I have read literally hundreds of writing craft books over the last five years. Some have been very informative, some have been a complete waste of time and money. Many tout a particular “plan,” whether it be some kind of outlining or storyboarding or an in-detail explanation of the story arc and three act structure.
As I said, most of them have been utterly useless to me.
Now, Donald Maass, who is an accomplished fiction author in his own right, as well as being a literary agent, has written a number of craft books. His most famous, “Writing the Breakout Novel,” is considered a sort of “bible” in the industry, right alongside Stephen King’s “On Writing.” I enjoyed Maass’ book, but can’t really say I picked it up to refer to it again once I’d finished it.
There’s even an accompanying workbook, by the way, which I never used. Bottom line is this: I can’t write “out of a box,” or by following a “recipe.”
Yup, you guessed it. I’m a classic pantser. If I try to outline, use some sort of pattern or rubric, my creativity yawns and dozes off. On the flip side, if I do it “my way,” I start off like gangbusters, then fizzle 1/3 or 1/2 of the way in. I’ve got at least a dozen wannbe novels sitting, gathering virtual dust, on my hard drive (and backed up, of course!)
So I want to learn to do it better. What’s the answer? Well, I found one book that is working for me.
Donald Maass wrote another book (back in 2016, why I just came across it now, I have no idea) called “The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface.” I originally borrowed the ebook from my library loan system. Read it cover to cover in three evenings.
Then I went back on Amazon and bought it in paperback. Now, page markers in hand, I’m reading it again.
This is a treasure trove. It’s not a recipe. It’s not an explanation of how to create outlines or cover your walls with sticky notes. It’s not a plotting method. This book explains why some books reach into a reader’s chest and grab hold of their hearts, and other’s don’t.
At the end of each section, Mr. Maass has a list of “suggestions” for looking at your own work and testing it out on the emotion scale. Wow. What a revelation. I wanted the book in paperback because this, folks, will become MY “bible” for my writing process.
Thank you, Mr. Maass, for sharing what you’ve learned in your very impressive career. I feel like I’ve found a pot of gold.