The first chapter of this book is so interesting I’m finding it hard not to quote the whole thing. Maisel, who holds degrees in philosophy (B.S.), psy...moreThe first chapter of this book is so interesting I’m finding it hard not to quote the whole thing. Maisel, who holds degrees in philosophy (B.S.), psychology (B.A.), creative writing (M.A.), counseling (M.S.), and counseling psychology (PhD) discusses what a personality is, the traditional psychologist’s theories, clinicians and experimenters, and how little is actually known or provable from a scientific stand point about personality.
He asserts “Fiction writers have a leg up on psychologist when it comes to understanding personality and character. To put it differently: Fiction writers are our real psychologist.” I love this perspective and after reading Maisel’s take on the failing of psychologist to actually define a personality theory, I’m fascinated.
Writers get to make up characters, defining who they are, what motivates them, how those characters interpret and respond to their world. And while what the writer creates is artificial, it is a depth of understanding human motivation and personality that rivals what psychologist have tried to understand and theorize about because we get to be inside the characters head.
Though there are plenty of theories of personality, they don’t hold up to the real scientific rigor of analysis. A real theory is provable and results reproducible, human personality theories are not. Freud, the father of psychoanalysis in the late nineteenth century, led the psychology movement down the path to experiments which led to a plethora of theorist. “...Gustave, Jung, Adler, Horney, Kelly Erikson...” their major ideas have not led to any one conclusive theory. In fact, “...no psychologist, psychiatrist, family therapist, or clinical social worker, could say, except guess, what caused depression, anxiety addiction psychosis or any of the other ailments that befall people.”
Without a concrete theory that explains why we suffer from these psychological maladies, “...health care professionals are left with three ways of dealing with our emotional health.” Medication, clinical methods(psychoanalysis), or behavioral changes. “Or they could do what natural philosophers have done for thousands of years, use their common sense and their understanding of human nature– and a lot of wit and warmth– to affect behavior changes.”
There are plenty of health professional who work this way. “There turned to be all the difference in the world between standing behind a theory and having insight into human nature. The first could be called pseudo-science: the second, wisdom.” To me, it this wisdom of noticing and being in touch with humanity that gives writers the basis for building characters that are alive and real on the page.
Maisel goes to discuss academia, the problems with diagnosis, and testing. Basically he wants you, the writer, to realize that professional psychologist are no more an expert on why humans do the things they do than you are. In fact writer have the advantage of being able to get inside the subjects head and know why a character is behaving the way they do, what exactly is motivating them and their secret wishes and desires. No therapist can do that.
The majority of the book is Maisel’s “personality quizzes for analyzing your characters.” Scenarios are proposed, such as “At the Airport” and questions asked with answers provided. The answer you pick for your character have a small synopsis explaining what that might reveal about your character. The first question about the airport is about waiting, if you chose the answer, “A. Restless?” you’d find out “ Waiting restlessly is consistent with type A character whose appetites, ambitions and high energy level make it impossible for him to relax.” While I found them interesting, they ended up not serve a purpose for me in this study. I was more intrigued by his ideas of personality and the writer than any of the exercises. Though I wouldn’t hesitate to try out the exercise if I ever feel stuck or wanted to do character building exercises for practice. (less)
Wood’s how-to book is brief and to the point. He takes apart novels and shows the reader what techniques work and why. He gives very specific practica...moreWood’s how-to book is brief and to the point. He takes apart novels and shows the reader what techniques work and why. He gives very specific practical advice, especially in terms of language and character, but it is not a comprehensive manual on writing.
Nevertheless, I found it very useful given how overwhelming it feels to be writing one’s first novel. His advise allowed me to zero in quickly on aspects of writing such as the style of narration that is really used in today’s modern novels, and how one uses setting to structure your story. I could clearly see how his example could be used effectively in my own writing. (less)
A great book for beginner writers needing to get down the basics. O’Conner talks the writer through the preparatory stages of the process, the fundam...more A great book for beginner writers needing to get down the basics. O’Conner talks the writer through the preparatory stages of the process, the fundamentals needed for basic communication, and offers tips and trick’s to make the process easier. I always need a refresher in grammar when I start a new writing project. This book is humorous, fun and educational even for more experienced writers.(less)
Betsy Lerner is a former editor turned agent. In the introduction, Lerner lets us know who she’s trying to help,
“–if you can’t start or finish a proje...moreBetsy Lerner is a former editor turned agent. In the introduction, Lerner lets us know who she’s trying to help,
“–if you can’t start or finish a project or can’t figure out what to write about, or can’t figure out what you should be writing. – whose neuroses seem to get in their way, those who sabotage their efforts, those ...stalled between projects.”
