So, I’ve been keeping secrets from many of you. When I finish this post, I hope you’ll understand why. If you don’t, well you’ll have to suck it up. Have a drink, talk to Clive, you’ll feel better when you’re done. Clive makes everything better.
Anyway, a couple of years ago, a crafty little Spaniard whispered an idea in my ear. Okay, so he wrote it, in an email, and it travelled across the ocean to me. But the intent was there. He wanted to whisper. What did he say? It’s not quite that simple. The idea took form over several conversations until one day we were like “Well, should we?”
Between us, we (meaning me and Carlos J. Cortes, aka The Crafty Little Spaniard) have heaps of books on writing, grammar, publishing, and cooking. Now, the books on cooking, one can never have too many. The books on writing, on the other hand, you can definitely begin to muddy the waters if you collect more than you can possibly digest in one lifetime.
Why did we collect them? Well each held an answer to a specific question that the previous did not. You see, most books on creative writing focus on a single aspect, such as grammar. Others might include plotting, characterization and show vs tell, but tell you nothing about formatting a manuscript or how to know which form of a word to use and when. There are thousands (or more) of articles published online and many of these are priceless. I’ve bookmarked many a site because it contained a brilliant article on dialogue or a kickass commentary on beta readers. The problem is, remembering which book and which site contained the information I need when I need it. Often, I just say screw it and figure it out on my own or I asked one of you.
We have a ton of resources at our disposal. But actually using them effectively, especially for those of us that are new-ish to certain parts of this insanity, is damn hard to do. So, Carlos and I began a project we’ve called the Writer’s Companion. We kept it secret because we didn’t know how long it would take. I kept it secret because I was terrified of the whole idea of writing nonfiction. I dreaded hours and hours spent writing and researching. You all know how I feel about research. But to be honest, most of it was a lot of fun because this is a subject that never bores me. Carlos had to hold my hand and ply me with booze through grammar and punctuation, but I survived.
With the Writer’s Companion we wanted to provide in a single book the tools, answers, and resources that fiction writers, whether serious addicts or hobbyists, need for success. But (and this was my main goal throughout) we wanted to write it in a way that was easy to use (as in no searching and searching for a single article) and to read (as in not so dry your eyes fall out after a few pages).
Well folks, it’s almost ready. We’ve finished the draft. Thanks to several writers (Rita, TJ, Mike, Wendy, Henry, Paul, and Deb to name a few and I am so sorry if I’ve forgotten anyone because it’s not on purpose and we really benefitted from all of the writers who read this for us.) we weeded out rambly sections, repetitions, omissions and grievous spelling errors to finish said draft. Most of that has edited to a beautiful shine by the lovely and amazing Donna Johnson, without whom I can’t even imagine what state this book would be in, and it is almost ready for publication.
What we have is a book that ensures that a writer easily understands the structural skills required to craft solid and coherent plots, learns a variety of storytelling skills, gets a stranglehold on fiction elements that can be elusive, such as POV, characterization, narrative, exposition, and atmosphere, and explains grammar and syntax in a voice that doesn’t make you want to swallow a bullet, with hundreds of examples how each form or pattern affects fiction writing. But there’s more. We’ve also included a wide range of editing methods, practices and suggestions, so that the writer can adapt one or more to his/her personal style, sections that discuss formatting and preparing manuscripts for publication, and a section full of hundreds of doubts, confused word-pairs, syntax mistakes, misused expressions, and other frustrating and annoying errors.
Holy shit, Renee, that’s gotta be a gigantic book. It’s long-ish, but not really that long when you consider the information packed into it. No longer than many of the 1000 page fiction novels we plow through quite regularly. And we’ve broken it down into six parts. Each part has clearly titled, easy to find articles that discuss and demonstrate all of the things I just mentioned. Actually, if you check out our website you can get all the dirt on what we’ve done and why. Drop by the forum and say hello. Suggest a thread I’ve missed if you’re looking for a particular subject.
So, why am I blogging about it if I don’t have a book yet? We’ve scheduled publication for September. That’s not far away. The book needs to be tested. To be tested, it needs reviewers. Those reviewers must be of a special variety; they must be fiction writers, editors or publishers. We need reviewers who know fiction writing or who want to know about fiction writing.
I was terrified to attempt this little project, but as I researched and wrote the bits and pieces with Carlos, I realized that my own writing benefited as a result. The fear slowly ebbed and excitement took its place. My hope is that the Writer’s Companion provides a rope to those of you who, like me, are wading through this mire half blind and slowly sinking under the weight of all the information we must know in order to write well. If it doesn’t do that and you all leave me here to wallow in my failure, well there’s always vodka and my bald cat; good for hours of amusement.