May 20 2009
I find I haven’t talked about the process of writing nearly as much as I thought I might when I started this. That’s going to change. I’ve been a little reluctant up until now; I know there are many aspiring authors out there, but there are quite a few sites, with authors more experienced than I, offering excellent advice. But perhaps I do have something to offer, if only another viewpoint that might click with someone a little better. (Or, worst case, as a bad example.)
On that note, let me mention a slim (64-page) book of excellent writing advice, Writing to the Point, by Algis Budrys. Algis was a well-respected author and editor in his own right, and served as the managing judge for the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. (Don’t let Hubbard’s name put you off. If there is any connection between the WotF contest and the Church of Scientology, it is by no means apparent to any of the contest participants, and the contest, its online forum, and award events are excellent.) In this little book Budrys offers up brilliant advice in easily absorbed chunks. He distinguishes between a story and a manuscript. A manuscript is one way of presenting the story. The story itself is a character, in context, with a problem, and the attempts and final success in overcoming the problem. Other authors, including Orson Scott Card and Marion Zimmer Bradley, have offered similar advice, but Budrys nails it in fewer and clearer words. Other chapters cover everything from agents (sell your first book first) to ideas to manuscripts to some specific advice on writing science fiction.
I had been stalled out on a novel in progress, and after reading this book I realized that I had stalled because I didn’t fully understand the main character’s central problem (a story beginning is a character, in context, with a problem). With that realization I saw where the novel needed to go, and also where I could take an individual chapter and create a stand-alone short story from it. (This offers not only the chance to get paid twice for essentially the same work, but the short can help build a market for the novel.)
If you’re at all interested in writing fiction, I recommend this book. One thing, when I went looking for it on Amazon they only had a couple of used copies at an asking price of $499.98 (!). It is, however, available directly from the publisher (Action Publishing) for only $10.50 plus a couple of bucks shipping. I got my copy in just a few days. (And no, I’m not making anything by linking it, I just think it’s a worthwhile book.)