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seun
08-19-2007, 03:38 PM
Writing Down The Bones came up in another thread a few weeks ago so I got hold of a copy. I'm halfway through it and wondering whether I should bother with the rest of it. It's painfully arty farty, so far offers no practical advice or thoughts and the author seems to think all writers must write in coffee shops.

Does it improve?

aruna
08-19-2007, 03:49 PM
Writing Down The Bones came up in another thread a few weeks ago so I got hold of a copy. I'm halfway through it and wondering whether I should bother with the rest of it. It's painfully arty farty, so far offers no practical advice or thoughts and the author seems to think all writers must write in coffee shops.

Does it improve?

I hated it. Couldn't finish it, so I don't know if it improves.:)

seun
08-19-2007, 03:55 PM
I'm tempted to give up on it. Reading it is like hearing someone tell me it's OK to write. Sorry, but I don't need permission to write and I don't need all the cute encouragement the author gives.

aruna
08-19-2007, 05:39 PM
Whatever good the book has to say can be expressed in one sentence. Otherwise it's full of pseudo-spiritual psychobabble, distorted wannabe-Zen soundbites, and new-age cliches.
It seems to have hit a nerve with a lot of people as it is certainly one of the most successful writing books out there, but if you have any inkling of genuine Eastern spirituality (on which it seems to be based) you can recognize the Emperor's New Clothes syndrome. There's no real depth to it, no substance. Bah humbug.
I read it (or tried to) a long time ago but I can still remember the bad taste it left in my mouth. The person who lent it to me, however, was bursting with enthusiasm.

scarletpeaches
08-19-2007, 05:44 PM
Seun, it's a load of old pants. You'd be better off chewing your own toenails.

aruna
08-19-2007, 05:51 PM
That book annoyed me the same way Deepak Choprah or whatever his name is does. Cashing in on a trend.

scarletpeaches
08-19-2007, 05:54 PM
As I've said before, I like how-to books to tell me...well, how. Grammar. Punctuation. Spelling. Tense. POV. Characterisation. There was none of that in WDtB. It was just cheerleading. "Hey! Yeah! You can do it! Go for it! Yeah!"

So I can do it, huh? Tell me how. That's what I want to know. That would be more helpful.

seun
08-19-2007, 06:04 PM
Seun, it's a load of old pants. You'd be better off chewing your own toenails.

Mmm...tasty...the toenails that is, not the old pants.

I'll give it another go later. If it doesn't buck its ideas up in the next 20 pages, I'll take it back to work and inflict on the general public.

scarletpeaches
08-19-2007, 06:04 PM
I'd love to work in a library. First dibs on books...mind you, I'd never get any work done. :D

Lyra Jean
08-19-2007, 06:37 PM
I have it. Read it once. It didn't really help with anything. I haven't read it since.

KTC
08-19-2007, 06:40 PM
I'm a sucker for arty farty. I love Natalie Goldberg. I have heard all the negative stuff in the past, but I love her.

KTC
08-19-2007, 06:41 PM
That book annoyed me the same way Deepak Choprah or whatever his name is does. Cashing in on a trend.

You're close. It's actually Deepshit Pockets.

kristie911
08-19-2007, 07:05 PM
One of the few writing books I didn't finish. Hated it. Completely and totally hated it. I only read the first couple chapters and it made my eyes bleed.

It wasn't practical advice and the author came across as snobby. If you followed the books advice, you'd sit around doing exercises 24/7 and never do any actual writing.

I prefer books like On Writing, where the author says, this is how I do it, it works for me. Do what works for you, but here's some advice that usually works across the board. Flexible and practical.

KTC
08-19-2007, 07:10 PM
For me, it came at the right time in my life. I had just discarded my art and felt that I wasn't worthy of writing. I thought writers were these chosen people...that they had to be backed by something. I had not given myself permission to be one...and I was reading every single book in the library, trying to get enjoyment out of reading so I wouldn't pick up a pen and start writing...how dare I! Then I read her book and thought, "why can't I be a writer?" Things come into your life when you need them. They could be good. They could be bad. They could be indifferent. One person can look at a dead butterfly and cry, another can look at it and think, "Wow, I could make a real cool piece of jewelry with that!"

I picked up WRITING DOWN THE BONES and I made jewelry.

awatkins
08-19-2007, 07:43 PM
I used to have this book...lost it in a move somewhere along the way. I don't think I was ever able to get all the way through it.

Siddow
08-19-2007, 08:35 PM
A much better arty farty book is The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. If you're looking for arty farty, which you're not.

And if you're looking for the Easy Button, it's at Staples. Pen and paper.

aruna
08-19-2007, 08:43 PM
A much better arty farty book is The Artists Way by Julia Cameron. If you're looking for arty farty, which you're not.

And if you're looking for the Easy Button, it's at Staples. Pen and paper.

Yes, I agree. There is something to say about developing the artist's attitude to writing, since that is basic to what comes out, but I just think that Goldberg's book is shallow.

