After starting to write (and eventually abandoning) many, many novels, this time round I decided to do it better. This time I decided to purchase a few books on the subject to get some better ideas and a new perspective. After a quick looksee on Amazon, I decided to purchase the books “Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success” by K.M. Weiland, and “On Writing” by the legendary Stephen King. So far I have only read Weiland’s book, but I have already learnt much.
The principle source of my past failures has undoubtedly been my fondness for what Weiland calls “pantsing”. I prefer to start with a blank page and no preconceived notions, and just allow my subconscious and imagination to take over. I like working without a net, I like to just sit down and go for gold. This is, after all, how I write all my blog posts (like this one for example). However, as Weiland points out, this invariably leads to frustration, and I have quit many of my previous projects after running into the logical and narrative brick walls that she so eloquently describes.
To counteract what seems like a very common problem, Weiland’s book is centred around convincing the reader of the worth and benefits of planning and outlining, rather than actually teaching them how to write. Weiland has interviewed multiple fiction authors, and provides a multitude of examples from her own life and work to illustrate the pitfalls of “pantsing” and explain how writing can be done better. Each chapter concerns are different stage of the outlining process, and ends with a short list and recap of what to do. For those among us that do need writing tips, however, don’t despair, there is a liberal sprinkling of sage advice for the prospective writer, and some of the interviews especially, provide a font of useful and inspiring information.
However, there is one critique I would like to make of Weiland’s book, and that is (what could be construed as) the frequent plugging of her books. As I stated, Weiland uses her own life and experiences as examples of what we should and shouldn’t do. In theory this is all well and good, however, in practise what this boils down to is repeated excerpts etc. from Weiland’s novels and novel outlines. After a while it the whole book started to feel like a bit of a commercial. Granted, short of coming up with examples specifically for this book (which, I agree, would be ridiculous) I can’t think of another way she could have accomplished what she did. And the examples she provided were extremely helpful for illustrating her points. However, it was more than a tad annoying.
All in all, however, the good points of this book far outweigh the bad points. I learned an incredible amount, not only about outlining but also about many other aspects of writing. This book has already inspired me to fill several pages of my notebook with a full (and genuinely exciting) plan for my first (successful) novel, and tomorrow I aim to begin mapping out my characters as Weiland has instructed. As the weeks and months go by, I will undoubtedly refer back to Weiland’s book many more times as I am to fully outline my novel and fulfil my vision. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone who wants to write a book and has had similar problems to me. Here’s to hoping it helps you, and helps me.
Genre: Self Help/ Writing advice
Author: K. M. Weiland
Pages: 192 pages (Paperback)
Amazon Price (paperback): $9.71 (AUD)
Josh’s Rating: 3.5/5