A good writing book by James Scott Bell

Work continues on the manuscript for my historical novel (I hope!) titled The Spanish Coin. At the rate I’m tweaking it, my friends and family probably wonder if they will live to see the book in print.

I recently read James Scott Bell’s 2012 Writer’s Digest Book, Revisions and Self-Editing for Publication, 2nd Edition. In today’s post I will share some of the notes I took while reading the introduction, the early pages (“On Becoming a Writer”), and the first chapter.

An important point Mr. Bell makes is that a writer must read. Read books of all kinds — and a lot of them. Take note of what works in the books you read, then practice those techniques. I have never thought I had any talent for writing poetry. I read poetry only occasionally; however, Mr. Bell recommends that a writer read poetry to help get creative juices flowing. I never would have thought of that. I plan to read a poem each day when I sit down to write.

Mr. Bell writes, “Concept is the one-liner that will explain your story.” I know this is something I need to work on because when anyone asks me what my book is about, I struggle to verbalize a one-sentence explanation.

“Conflict is the blood of fiction, the heartbeat of narrative,” according to Mr. Bell. I am reminded of an acquaintance of mine some years ago who complained that she didn’t know why there had to be so many crises in the television series, “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.” It was the conflict and crises, though, that made the program interesting to watch. Who wants to watch a show in which life is perfect? Likewise, who wants to read a book in which there is no conflict or one in which the main character has no problems to overcome?

Another morsel of wisdom from Mr. Bell is, “Write first, polish later. That’s the golden rule of production.” I need to write that on a sticky note and put it on my computer screen. My natural inclination is to try to get it right the first time. The more I write, though, the more I realize that is unlikely to happen. I might write a perfect sentence once in a while but, more times than not, when I go back and read a phrase, sentence, or paragraph again I will find a way to improve it.

Those are just the highlights from the introduction and first chapter of Revisions and Self-Editing for Publication, 2nd Edition, by James Scott Bell. Each of the other chapters addresses in detail such things as characters, plot and structure, point of view, scenes, dialogue, setting and description, and much more. I recommend the book to anyone who is learning the craft of writing.

Early in the book, Mr. Bell wrote the following: “Trust that the techniques you are learning will flow out naturally. When they don’t, you can learn to see where the problems are. That’s what self-editing and revision are all about.” The learning process never stops. For the rest of my life, I’ll be learning the craft of writing. I feel driven to write, but I know I have much to learn and much work to do on my novel manuscript before I will be ready to take the next step — either hiring a professional editor or writing a query letter to a literary agent.

Stay tuned for my journey!

I’m trying to come back

When I wrote my last blog post in October, I had no idea the next time you heard from me would be the second week of December. For a variety of reasons, including poor internet service, I took a break from blogging. It wasn’t planned, and it happened one day at a time.

As I am able, I will post blogs about what I’m reading and what I’m writing. Since my last blog, I learned that the story I pitched for the upcoming Revolutionary Women issue of Cobblestone magazine for children was rejected. Since Molly McCurdy’s story is a local one for which there is no certifiable documentation, it is understandable that the magazine’s editors chose not to pursue my story idea. It was worth a try.

I have just finished reading James Scott Bell’s 2012 book titled Revision and Self-Editing for Publication, 2nd Edition. I gleaned many pointers from it. I plan to use Mr. Bell’s recommendations to systematically edit and revise my The Spanish Coin manuscript. That project should keep me busy all winter. I have added specific editing and revision tasks to my daily calendar through February 2016.

Ironically, I started writing this post 30 minutes ago. Issues with my internet service have prevented me from writing more. I changed the title of this post from “I’m back!” to “I’m trying to come back.