The mother of all these "flow of consciousness" books is Dorothea Brande's Becoming a Writer. It;s the first writing book I ever read, even before I knew I wanted to, needed to, write a novel. Because she doesn't just offer words of sweet encouragement, she actually gives practical advice on how to develop the right attitude so that your novel can come out the way it's meant to. She is the first person, I believe, who gave out the tip of writing "morning pages", and she has a wealth of other really practical advice.

Soon after I finished her book I started to write, and never stopped.

scarletpeaches
08-19-2007, 09:10 PM
I've read Becoming a Writer too. Twice. Not so keen on it. I prefer how-to books with specifics. But then again, reading too many how-to books isn't going to get my own written. There comes a point where I have to put those aside and get on with my own.

Kudra
08-19-2007, 09:48 PM
Gee, I'm in the minority then because I absolutely loved it. I knew before I picked it up that it wasn't a how-to book and that's exactly why I picked it up. I wanted to hear from a writer who'd gone through the ups and downs and come out okay. I guess, like KTC, it came to me at the right time in my life, when I was broke, desperate, disillusioned and just about ready to throw it all away.

I've recommended it often and am surprised to hear so many negative reactions to it.

aruna
08-20-2007, 08:46 AM
I've read Becoming a Writer too. Twice. Not so keen on it. I prefer how-to books with specifics. But then again, reading too many how-to books isn't going to get my own written. There comes a point where I have to put those aside and get on with my own.

Becoming a Writer is useful in only two specific cases:

a: the writer who has not even started yet, who as the inkling that they'd like to write, but lacks the confidence.

(This was me all over. Every word she said was a like a lightning bolt going through me; I knew my calling then, so to speak.)

b: the writer who is stuck. Who can't seem to move on. Where the words won't flow.

Where do stories come from? How do we find them? How do we get started? How do we get into the flow of writing? Those are the questions Brande answers. If you do not have a problem in those areas the book is not for you. She says quite plainly that the exercizes she gives are antecedent to the actual act of writing; she says quite plainly that once you have fixed those problems you should go out and read every book on the technique of writing you can find.

So her book is not about technique at all, and anyone looking for technique in it is bound to be disappointed. But most of all, you have to write.

seun
08-20-2007, 12:13 PM
I gave up on Bones last night. I got to the chapter about writing being like baking a cake and couldn't go on. It was just too twee.

Bubastes
08-20-2007, 04:38 PM
I hated both Writing Down the Bones and The Artists Way. I was looking for books on the creative process (I have enough technique books already), but these were just so airy-fairy that I thought they could fly. They did for a few seconds when I threw them across the room.

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp is my go-to book when I need a kick in the creative butt.

Kate Thornton
08-20-2007, 05:50 PM
Well, I can see no one on this thread is a fan of the book.

That's too bad - I think Natalie Goldberg's basic message helped me to be a more concise writer, a more expansive editor and more disciplined with words. If you have difficulty with the tone (I see the perjorative "artsy-fartsy" and "airy-fairy" and "twee" here) maybe you should scratch around and see why you think this type of writing is obscure or valueless.

For literary fiction writers, I think this book has some valuable advice. But it was also valuable for a gritty genre writer like me. I still read parts of it, and have discovered it to be a tremendous help to many fledgling mystery writers of my acquaintance.

I wouldn't throw down Gerald So because the language is too raw; I don't throw down Natalie Goldberg because the language is outside my usual comfort zone, either.

MonaLeigh
08-20-2007, 06:16 PM
You'd be better off chewing your own toenails.
That was nice to read as I was eating breakfast.
I hated the book, too.

scarletpeaches
08-20-2007, 06:32 PM
...maybe you should scratch around and see why you think this type of writing is obscure or valueless...I don't throw down Natalie Goldberg because the language is outside my usual comfort zone, either...

I don't need to scratch around to see why I think this book is valueless. I already know - there was no practical, how-to advice in it. It was all up in the air. And her language certainly is not outwith my comfort zone - her lack of substance is.

KTC
08-20-2007, 06:40 PM
Well, I can see no one on this thread is a fan of the book.

So. Now I'm a nobody.

scarletpeaches
08-20-2007, 06:44 PM
Aw, Kevin...don't talk yourself down like that. :kiss:

janetbellinger
08-20-2007, 07:34 PM
I read it a long time ago. I think it was one of the first "go where the pen takes you," style writing advice books I think it deserves some respect because although it's all been said a million times by now, by a million copy cat books, it was a maverick in its own time. But reading it now may not teach you anything new.


Writing Down The Bones came up in another thread a few weeks ago so I got hold of a copy. I'm halfway through it and wondering whether I should bother with the rest of it. It's painfully arty farty, so far offers no practical advice or thoughts and the author seems to think all writers must write in coffee shops.

Does it improve?

KTC
08-20-2007, 07:50 PM
Aw, Kevin...don't talk yourself down off the ledge like that. :kiss:

Oh thanks. I suppose you would prefer me to jump!

scarletpeaches
08-20-2007, 07:51 PM
*sigh*

I don't know what to do with you, I really don't.

KTC
08-20-2007, 07:53 PM
*sigh*

I don't know what to do with you, I really don't.

Feng shui me. Maybe I'm just facing the wrong direction?

scarletpeaches
08-20-2007, 07:54 PM
I think you need some wind chimes in your relationships orifice.

