One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten was if you want to get good at something, Keep your tools with you all the time. A writer should never be without something to write with. A photographer should always have a camera. A musician should keep their instrument close and so on. While this is probably easier for a flute player than a cellist, it should be even easier for a writer. All you need is a pen or pencil and a small notebook. Or even just your phone (I wrote the draft of this on Google Docs on my phone on the subway).
I follow a lot of writer’s personal blogs. Initially I did so because I was waiting impatiently for the next tidbit of news about their next book. But as I became a regular reader I “discovered” that many professional writers often write about – writing.
A few weeks ago I quit a series in disgust. It started out OK but rapidly devolved into something actively painful to read. The final book I read (#6) was so bad I literally yelled at my e-reader on the train.
Normally my inclination would be to focus on the good in a novel, but this blog is supposed to be about what I’m learning and I learned a lot from this series despite it’s increasing awfulness.
A grab you by the seat of your pants timed writing app that is great for getting words down, just be sure to revise what you’ve written. Screeching Violins and screaming babies a bonus. Splurge for the paid version for even more options and incentives, plus the ability to backup your timed writings so you never lose a word.
Roy Peter Clark’s The Art of X-ray Reading: How the Secrets of 25 Great Works of Literature will Improve your Writing was the other direct inspiration for this blog and probably actually better at explaining how to learn from a text than Science Fiction 101 ever was. I’m borrowing pretty heavily from his terminology so far so it’s only fair that I write about how I’m doing that before we go much further.
I know what you’re thinking. Emily, isn’t Goodreads a site for readers? And you’re right. But good readers make good writers. It is hard to write without having read extensively. And it is hard to read extensively to good purpose without keeping track of things. Which is why I’m arguing that Goodreads is a tool for writers, even more than readers.