All I could think was “Hey, I resemble that remark.”
It isn’t the advise in this book that held my interest (though it is very good) as much as it was the descriptions of writers, their lives, their habits, how they work, the quirks, and their characteristic. I see myself but then reject the inference, I am not a writer.
But, as I continue reading, and Lerner continues to describe writers, the fear of writing, the fear of not writing, and the neurotic behaviors, I can’t get away from identifying with it all.
Reading this book sparked a turning pointing for me personally.
The first half is dedicated to writing. Lerner’s style is conversational, she’s just chatting you up letting you know what’s what. She discourses on what you should be evaluating, namely, what’s your genre, your habits, your reasons for writing. This information is disseminated for you to use as measurement of your seriousness as a writer. She seems to be asking, are you a writer? Just the question I was asking myself.
Lerner uses lots of references to other writers to showcase the many ways, methods and habits, of writer’s, some meant to be examples of how to do it and some the how not to do it. Certainly, she gives you a lot to think about.
Money, sex, fame, addiction, mental illness, fear, loneliness, ego, perseverance, there is almost too much to think about. If it wasn’t for the ‘we’re just chatting’ tone, it would feel overwhelming.
The second half of the book deals with the actual publishing industry. Along with how editors, agents, and publisher view and deal with manuscripts, is the advise you need to help yourself through the process and counter the pitfalls too many writer’s fall into. What I got out of her advise is, work hard, give it everything you’ve got, do your homework and if you’ve done all the other things, persevere.(less)
Paris delves deeply and succinctly into matters of fear and creative immersion. I found myself nodding in agreement and understanding, saying “Yes, ye...moreParis delves deeply and succinctly into matters of fear and creative immersion. I found myself nodding in agreement and understanding, saying “Yes, yes!” while I was reading. Immersion, the act of letting go of all else and submerging yourself in the process of creativity is examined in three parts.
The beginning is about the challenges of immersion. In a nutshell, our personal interpretations of what immersion is, where it comes from, how we get there, how it feels, why we avoid it and its power and meaning.
Paris illustrates the importance of immersive states by showing us how we naturally, actively seek out immersion or make use of immersion through these domains: Artistic Expression, Intimate Relationships, Psychotherapy, Spirituality, Play, Learning and Parenting.
A good example most people can recognize of immersion, is in child’s play. “Children can slip in and out of immersive states with ease; they have not yet built a repertoire of disappointment and humiliations that lead to psychological defensiveness and fears that inhibit immersion.”
There is quite a bit of information about the role of relationships in regards to your childhood. How and why the bonds made in infancy through childhood form the basis of your abilities to immerse into trusting, supportive relationships in the future. I had some very insightful moments reading through this material.
I wish I could give this book to everyone I know, in fact I have. It not only illustrates the ways we can construct safe, supportive, and nurturing environments for our creative endeavors but in personal relationships.
The development and understanding of the roles relationships have on our ability to immerse in creativity is integral for maintaining safe places from which to emerge and submerge into those creative places. We need people to understand us, to encourage us, to be our heroes, and give us hope, be our mirrors to show us who we are, our twins to comfort us and know we are not alone. (less)
I read this book while still in school writing short stories for the first time. This is a review I wrote then, eight years ago.
Maisel’s book supports...moreI read this book while still in school writing short stories for the first time. This is a review I wrote then, eight years ago.
Maisel’s book supports the notion that writers can take control of the process of writing through a series of practical exercises, which allows one to write “...passionately and well about those things that really matter to you.”
One facet of the writing process that perplexed me is how one develops an idea. The second of Maisel’s principles deals with intention. I hadn’t realize how bereft of intention I was till I worked through laying out an action plan that includes Maisel’s TIPS exercise, “Themes, Intention, Plan, Steps.”
