Last week I finished reading Larry Brooks’s writing manual Story Engineering.
So why the mixed feelings?
1. Brooks spends a lot of time telling you why his method is the best. The trouble is, there’s a pretty good chance he’s right. (And nothing is more irritating than someone knows he’s right and likes to tell you so.)
2. He trashes on some resources I’m fond of, like The Writer magazine and Stephen King’s On Writing. Yes, these resources may not be as specific and neatly tailored as his is, but they’re still useful. Not everyone’s brain works the same way, Mr. Brooks, so we may get some use out of reading about other approaches.
3. He’s a fan of tough love. Brooks doesn’t shy from telling you why your method sucks. He’ll tell you how to correct it, but not before elaborating on why you’ve been shooting yourself in the foot with your methods.
4. He’s right. I know I said this in number one, but it drives me crazy when someone irks me or hurts my feelings and then turns out to be right. The nerve!
On the other hand, this book has completely upended my revision process, and, when I start a new book, it’ll revolutionize my writing process, too.
Clear, straightforward rules for how to plot a book, how to populate it with well-rounded characters, and how to tie the whole thing together with skillful execution and a strong concept can help any writer improve her craft, no matter how much she insist she knows what she’s doing.
Honestly, if I had read this book before plotting Shaken, I would be doing a shorter rewrite. It is true, though, that learning and making mistakes are part of the process. If I didn’t learn by doing that my process was flawed, I’d probably be even less willing to listen to Mr. Brooks.
And if I weren’t willing to listen, I wouldn’t have learned from this book how to improve my writing.
Bottom line? If you’re a writer, read it. And—if you’re like me—chuck it off the bed from time to time to vent your feelings. Once you feel better, pick it up again and keep plugging. It’s worth the frustration.
Sounds like I’m talking about writing itself, doesn’t it?
Have you read this book? Did it help you? Did you hate it? What other writing books do you love/hate?