I wrote fifteen pages in a beat up notebook when I was younger and thought it would become my best-selling novel. The cover of the notebook had a black and white puppy with a red Frisbee in its mouth. I’m sure I have it stored away somewhere, and I’m sure the story is terrible. But the point is, I was bitten by the writing bug young. And I am still filling notebooks with stories and ideas and character sketches, hoping that one day one of them will become a book.
As with any of my hobbies, I wanted to be well-read on it. So I have amassed quite the collection of writing books over the years. Now…how many of them have I actually read? Not a whole lot. But they take up a healthy shelf and a half of my shiny new bookcases, so I thought I’d share a little bit of that world with you today!
I can pinpoint the origin of my writing book collection to one strange, small source. The Incredible Little Book of 10,001 Names for Horses. When I was about seven, I became obsessed with horses. The Breyer horse models, the Thoroughbred chapter books, I even had a wallpaper border near the ceiling of my bedroom depicting horses running through a watercolor field. A lot of my stories (flash fiction or vignettes I’m sure they’d be called now…I don’t think I ever wrote one to its conclusion) featured horses or horse barns or horseback riders. I don’t know where I found 10,000 Names for Horses, but it’s this tiny, rectangular book with names like Just My Imagination,Material Witness, and Stormy Monday in its pages. I gobbled it up, making lists of names I liked, writing stories where I just threw a bunch of horses in there with cool names. It was the first time I used something from a non-fiction book to help with my writing. And suddenly I wanted more than just names. I bought used copies of Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. The concepts flew way over my head, but I was rejoicing: there were books about writing!
Fast-forward to now, where I bite my lip looking at the shelf I’ve stuffed full with such books, going I should really buckle down and read some of these. I really want to spend a long, rainy day buried in the beautifully illustrated Wonderbook by Jeff VanderMeer, or filling out the short prompt in 642 Things to Write About (of which I got two copies as gifts – my friends and family know me well).
ONE DAY that will happen. In the meantime, I buy used baby name books and write “Character Naming Guide” on the front so I don’t freak out my significant other or my parents (those name books been SUPER helpful in my daily writing exercises, though. I just flip to a random page and insert a character name that suits my fancy!)
How about you, my reading friends? Do you find yourself compelled to write stories like the ones you read? Do you draw fan art of the characters that are so vivid in your head? (Man I wish I was a good artist)