Tuesday, 18 November 2008

What to Buy a Writer for Christmas

It’s that time of year again when we like to drop hints to our nearest and dearest about the kind of Santa-delivered stuff that might prove useful in our writing endeavours.

Here’s a list of items, some of it tried and tested, others perhaps destined for the sock drawer come Boxing Day.

Stephen King: On Writing – should be on every writer’s bookshelf. Not just a gold mine of information but a cracking good read as well.

For Science Fiction writers, how about Orson Scott Card: How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. It’s only thin, but it focuses on the stuff that’s genre specific and vital and every single word is worth reading. There are many Sci-Fi How-To books kicking around, but for me, this one’s the best.

Here’s one from my own wish-list. The Observation Deck by Naomi Epel. It’s supposed to be a kick-start for creativity. I heard Naomi Epel interviewed on the podcast ‘Writers on Writing’ and it sounds pretty good. It’s not just a book but a deck of cards, each with a different way of seeking inspiration. For me, anything that can fire up the creative juices has to be worth a close look.

What about a prepaid coffee-shop card like those for Costa or Starbucks? It’s supposed to be no secret that writers produce their best work while ensconced in their favourite Wi-Fi enabled coffee shop. Mind you, I only tried it once myself and I have to say, I don’t get it. I only lasted an hour. I don’t remember if it was my laptop batteries that gave out first or my back. The tables are too high or too low, you can’t get your legs under them, there’s no room for both laptop and coffee and croissant. What’s more, five minutes in and you’re earwigging on everybody else’s conversations; great for the notebook but not exactly conducive to single-minded focus on the project in hand.
By the way (I’m digressing, now, Ronnie Corbett style, but stay with me, please) don’t you just love all those magazine adverts for new laptops. It seems you have to be in bare feet to use them - sitting up in bed with arms stretched ahead of you like Galdalf; or perched on a DFS monster settee with your legs all tucked away underneath you; or you sit on the floor, on a sheepskin rug, but always in front of a blazing log fire … Is it me, or is this not a recipe for a lifetime of chronic lumbar ailments, cramp and molten computer kit. I’ve never yet seen an ad where they sit up at a desk, all sensible and boring. (This isn’t a hint, by the way. I don’t need a laptop, I’ve already got one. But if darling wife wishes to surprise me something that boots-up in better that thirty-five minutes; something way cool; a MacBook Air, for example - then who am I to argue.)

Back to reality: James Scott Bell: Plot and Structure. This is a cracking book for revealing the hitherto concealed simplicity of plotting. It’s one I swear by, and I often return to it.

Finally, how about a job lot of IRC’s, International Reply Coupons? It’s always a pain when you have your manuscript ready to go, and you need to drop an IRC into the envelope, and when you ask for one in the post office they look at you like you’ve just asked for bow-and-arrow vouchers. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a stock of these to hand. Strange denomination UK stamps wouldn’t go amiss, either. And a set of weighing scales.

Any other ideas?


Stephen Kotowych said...

Hey Mike! Thanks for the post on my blog--I replied there but thought of another piece of advice I always mean to give to new WOTF winners.

If you're not already doing so (or if you don't already have one written), and assuming you'd like to write books and not just short stories, I'd suggest turning your thoughts to writing a novel, or at least getting a good start on one, between now and when you go to WOTF.

I found that the advice and the lessons given during the WOTF week are most applicable to the writing of novels and that all of the judges and people at the awards will ask you "What's next?" and I think it's useful to say "Well, I'm working on a novel..."

I didn't have a book on the go (I do now...) when I went to WOTF and I think it would have been a useful thing to be able to say to judges.

Ask Kevin Anderson (or Pat Rothfuss, if he's there next year) to tell you the story about how Pat Rothfuss got his 3-book deal with DAW. It was because he had the books already written and Kevin put him in touch with the right people. It would be great to be in that position, too, no? ;)

Best wishes,

Stephen Kotowych

Jon M said...

With you on the ads for laptops. Where do they think we all work? Have you ever tried using one outside? and yet there they all are in the park on a sunny day tapping away...hmmmm. I like new socks though...