those problems.
I suppose I can do that with my kids as well – when they’re in therapy three times a week I can read all kinds of child psychology and development books and find out where I went off the rails. However I imagine kids are a lot harder to edit than first drafts. Oh well.
I’m only a few chapters in and I’m already seeing so much that I could stand to improve, but also what I’m really nailing (admittedly a lot of the latter I wasn’t even aware I was doing, which either makes me unconsciously awesome or one lucky biotch). I want to make notes, highlight things, create charts, maybe even (gasp!) an outline (don’t hold your breath there, it still wigs me out a lot).
Anyway, I’m really into this book. I like how it’s based in science instead of opinion, because I can get behind science. Science makes sense. And the rest of the chapters, based on my totally superficial evaluation of their titles, look like they’re going to be awesome too. So while I probably won’t be writing any new material for the next couple of days, my time spent reading will (hopefully) help me to reach a point where when I do start up again, it will be with a clearer focus on my goals and what I need to include in order to make the story the best it can be.