My views on ‘how to write’ books have recently undergone a massive transformation, and it’s largely thanks to the person behind the blog, Quintessential Editor. Not that he knows it. I probably ought to tell him, because it’s always nice to hear you’ve influenced someone in a positive way. And to my unending surprise it was positive. Here’s why.
I’ve never really liked the idea of these instructional books for some reason. Possibly because I write my way, and I know I would ignore/resent some unknown person suggesting I was doing it wrong – if there even is such a thing. I also put them in a similar place to self-help books: I know they work for some people but I’ll keep well away from them thank-you-very-much!
But the Quintessential Editor was so keen on ‘eating his greens’ that I wondered if there was something in it. I kept reading his comments on these books with interest, finding I liked the way he did the reviews: heavily overlaid with his own special style of humour, like the rest of his blog, but with all the information you could want right there. More specifically, there’s a general overview, what he found useful, selected quotes. . . Some of them made me laugh. What ‘how to’ book, or review of a ‘how to’ book makes you laugh?
Here’s a link to one of his reviews.
The things that impacted me most? (Not from the above example, but elsewhere)
- He pointed out that you don’t have to agree with everything the books say in order to learn something.
- That of course there’s some overlap on topics, but they’re often presented in a different way so you still might learn something.
- That the mood you’re in as a writer can change what you get from a how to book, just like with any fiction you read: you might need encouragement, inspiration, humour, hard information. . . Different books offer different things in different ways.
- That as a writer, shouldn’t you want to get hold of any tool you can to improve your work?
Eventually I gave in. I felt I was in a slump writing-wise and I knew my editing wasn’t up to much; I wanted to improve, and this seemed the best way. A small selection of greens was duly ordered and delivered. They covered editing, writing generally, genre-specific writing, and a little on publishing. Extremely wary, I tried them out. As I said, I was amazed to find they weren’t terrible. More than that, some were interesting, I chuckled over others, (getting some very strange looks, let me tell you) learnt a few things, and I’m hoping I might have picked up a few more unknowingly.
Whether or not my editing or writing has improved, I wouldn’t like to say, but I’m willing to admit (somewhat sheepishly) that I’ve never been happier about eating my greens. And it’s largely thanks to you, Quintessential Editor, so thank you. You’ve given me something new to suggest as a present, and in plenty of time for Christmas!