Throughout the book he uses examples of five fictional writers to illustrate the different ways one might utilize the exercises. Since I have no writers in my life, I found it helpful to experience these exercise through these imagined writers and how they may be utilized.
I was surprised to find such a practical and sensible chapter on choice. Primarily, the choice of writing for yourself or for the marketplace. He explains the reality of a writers life and points out choices you can make that may be of more benefit to you commercially. And more importantly,that writing with the intention of keeping the marketplace in mind doesn’t make you a sell out or creatively inferior. He points out the perils and pitfalls of writing for both yourself and the marketplace, leaving the choice of importance up to you.
The other principles, Honoring the Process, Befriending the Work, Evaluating the Work, and Doing What’s Required, brings you more fully into the process. I enjoyed working through this book, and developed a deeper understanding of the writing routine.
I’d recommend this book to any writer struggling with taking their work more seriously.(less)
This small book packs in a lot of information in a spirited and intelligent way. Starting “New Principles of Prose” - which are: Relish Every Word. Be...moreThis small book packs in a lot of information in a spirited and intelligent way. Starting “New Principles of Prose” - which are: Relish Every Word. Be Simple, But Go Deep. Take Risks. Seek Beauty. Find The Right Word. She then divides it into three parts: Words, Sentences and Music. Each chapter has four subheadings, Bones, Flesh, Cardinal Sins, and Carnal Pleasures.
This book is a good introduction or refresher for using correct grammar, a word which I think frightens some people, including me, myself and I(?)! Stylistically, it is modern and clever rather than old and stuffy.
But this is a grammar book, you already know what it’s going to explain... the parts of speech, their proper usage, and structure and Hale does so in a manner that uses reference that are topical and sometimes comical and it keeps the information from feeling stale and dated. As in this example for an ‘obscure pronominal reference’ from a church bulletin, “The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind, and they can be seen in the church basement Friday afternoon.” Hahaha!
Hale’s layout is logical and consistent. Using Chapter 8-Interjection as an example:
The Bones (grammar sermonette) are explanations of the chapter subject. She describes interjections as “The banging windows and bursting pipes that add excitement to the story inside.”
The Flesh (lesson on writing), “Since speech tics reveal as much individuality as proper syntax, interjections can help impart character.”
Cardinal Sin (true transgressions) “In speech, like as an interjection buys you a little time when your mind can’t keep up with your mouth. But in prose it has the effect of whittling your words down to whimpering, simpering sissyspeak.”
I appreciate writers who can inform and amuse at the same time. Though the threats of death were a bit extreme. “We do not say I’s, you’s, he’s, or she’s to indicate possession, so why would we say who’s or it’s?” “Who’s and it’s are contractions of who is and it is. Learn this or die.” —Okay, okay!(less)
What a relief this book was. I really needed someone to spell out exactly how this writing thing works and here she does it “Start here, move on to he...moreWhat a relief this book was. I really needed someone to spell out exactly how this writing thing works and here she does it “Start here, move on to here and pretty soon you’ll have this-” is how this book feels. That’s what I’ve been wanting and needing to understand—the progression, the advancing of a story.
I realize every writer will have their own way of working but for someone just starting out, who hasn’t developed any patterns or particular way of structuring the way they work, this is an ideal beginning. It feels like writing 101, and I mean that in a positive way.
Her reasons for the the advise she gives makes sense and rings true to me. Chapter one, Story is Character “Bringing a character to life depends upon prior knowledge of that character.” and “The creation of the character allows me to understand how the character will talk- what his actual dialog will be.” Well, of course!— is what I think when I read this, why didn’t I see that so plainly before?
