My Novel Writing Book Basket

7 May

photo A.1

This is my novel writing ‘book-basket’ and it travels with me everywhere I go. I have been lugging it about from house to house, desk to desk and room to room for over six months, carrying about the books I refer to on an almost daily basis as I go about my fiction writing. There are plenty more books in my ever-growing home library, from which I select a new fiction novel to read and it then goes in the ‘book basket’ with the other reference books. The spotty folders at the back of the basket are my printed out manuscript drafts (one & two), as I like to have these with me at all times too.

So here is the list of books I carry about in my novel writing ‘book-basket’.

1. The Art of Dramatic Writing – Lajos Egri

2. Reading Like a Writer – Francine Prose

3. Story – Robert McKee

4. How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One  – Stanley Fish

5. The Elements of Style – Struck & White

6. Copywriters’ Compendium – J. Jonathan Gaby

7. The Law of Success – Napoleon Hill

8. Dictionary of Psychology – Penguin Reference

9.  On Writing – Stephen King

10. Atonement – Ian McEwan

There are other writing reference books I should also have as a writer, such as Artful Sentences by Virginia Tufte – however the above list is the books I have ended up with.  The two books the helped most when I was trying to figure out what I was writing about were Story by Robert McKee and The Art of Dramatic Writing by Egri. McKee’s principle of the ‘controlling idea’ and Egri’s dealing of the principle of  ‘unity of opposites’  really helped me to clarify the themes and conflicts I was writing about and how best to make them work on paper. I flick into these two books more than once a day and always find something new to help me along.

For now, I am still editing my second draft manuscript with the help of all the above, so lets hope I can translate what I read and learn onto my own writing paper.

NMG.C

The Island King and the Englishman

27 Mar

Far below from the deep craggy heights,
A breeze brushed through the sweeping bay.
The cat-tail of sand on the green water’s edge,
Threw shadows of spines from the coconut palms

The feathered blue sky in the untouchable distance,
Spills crimson into the dusk silver sea.
Selkirk you are cast ‘till all your etchings are marked,
In this tropical feast for the eyes.

Oh Privateer Stradling and your perilous Cinque Ports,
Do you wish you could see with my sun-bleached eyes now!
Sail on Buccaneer, with your robbin’ and cruisin’
Be gone far away like my old life in Fife.

No longer the king of this beautiful isle,
Duke rescued my memories for a writer.
Years flooding the senses with inspiration,
So Dafoe, to me, I am the author!

 

NMG.C

Dominating Thoughts and Achieving

12 Mar

law-of-attraction

 

Two weeks ago, a forceful crisis of confidence took hold and set me back about six weeks in terms of my writing. I spent a sorry week restructuring my story, reworking my scenes, changing the plot direction and the fundamental motivations of my characters. As I worked frantically to resolve the issues that arose in my manuscript, I began to seriously doubt that my story had any other value beyond being a story that I felt compelled to write and that I wanted to read as a reader. Failure seeped into my thoughts and I became so anxious at the thought that perhaps I had dedicated so much of my time and efforts over the past year to something that may turn out to be an unworkable disaster.

When the fear peaked to this advanced state of realization that I may have wasted so much time on something so speculative, I clung tightly to a quote by Napoleon Hill – ”You are but the sum of your dominating or most prominent thoughts.”  It’s a pretty famous quote from his book ‘The Law of Success in Sixteen Lessons’ published in 1928. The theory is similar to the law of attraction and positive thinking, but no quote on this topic has held more resonance for me than Napoleon Hill’s.

Every morning when I got up – daunted by the writing task at hand for the day – I repeated this quote over and over in my mind. If I allowed myself to dwell on the fear that my manuscript to date was so flawed that it was beyond saving, I would descend into panic and desolation. I had to be convinced that my manuscript was save-able, even as the further I went into the editing, the worse the structural problems seemed to get.  The knock-on effect resulting from the alteration of a simple piece of dialogue or the tweaking of one action or response almost toppled me into the sea of self-doubt.

I developed two personalities over these two weeks. One personality kept telling me that I would complete my novel, that it would all work out in the end, that I was right to dedicate serious time and effort into the project and that it would not all be the biggest mistake I ever made. The other personality told me I would regret wasting the past fourteen months, that I had wrongly steered myself into a perilous financial situation because of my commitment to the project and that I was naive to think I could call myself an aspiring novelist, never mind that anyone might read what I wrote.

Napoleon Hill kept me going, solidified a steely determination within me so as not to allow the negative thoughts dominate my thinking. I completed all the restructuring and I’m now well on my way to completing a much better story all round (for now anyway), streets ahead of where it was five weeks ago. Strangely, something innocuous also happened around the same time to assure me I kept focused on the positive thoughts. I developed an irrational fear that I was going to wake up one morning to find a spider on my pillow as I lay in bed. And you guessed it, three weeks later I woke up to find a spider on my pillow, a bit unsure as to why he was there.

I’m sticking with Napoleon.

NMG.C

Main Image via here

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