Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A treasure in hand

I was searching a used bookstore Monday and found a bit of treasure. The store couldn't sell a 1990 copy of The Writer's Handbook, and the owner didn't want to take it home, so the store gave the book away.

And I gobbled it up and went my way, full of glee.

The book has 100 articles written by famous writers like Stephen King, Sue Grafton and Mary Higgins Clark as well as not-so-famous writers who I won't list here.

King's article was well-rounded. He actually edited a short newspaper-style piece and gave great advice. His No. 1 bit of advice was to be talented. He didn't mean talented in the Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner sense. He was talking about being a writer who can pay the mortgage with his work.

He also advised us to be neat (clean up your mistakes); be self-critical; remove every extraneous word (one of my favorites); never look at a reference book while doing a first draft; know the markets (don't send a story on pig farming to Playboy); write to entertain; ask yourself, "Am I having fun?" (if you're not, you're in the wrong line of work); advice on how to evaluate criticism; observe all rules for proper submission (don't send stories by email if they want stamps and envelopes involved in the process); forget the agent for now, and, finally, if it's bad, kill it. If it's a lousy story, trash it, and look elsewhere for a good story to write.

I recall that King had a hard time getting started, but he's made up for lost time. His advice is excellent, and even a veteran needs reminding now and then.

I'll read nearly every story in this book, and I'll return to the used bookstore again.

One man's trash is another man's treasure.

Contact: I can be reached at tgilli52@gmail.com or nc3022@yahoo.com. Also, my Twitter handle is EDITORatWORK.

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