The Writing Processes of Vonnegut, Pratchett, Gorey, and Tolkien in Links

In an interview this week with a fellow blogger, I was asked who inspires me. I answered with four different authors, each chosen for a different reason (in order to find out what those reasons are, you’ll have to read the interview). This week, I decided to seek out any wisdom that my four favorites might have to share on the topic of writing.

I was introduced to the writing of Kurt Vonnegut in an ethics course offered by the Lee Honors College at Western Michigan University in my freshman year. We read Slaughterhouse Five and explored the morality represented within its pages. I’ve always enjoyed books, but I haven’t always enjoyed them when they were required reading for school. When I first read Slaughterhouse Five though, I couldn’t put it down. I think I read it twice before the due date and then again before the end of the semester. “Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time…” Even just talking about Vonnegut’s work now makes me want to pick up a copy and read it over again. The link here features Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Rules for Writing. If you are a writer, I hope you click through.

It was sometime in my first year of working at Baker Book House when a coworker exposed me to the genius of Terry Pratchett. I think we were talking about sci-fi and fantasy stories when she told me that she was doing a paper for one of her literature classes on the topic of rule consistency when creating a fantasy world. “It doesn’t need to be just like it is in the real world, but it needs to be consistent within itself,” she said. She went on to tell me that she was using the works of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series as an example of consistency. When no flicker of recognition flashed on my face, she insisted that I read some. The next day, she brought me three books. “When you finish one of these, you are going to want another to start on right away,” she said. She was right. This link is for an interview that Pratchett did a few years back, and the relevant portion for writers begins about midway down the page.

I ran across Edward Gorey in college on a random excursion with my roommate, friend, and sometime muse, Adam. Together, we would visit Barnes and Noble and search through the bargain racks for anything that looked interesting. I picked up one of the Amphigorey books and was instantly in love with the mixture of dark humor, brilliant illustrations, and tales that forced the reader to fill in the blanks with their own imaginations. Alas, I could not find any advice to authors from Edward Gorey, but this link is for his book The Unstrung Harp or Mr. Earbrass Writes a Novel, in which Gorey illustrates the creative process of novel-writing though at the time he wrote this story, he himself had never written a novel. Still, it isn’t far from the truth.

My last author for this list is actually the one that I read earliest in my life. My dad handed me a copy of The Hobbit when I was in 7th or 8th grade and told me that I might enjoy it. I devoured it. Tolkien’s style, characters, and voice drew me in (as they do for anyone who dares to read The Hobbit). After that, my dad gave me a copy of The Fellowship of the Rings which I breezed through as well. And then I hit The Two Towers and got bogged down along with Frodo and Sam in the Dead Marshes. Sadly, I set the series down for a full year before attempting another go. But by that time, I had forgotten half of the details of the story, so I decided to start the whole thing again from the beginning. The Hobbit, check. The Fellowship of the Ring, check. The Two Towers, I powered through it this time, check. After I finished The Return of the King, I was sad the journey was over. LOTR was all I could talk about with my dad for weeks. And then he asked if I knew about the Silmarillion, which I hadn’t. So I decided to start again with The Hobbit, plowed through LOTR, and picked up the Silmarillion. Oh man, I was in nerd heaven. So many things in LOTR were explained, origins of the races, where the wizards came from, what a Balrog is, tales from the first and second ages of the world before the third age (when LOTR is set)! I am helplessly a Tolkien fan, so when I saw this post on Tolkien’s 10 Tips for Writers by the wonderful blogger, Roger Colby, I knew that it was going to be good. Colby culled through Tolkien’s writings and interviews where he discussed his craft and came up with a solid list for writers to use as a reference. Be sure to check it out, as well as the rest of his site.

How I did this week. Also, fun links!Last, for my writing report card, I’m going to give myself a B+ for the week.

I got the most hits in one day to date on Wednesday, I did a blog swap with another blogger, and I had fresh content everyday. The only thing was that I didn’t get a chance to write much on my novel, but I’m not going to let that get me down. Good job, me!

Breathe Rachelle, the Baker Can’t Be Older than Jesus – or – Links

Link and Report Card Day! I hope you are as excited as I am. I’ve scoured the internet in search of the best, and I’ve come back with 4 links that won’t disappoint.

Breathe Christian Writer's ConferenceFirst is the website for the Breathe Conference. It’s a writers’ conference organized by The Guild, a group of published ladies who live in West Michigan and gather regularly to support each others’ writing. The Breathe Conference is unlike other writers’ conferences in how incredibly supportive it is. When other conferences leave you feeling intimidated and unfit to write, Breathe encourages while it teaches. The conference is in October, so there is plenty of time to sign up. There are even scholarships available, so if you want to check it out, try for one of those.

