BUSMAN’S HOLIDAY

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Whenever I finish writing a book, I experience a wonderful sense of exultation that lasts until I get the proof pages and I find a multitude of minor errors and then begin to fret about whether characters are strong enough or plot elements hold up.

When it’s all over, I fall into a slump. There’s simply nothing left—I can’t possibly do another whole book. (Mind you, this is regardless of the five or six beginnings and outlines I have filed away!) So—I bury myself in the works of Mary Jo Putney, Mary Balogh, and Jo Beverley. These ladies never fail to satisfy.

AND I go back to the writers’ drawing board to regain a sense of perspective on this crazy, wonderful business of messing around in other worlds and other lives. Some old friends (besides the Strunk and White “bible”):

John Gardner: The Art of Fiction
E. M. Forster: Aspects of the Novel

These two are classics, of course. A reminder of what we are really all about! Returning to the basics now and then is good for all of us. Refreshing. Rejuvenating.

Three other standbys:

Anne Lemott: Bird by Bird
Christopher Vogler: The Writer’s Journey
Stephen King: On Writing

Anne Lemott’s book is sometimes whimsical but contains wonderful writerly wisdom. Christopher Vogler’s book is a writer’s take on Joseph Campbell’s work in classical mythology and is the “turn to” book on plot and character. The subtitle of Stephen King’s book calls it a memoir, but King has solid advice for beginners—and for veterans! As a former teacher of English, I especially appreciate his contention that grammar and sentence structure matter—though sometimes it a good idea to ignore the rules!

I usually supplement these old friends with a couple of newbies. This time it was Sophy Burnam’s For Writers Only and Fred White’s Where Do You Get Your Ideas? Burnam reiterates the thoughts of many other writers along with her own experiences. White gives some good reminders about sources.

As I say: Busman’s Holiday.

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