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Friday, April 11, 2008


Daily Primer

I've read a number of books about writing in the past four years, a list I hesitate to
post in its entirety because some of them aren't worth recommending. My favorites include:

Carolyn See's Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers

Robert McKee's Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting

Laura Whitcomb's and Ann Rittenberg's Your First Novel: A Published Author And a Top Agent Share the Keys to Achieving Your Dream

Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You

John Gardner's On Becoming A Novelist

Among others ...

Somewhere in those books, or perhaps in all of them, was the suggestion of priming the creative pump by reading the work of someone else before writing (taking into account, of course, the theory of "junk in, junk out"). It's something I've practiced most of my writing life, either on instinct, or maybe at the urging of some colleague or professor. So, I thought it might be interesting to start posting a paragraph or so here each morning from whatever I used to prime myself that day.

Today, it was The Pearl, by John Steinbeck:
It was a tiny movement that drew their eyes to the hanging box. Kino and Juana froze in their positions. Down the rope that hung the baby's box from the roof support a scorpion moved slowly. His stinging tail was straight out behind him, but he could whip it up in a flash of time.

Kino's breath whistled in his nostrils and he opened his mouth to stop it. And then the startled look was gone from him and the rigidity from his body. In his mind a new song had come, the Song of Evil, the music of the enemy, of any foe of the family, a savage, secret, dangerous melody, and underneath, the Song of the Family cried plaintively.

— TJ Sullivan in LA
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