Like most people, I haven’t written much of anything since the required English curriculum. That curriculum, more than anything, robbed me of a desire to write. Part of what I’m doing here at my personal blog and over at StickyMinds, is a lesson in learning to write things people will read and enjoy, but also to have it not be so difficult every single time. To help get things moving, I’ve read a couple books about writing, Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method, and On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.
There are many many books on writing, it seems that every big name author has one. These two were at the top of recommendations from friends, so that’s where I started. Both of these books are fantastic, I really enjoyed and recommend them to anyone that wants to try writing again. These two books are similar in some regards but very different in others.
On Writing by Stephen King begins with a story about his development as a writer from his youth to present day. After the story, King goes on to talk about many aspects of writing he thinks are important. This book is written by and for fiction readers, but there are lots of ideas that will transfer to non-fiction writers as well. There are sections about adverb usage, dialog development, and story development. One of the parts that stuck with me the most was King’s description of ideas as fossils that must be unearthed. First they must be located and excavated, but after that you have to delicately clean the ideas up with smaller picks and toothbrushes.
Weinberg’s book, Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method covers this excavation and unearthing process in detail. As a novice with no particular method to employ when writing, this book was a life saver. The fieldstone method is a method Jerry uses to describe the process of finding, shaping, organizing, and forming ideas into something people will read.
This book draws a parallel between writing something and building a stone wall. Each idea is a stone that fits into the wall in some way. Stones come in all different shapes, sizes, and materials and each fits into a special place in a wall.
Weinberg on Writing: The Fieldstone Method was a a great reference book for me. I didn’t read the chapters in order, or even read the whole book. I had authentic writing problems to solve and was able to browse to the relevant chapter.
These books are both invaluable, I don’t regret the purchase at all. One thing they won’t do for you however, is practice. Stephen King recommends writing 1000 words per day in his book, I don’t recall Weinberg making a recommendation in his book but I’m sure he would recommend something. You don’t get good at running by reading about it and you don’t get good at writing by reading about it.