Older Than Jesus is the blog by Alison Hodgson, a member of the Guild and one of the organizers of the Breathe Conference. Alison’s writing captures her personality well, both the funny bits and the more serious bits. She’s one of the nicest and snarkiest people I know, and she holds a special place for me as a reader in that she was the person who introduced me to the writings of Jasper Ffrorde.

Rachelle GardnerI learned about Rachelle Gardner’s blog from my coworker Chris Jager. Chris runs the fiction department at Baker and writes for the store’s fiction blog as well as the online magazine, Family Fiction. But back to Rachelle’s blog… Rachelle is a literary agent with a lot of great information for writers about the world of publishing. If you are a writer, do yourself a favor and check out her blog.

The final link is for the academically-minded Christian. My friend and coworker Louis McBride started the store’s academic blog, The Baker Book House Church Connection, at the behest of Andrew Rogers as a way to connect to churches in the area and inform the pastors about the newest and best books available to them. I remember Louis being skeptical, but like he does everything else, he grinned and gave it his best effort. Now, it is a well respected blog among Christian academic circles, the influence of which spreads far beyond the West Michigan church arena. Louis is always insightful, and if you don’t feel smarter after reading his blog, you may not be able to read (how are you reading this right now then?).

How I did this week. Also, fun links!Now for the report card portion of the post. I only added about 500 words to my novel this week, so I could have done better there. On the upside, my blogging is going like gangbusters. If today’s post goes over like last week’s post, I’ll get pushed over the not-at-all-important-in-the-long-run number of 1000 all-time visits, which is still a pretty cool thing. Overall, I’m going to give myself a B- for this week’s writing. Better luck next time, me!

Two last plugs, if you somehow missed the contests that I am running, this one ends Monday and is super easy, and this one ends at the end of the month and is considerably more difficult. Either way, I’m giving away books, so check it out and share the news with your friends. Thanks for reading this week!

PS – I’ll be continuing my Bookstore Symbiosis series next Monday, in case you were interested in such things.

Duotrope, the Flashing Cop: A Hero’s Journey -or- Links

This week, I’ve been away from my keyboard more than I’d usually like. My work has stepped up the remodeling plan (demolition is coming next week or the week after) so we’ve all been coming in early or staying late in order to get things moved (roughly 80,000 used books, 90% of our music department, 90% of our gifts department, and our shipping/receiving department) before the bulldozers knock off the front half of our building. Anyway, as a result, I took one night and set up the blogs for this past week to post automatically.

That all being said, this week’s links are all good. I didn’t have as much time to poke around other people’s blogs, so I went with links that I am familiar with already. Here are some cool places online to check out:

Axe Cop – This is web-comic about a cop with an axe. The thing that makes this site great is the fact that all the stories are written by a 5 year old (although that was when the comic started, now he’s 7) and then drawn by his 30-something year old brother. Why is this great? Because many of us have forgotten how a child thinks, and if you want to relate, either as a parent or a writer or both, it’s a wonderful way to climb into the mind of a child for a few minutes.

Duotrope: This is a site for writers to find homes for things that they’ve written. You can do searches and submissions and contests and more. It’s quite a resource. As for the name, this is from the site:

“Duotrope” is a word we made up. Since “duo” is the Latin root for “two” and “trope” is from the Greek “to turn,” we think of a duotrope as two objects spinning in orbit around each other, such as a writer and an editor. That’s just our concept of what a “duotrope” is. Feel free to come up with your own. (“Duotrope” is the registered trademark of Duotrope, LLC.)

The Hero’s Journey: If you have ever wondered why some stories seem to get written over and over, there’s a reason. Think of Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, and even the story of Moses from the Bible. Joseph Campbell came up with something that he called Monomyth or The Hero’s Journey. If you are writing a tale of epic proportions and need an idea of where you are going, or if you are a reader and you’d like to be a better critical thinker while working through that book on your nightstand, check it out. Also, I’m not the only one to write about this theme, here’s a bonus link to another blog on the same topic.

10 Flash Fiction Writing Tips: This week, I’ve been a bit focused on flash fiction. If you want to try your hand at writing ridiculously short stories, here are some things to keep in mind. I should probably start using this advice myself.

So, there you go. Just when you thought you were tired of the internet, I give you all these reasons to go back online. Oh, one last plug for my contest and we’ll be all set. Check out yesterday’s post for full details, but it’d be great to get some entries.

How I did this week. Also, fun links!As far as a report card for this week, I made sure that something posted on the blog every day, so that’s good, but I didn’t spend everyday writing for it, so less good. I went out writing twice and last night I added about 700 words to my manuscript. I’ll give myself a solid B.

Okay, that’s it, now have a nice weekend.