Monday, February 29, 2016

Writing is a difficult road to navigate...

Let's face it, there is no how to book on being a writer.

Wait that's not right.

Okay, let me try that again.  There is no sure fire, 100% if you do this you will get published kind of book on how to be a writer.  There are hundreds of nearly useless manuals however and I swear the best way to become a published author is to write one these days.

But to be clear, the how to get published pool is full of murky pond water at best.

Everyday I look for more and more ways to develop my skills as an author and still keep my writing fresh so I am engaged.  It's a delicate balance.

Blogging is my latest experiment.  I'm not sure if anyone would really care what I have to say, but I like doing so for now, I'mma gonna keep doin' it!

Now, while I just got done saying there is no manual that is the be all and end all how to get published book, there are in fact two or three must read books on writing.  One of which is Stephen King's On Writing.  He is the most read author in the history of the planet, so it makes sense that he might know a thing or two million about the craft of writing.  And boy does he deliver with this book!  The first half is a memoir and such a page turner, I was actually disappointed when he started teaching me how to write.  I found there is a reason his characters always had such crazy things happen to them.  You know, that old saying, "Write what you know?"  His life was a Stephen King novel!

Anyway, after the memoir is over, he starts to talk turkey and his incites are so simple and captivating, while you read your skills will sharpen.  No practice necessary.  Truly and exceptional book.

Another great resource is The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White.  This book is tiny but so chock full of answers to questions you haven't even thought to ask yet.  I have come to carry it in my writer's bag wherever I go.  And every once and awhile I pop it open and read a few pages.  Those few pages always turns into 20 or 30!

One resource that is invaluable to a writer, is the William Shun Proper Manuscript Format website.  while not a book, you'll find that if you start writing your novel in the proper format, it will save you a tremendous amount of editing later on.  And his model is recommended by many agents and publishers alike.

Kind of a short list, but like I said, some how to books come in the form of novels.  Canary Row is workshop on how to write.  It's amazing to me that Steinbeck put so much story in such a short novel.  I wish I had his gift for storytelling and judicious sentence structure.

Written by Matt Brennan

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Just started Dean Koontz Frankenstein...

Normally, you read reviews after the reviewer reads the entire novel and offers criticism and praise.  But I thought it might be an interesting premise to write my review as I read, giving an impression from time to time as to how the story and writing influences me.

That being said, the writing lacks the normal style I associate with a Koontz story.  His characters are always so rich and the dialogues and interactions so vibrant.  I always feel privileged to sit in on his characters moments.  They seem so intimate and monumentally simple, yet vitally important all at the same time.

The first chapter in Frankenstein introduces what I assume is the main character and hints many special and interesting traits he has.  (Spoiler alert) First of all, he's 200 years old. That is the only spoiler you can expect.

I will say this, however, my initial impression is that the story does not draw me in like my other favorite Koontz stories.  I don't feel like I 'Have To' finish it.  There are five books in the series, which is also a daunting number.  

Now keep in mind, I've read the Dark Tower saga and I even read Shogun, both of which take quite an attention commitment.  But Stephen King weaves an amazing tapestry of interesting characters and storylines in all his books.  And Clavell's Shogun while epically long (1152 pages) painted such rich settings and characters, I was hypnotized from the first page.

It should be interesting how I react to the next chapter.  I'm looking forward to this project.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Cannot begin to describe how important it is to work with other writers...

Years ago I discovered something.  I needed feedback.  All writers need feedback.  No, I don't mean I needed help writing, though I did, I mean that stories are meant to be read.  And we get so caught up in the telling of our tales, that sometimes we forget to keep track of readability.  And I needed someone to read my work and discuss it with me.

So, my options were take a class or join a writers group.

I chose the second option for several reasons.

The first reason is that I was broke.  If you are having a tough time making rent, spending money on a creative writing class is dumb and not an option.

But really the main reason I sought out a writers group, was I wanted regular feedback.  I thought back to the creative writing classes I had taken in college and the assignments weren't always oriented to feedback.  The first group I joined consisted of four local writers in Davis Square, Somerville.  Well, three of us were from there, but one guy lived in Newton.  We met every single week and we took turns sharing our work.  So every four weeks I had a deadline, it was awesome!  Deadlines have a bad reputation I think.  I have always thrived with a deadline hanging over my shoulders.  They always seemed to focus my mind to a razor sharp edge.

I grew as a writer tremendously during my time in that group, but sadly my novel was not completed in that group.  The membership dwindled to three and some weeks we would have to skip because writers weren't ready to submit.  Life had swallowed us up and the luxurious time spent on writing became too expensive.

It was a sad day for me when it was agreed we finally disband.

It was more than a few years before I found another group and the structure was completely different. I still get much out of the experience, but gone are the deadlines I loved so much.  And sadly the regular feedback.  But I still get a lot from my time with The Malden Writers Collaborative, it's just very different.  But as writing is so isolating, I encourage any reclusive writers out there to get connected with other aspiring authors.  Share ideas, offer feedback, and more importantly develop some community.