Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Sometimes The Magic Works”

Books For Writers and Bibliophiles

A colleague recently posted on our LinkedIn forum and asked what books writers read to learn and improve their craft. I would like to offer a few.

On Writing – Stephen King

I have the paperback, but once a year I check the audio book out of the library and listen to Stephen himself read it. Now I understand that he has been criticizing for reading one of his novels (never heard it myself), but since this is so personal, it is very intense. I feel as if he is a teacher.

But beware – he is the tough no-nonsense teacher. He lays out how it should be and brooks no dissent. There is no fluff, and no feel-good. This is a small book but packed with tips and direction.

 A must read – probably annually.

How I Write – Janet Evanovitch

I had never met Stephanie Plum (Janet’s protagonist) before I read this writing book, but she is a good friend now. Janet’s book is geared to e a reference. Much is presented in Q&A form (it is co-written with Ina Yalof) and there are lists and summaries.

I particularly learned a lot about writing a series and character development beyond one book.

Warning -You may find yourself reading a Stephanie Plum novel or twenty. Be prepared to set a summer reading space aside and get ready to laugh.

Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott

It is considered one of the classics. I haven’t read it in years and it doesn’t sit on my shelf to quickly check. But I remember it had a big influence on me and was mentioned in the LinkedIn list as often as any other book.

Sometimes The Magic Works – Terry Brooks

While fantasy writers will get more out of this than those who write in other genres there is a lot of fundamental stuff. However, such topics as creating a whole world are more unique to fantasy and SF.

Whatever you decide – the first chapter is unforgettable. If you have ever been where Terry takes you, you will understand what I mean!

Writing Down to the Bones – Natalie Goldberg

Natalie has written a number of inspirational books on writing (with plenty of practical tips. She writes from the perspective of one deeply in Zen practice. Her latest is about memoir writing.

Finally books mentioned by other writers:

Story – Robert McKee

This Year You Write Your Novel – Walter Mosley

Writing Basics for Beginners by Jeanne Marie Leach

The Weekend Novelist – a Writer’s Digest book

I want to share that I believe it is important to choose a couple of authors and read everything they wrote. This includes their novels, their how-to books, their blogs, interviews etc.

This is important for your own level of craft and how you market your work and present yourself.  We all write as individuals, but we can learn a lot from those whose company we strive to share.

Good Writing,

Alon

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

A Great Book for Writers

Whenever I speak to groups of writers, I have a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing on hand to wave in people’s faces. I personally own a paperback and the audio tape and dutifully listen to the latter once a year.

But I have just finished reading another great, thin and to-the-point book about the craft. Since beginning to write fantasy with my eldest son, I have been reading in the genre and Terry Brooks is considered one of the best. I have consumed four of his tomes thus far and was delighted to see that he has a book called Sometimes The Magic Works – Lessons from a Writing Life.

Sometimes The Magic Works

Brooks divides his book between an autobiography (he only relates to his writing career but it includes his writing the Star Wars novel The Phantom Menace) and a toolbox for authors. Like Stephen King, his advice for writers is no nonsense and straight-to-the-point. You can read it in a few hours and refer back in the future.

I want to share something from the beginning and something from the end. I read his opening chapter – I Am Not All Here – to my family. Brooks talks about living in two worlds and how he often zones out of this one and into the fantasy story that he is writing. I thought it was cute, and my family certainly found it familiar. Since then I have realized how often this happens. It can be difficult to leave the characters on the hard drive and not drive around with them.

Terry Brooks

The second part I want to share with you is at the end. There is a list of about thirty short sentences, decelerations of Brook’s writing philosophy. Here are a couple.

“If you do not hear music in your words, you have put too much thought into your writing and not enough heart.”

“If you are ever completely satisfied with something you have written, you are setting your sights too low. But if you can’t let go of your material even after you have done the best that you can with it, then you are setting your sights too high.”

“If you don’t think there is magic in writing, you probably won’t write anything magical.”

And his final words:

” If anything in your life is more important than writing – anything at all – you should walk away now while you still can. Forewarned is forearmed. For those who cannot or will not walk away, you need only remember this. Writing is life. Breathe deeply of it.”

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Labor Day of Love

It’s been a crazy ride. On Labor Day, after writing 10-15 hours a week, I wrote the magical line:

The Alliance Trilogy: End of Book One.

Eighty thousand words later, a rough draft that my eleven-year-old and I began under flashlight in the Humboldt Redwood National Park has been completed.

Of course it is still rough ­– I haven’t even read through it fully once myself and we already found one part where a character miraculously is riding his horse, when he had left his noble steed miles behind in the previous chapter – but it has been a wonderful ride for me, sharing the journey of writing with my son.

The best moment came after I wrote the final chapters alone. When he read them, I was enjoying a rare Labor Day afternoon nap, and he burst into our bedroom full of excitement.

Two thumbs up never looked so good.

In trying to write a fantasy novel, I thought I would read behind the scenes from one of the masters. Terry Brooks, as well as 19 bestselling fantasy novels, wrote a book called: Sometimes the Magic Works: Lessons from a Writing Life.

I don’t know yet if the magic worked within the pages of our novel, but it certainly happened in the process. Now for the next lesson in a writing life: some serious editing!

Good Writing,

Alon

http://www.alonshalev.com/

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