Tag: writing

2k to 10k – Rachel Aaron

Given that the podcast I’m on recommended this book almost a half-dozen times, I decided it would be prudent to read Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. 

So I did. And I’m glad we’ve been recommending it so heartily. The book is short and to the point, focusing on the author’s experience raising her own writing efficiency to (some might say) inhuman levels. 10,000 words a day is massive. It’s more than I write in a good week. And it’s what Rachel Aaron manages daily.

Her techniques for achieving that daily feat are not opaque magical rituals, nor do they require ritual sacrifice—much to the possible chagrin of folks hoping for a “secret sauce” to writing lots and lots of words. Rather, she has a three-part plan that she claims can double word counts.

I won’t dig into the details here, because the book can be read in an afternoon, but suffice it to say that the tips come down to time, enthusiasm, and knowledge. Not rocket science, necessarily, but when you have a strong sense of what you’re going to write, why you want to write it, and you make the time for it, you are guaranteed to get more work done than if you sit down to work without a game plan.

The most helpful thing in the book ties into something that’s been on my mind for a few months, since a particular episode of Writing Excuses aired. Specifically, it has to do with treating writing more like a fine art practice. Rachel Aaron’a take on this topic is simple: take the concept of a thumbnail sketch—wherein artists make a very small, abbreviated sketch of what they intend to work on prior to beginning—and translate it to your writing. Before you sit down with your draft, take five minutes to briefly write out what you’re going to write; get yourself from point A to B in brief, and discover if there are any hangups before you’re deep in word-selection mode.

2k to 10k is loaded with tips, most of which may seem like common sense, but the benefits of reading the effects of a carefully considered writing strategy cannot be minimized. If you’re a writer who is looking to improve your productivity at the page, you need to read this book.

2k to 10k is available on Amazon.

Storyteller – Kate Wilhelm

storytellerI’m not sure where I first saw the title of this book, but I remember it standing out. It may have been on Cory Doctorow’s twitter feed, but that’s not important. What caught my eye was not so much the title as the subtitle: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop.

I’ve spent the better part of the last year and a half vacillating between opinions regarding my future as a writer. I am currently writing professionally. I write these book reviews for fun (and to develop a personal brand that will be ever-so-appealing to future agents and publishers). And I work on my own fiction almost every day.

But I’ve got a hunger to study writing. I want to sit in a classroom and discuss the craft, read the words of my peers, and build a rigorous practice for myself as a writer.

The hunger led me to researching graduate programs in creative writing; specifically those that would be friendly to genre writers, considering the general sentiment among “academic” fiction writers and instructors toward fantasy and sci-fi.

But then I remembered hearing about Clarion, the six-week intensive workshop designed by and for genrefic writers that has been consistently churning out magnificent, successful writers for about 45 years.

And here’s a book by one of the women who was foundational in the workshop’s creation, writing about her own experience. I bought a copy without hesitation.

Storyteller is at once a memoir, writing textbook, pep-talk, and history. Kate Wilhelm’s writing is clear, engaging, entertaining, and honest. Her love for Clarion, its students, and speculative fiction as a whole. It’s hard not to get caught up in the thrill of the development of this unprecedented workshop, in the struggle as they were forced to move from university to university, in the confusion and emotional intensity that comes from sharing critiquing writing.

It’s a wonderful book, and would be regardless of its usefulness as a writing resource.

As a resource, however, I believe it to be tremendously valuable. The tips Wilhelm weaves within her stories, connected to examples of situations in which they applied, helps to ground her suggestions in reality. Oftentimes I will read pieces of writing advice, and they’ll go in one….eye? and out the other? How do you transpose that idiom?

My point being that there’s an additional weight to the advice Wilhelm gives in Storyteller. Something about the way she writes, coupled with what I’ve heard/read from so many Clarion alums, lends a degree of gravitas to her words.

Not only that, but they’re always kind, encouraging, and honest. It’s exactly what I needed to read to feel like this whole “writing” thing wasn’t a waste of time.

If you’re a writer, particularly a genrefic writer, you’ve got to get this book. Keep it close to you when you write. Leaf through it when you feel like you can’t write any more, and refuel with the gems of advice it contains.

Storyteller is available on Amazon.