As I read further along it became apparent that this book was going to be more detailed than I needed to write short stories. I did finish reading it since it was a fast read, but only as long as I stopped myself from trying to absorb it all, I’m not going to write a novel... not yet anyway! (Since writing this review I have three novels in various stages of progress)
If I ever decided to write a novel, this will be the book I turn to first. It has a sense of do-ability about it. Her attitude is that writing can be taught, it’s not some mystical beast only the few possess. She makes the process of writing seem logical and accessible to anyone. But never does she trivialize the hard work that needs to go into it. (less)
All interesting essays offering insights in to the writer life that I found helpful in understanding not only the writing itself but the world a write...moreAll interesting essays offering insights in to the writer life that I found helpful in understanding not only the writing itself but the world a writer inhabits. (less)
On Writing is King’s first book on the writing process. The first section of the book, encompasses the antics of his youth and memoir vignettes that a...moreOn Writing is King’s first book on the writing process. The first section of the book, encompasses the antics of his youth and memoir vignettes that are witty and so humorous I laughed out loud reading them.
“After having a two-hundred-pound babysitter fart on your face and yell, Pow!, The Village Voice holds few terrors.” Okay, it’s a really funny anecdote when you read it in context.
His intention is to offer insight into how he came to be a writer, how his literary world was informed and shaped by his reading material, which genres were his natural inclination to read and imitate and how those influenced him and still influence him. He leaves it up to you to find the inspiration in your own reading and own life experiences to inform your writing.
I enjoy reading writer’s explanations for their process. King conveys his experience from the very first short stories and many rejections, right through the writing of this book (the accident in which King was almost killed, happened between part one and part two of this book, which he recounts in detail at the end).
He is practical, kind, and encouraging. I found myself appreciating his acknowledgment of the reader, wanna-be writers who are often filled with self-doubt. It was like your favorite uncle giving you a pep talk, teaching you to think “Why shouldn’t I write?”.
The advise King gives is not so much stuff you haven’t heard before, as it is a clear perspective, distilled down to the pure essence of writing. His emphasis is on the basics, what you’ll need in the top drawer of your toolbox to even consider writing: vocabulary, grammar and practice , practice, practice. The toolbox also includes form, style and paragraphing. The key to good dialogue is honesty. “Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affection.” He’s very clear on what he thinks it takes to write good fiction. But, he makes sure to tell you that the rules, once you know them are yours to break, so long as you tell a good story.
Read and write, that’s how you learn. Practical common sense stuff. Sometimes after reading a process book I’m left feeling woefully lacking in skills and experience, and that perhaps it is too late for me to be attempting this.
Reading King’s book never once left me feeling inadequate, on the contrary I feel like I have a more solid grasp on what I need to be doing, how to go about doing it and what to do with it when I’m done.
In the last few chapters he addresses a few of questions he gets asked most often. “How do you get an agent? How do you make contact with people in the publishing world? and What do you read?”
Like the rest of the book, his answers are straight forward and simple. “You should have an agent.” and he relates a story that gives information on how you go about finding one and the best way to approach the task. King also briefly, takes you through editing, revising and publishing.
This in not exactly a memoir, not exactly a how-to book, but an entertaining, informative, straight forward, and interesting read.(less)
The intention of this book is to help the artist view the work they do, themselves, and the way they go about it, for example “...fears about yourself...moreThe intention of this book is to help the artist view the work they do, themselves, and the way they go about it, for example “...fears about yourself prevent you from doing your best work, while fears about your reception by others prevent you from doing your own work.”
How letting fears be in control prevents us from being creative. And for some, it stifles the creative process for good. The message on the whole seemed to be, your not alone in fear. It's as if they are holding up a mirror so you can see what the fear does to the creative process, then they help you navigate the obstacles it places in your way.
Subtitled, “Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Art Making” the first observation that stood out to me, “Working in the service of self.” Oh, how I relate to that one. I want to write and create, but the uncertainty and unpredictability weigh so heavy on my mind that I find it almost impossible to pursue this avenue. "Almost" being the operative word since here I am writing.
I think as you read this book you find the insights that pertain to you will stand out and help you recognize the personal stumbling blocks and that you’ll find value in acknowledging and learning from these.
“...doing something no one much cares whether you do, for which there may be neither audience nor reward.” Gee, since you put it that way. I laughed a lot reading some of the observations because it’s a wonder any of us creates anything, and yet we do. Even knowing how impossible it seems to put value on what is a selfish pursuit we do it. I can’t seems to get away from the need to make something, anything, and share it.
I guess I understood everything this book had to offer and in that understanding realized I can’t deny wanting to create and figure out what that means for me.(less)