Damn Fine Story

Damn Fine Story

On Writing by Stephen King

Story Genius by Lisa Cron

I’m a music educator turned math educator who almost became an accountant. I’m 35 years old but I feel 85 if you factor in how done I am with everything. I start over more than I continue and I can’t seem to find a place where I am happy.

But last November I started thinking about what makes me happy, and I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo 2017. I discovered I had a story that could be a series that could be something I actually would enjoy making out of my brain hole. I have read so many books that I figured I could put some of what I’ve read to use in framing my own story.

Problem is that it’s intimidating out here for a bitch without an MFA. I have writing skills that have seen me through a bachelors, masters, and two years of a doctorate, but the Master of Fine Arts is not part of my experience. So dipping my toe into the same Twitter as Stephen King and Chuck Wendig sometimes creates a situation when I feel like a 100% imposter. These people are in the game, they define the game, and I’m just armchair quarterbacking the game.

That’s not stopping me though. I’m writing a goddamn book. And the longer I dabble in writer Twitter, the more I see that people of all shapes, sizes, and professions are writing books. There’s self-publishing and traditional publishing and small press publishing and everything in between – there’s something that’s right for everyone.

Still, I’m starting at ground level, so I can’t necessarily think about the publication step of things, I have to take things one step at a time. And the first step is to finish this damn first draft. Part of this is understanding the kind of book I’m writing and keeping to as many of the norms as I can muster. Reading craft books about outlining and structure and building character arcs will help me with that, especially in the editing and revising stages. I’m a good learner. So I’m always open to learning structure and procedure and I love reading so I’m just going to absorb everything.

Yet, with all the professional and procedural advice I’ve received and read, I still need to hear that any Joe Schmo with a story and a dream can write a book. This explains why I responded so well to On Writing, and just recently to Chuck Wendig’s Damn Fine Story.

There’s writing advice sure, but the bulk of these books exists to give you a picture of normal people telling stories that other people might like. These books exist to give permission to writers to be writers if they want to be. I don’t mean that we have to approach these authors to receive permission, it’s that reading these books will make your imposter syndrome disappear. They will make you feel as though you can join the club of writers. You may wear the jacket, sit in that area of the plane, be seated in the nice part of the steak restaurant.

Chuck’s writing is quirky, brash, and will keep you on your toes. You will immediately love him like a fun uncle (funcle?) who teaches you to swear. He’s engaging and makes you want to join in and immediately start writing something! Anything! This is cool, I can do this!

This craft book is inspirational, down to earth, and reminds us all that storytelling is as old as the human race. It’s programmed into our DNA, we are programmed for story. So why not try to tell one yourself? You might be surprised what comes out. If you’re currently writing a book or considering writing one, you should make Wendig’s “how to” one of the first books you buy. Go get you some.