KTC
08-20-2007, 08:08 PM
I think you need some wind chimes in your relationships orifice.

you spin me right round baby, right round. like a record baby.

aruna
08-20-2007, 08:27 PM
I read it a long time ago. I think it was one of the first "go where the pen takes you," style writing advice books I think it deserves some respect because although it's all been said a million times by now, by a million copy cat books, it was a maverick in its own time. But reading it now may not teach you anything new.

Well, Dorothea Brande published Becoming a Writer in 1934, and she actually WAS a writing teacher by profession. She wrote what she did after years of observing and working with writers and understanding how they work.

I object to Goldberg not because of comfort zone issues. I object because she doesn't seem to know if she's writing about writing or about Zen - and she seems to know little of either. She's neither a writer nor a writing teacher, it seems, nor is she a Zen adept. If she were she would not be writing this kind of book, because that's not what Zen adepts do. She's someone who has done a little bit of dabbling in a discipline which when taken seriously needs years and decades of intensive practice to make even a little progress. And she thinks she can water it down into predigested nibbles for wannabe writers. IMO it's New Age fuzz pure (sorry Kate!); I don't say that because it's uncomfortable but because it is TOO comfortable! Zen is anything but comfortable, anything but this. Zen is damned HARD!!! It is certainly not "go with the flow (or pen or whatever)."

If a person wants to practice Zen they should do so, but with full commitment. Then they will automatically become a better writer.

If someone wants to write they should learn from writers or qualified writing teachers. But this melting-pot of both doesn't go anywhere. Obviously it is inspiring to many people - it has received mostly 5 and 4 star reviews on amazon - but I think they would have gained more by going to either a proper Zen master or on a proper writing course.

Christine N.
08-20-2007, 08:47 PM
I have it, and once in awhile I pick it up and read for a bit. I agree with seun - it seems very 'literary writer' oriented (read: artsy fartsy) with a serious poetry bent. I don't have time to sit and write for hours on end in notebooks. I have a very tight schedule and have to write. When I sit and write, it's on a WIP.

However, I sort of like her, because I was so wound up for awhile about getting it right, my writing was going at a snail's pace. She did remind me that sometime you just have to write. I'm a write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants revisionist, so I just have to write what comes out, knowing I've got the raw materials and the ability to shape it later. That's what makes writing fun for me.

I've written nearly 30,000 words in the last three months, and it'll be more than that by Sept. 1. It was good advice, just not in the way she meant it. She also has interesting things to say using the senses when writing, which was another thing I needed reminding of.

It's okay if you need a different perspective, but I have better technical writing books on my shelf. "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" and one from Zumaya "Becoming your Own Critique Partner" are both wonderful if you need help polishing your writing. They both the kind of thing you'd enjoy, Scarletpeaches :)

scarletpeaches
08-20-2007, 09:27 PM
I've heard a lot about "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" recently and wonder if it isn't a little...well, "Make up a chart for your characters, work out their percentage of page-time, see if there's an equal percentage of each character in every chapter and..." You know, formulaic?

It's worth a look, I guess.

Editing, to me, is about getting out all the typos and making sure the story flows, rather than analysing each character's motivations and giving everyone equal time in the story.

Motivations are important, of course, but I put in as much of those as are needed in the first draft anyway.

Bubastes
08-20-2007, 09:47 PM
I've heard a lot about "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" recently and wonder if it isn't a little...well, "Make up a chart for your characters, work out their percentage of page-time, see if there's an equal percentage of each character in every chapter and..." You know, formulaic?

Oh, I didn't get that at all from "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers." Quite the opposite, in fact. This is one of my favorite technique books because it isn't formulaic or prescriptive ("you must do this...."). I found it helpful for fine-tuning my eye to notice what's not working in my draft and, more importantly, how to fix it. For me, it's been the best book I've read for bringing the story on the page closer to the story in my head.

scarletpeaches
08-20-2007, 09:50 PM
In that case, I shall further abuse my debit card at Borders next time I'm there. :D

seun
08-20-2007, 11:28 PM
Well, I can see no one on this thread is a fan of the book.
That's too bad - I think Natalie Goldberg's basic message helped me to be a more concise writer, a more expansive editor and more disciplined with words. If you have difficulty with the tone (I see the perjorative "artsy-fartsy" and "airy-fairy" and "twee" here) maybe you should scratch around and see why you think this type of writing is obscure or valueless.
I don't throw down Natalie Goldberg because the language is outside my usual comfort zone, either.

Sorry, but for me, it was far too up its own arse. Yes, that's perjorative but it's also my opinion. It was like those people who talk about writing but never do any. It was far too much fluff about writing in coffee shops (because we all know only real writers write in coffee shops), how to get in touch with your inner self to write and that sort of crap that as far as I'm concerned has got almost nothing to do with writing. She may as well have called the book Carry This Around And People Will Think You're A Real Writer.

scarletpeaches
08-20-2007, 11:32 PM
...it was far too up its own arse...

And here, ladies and gentleman, we have the ultimate Scottish insult that can be directed at a book, a painting or a song. :D

ETA: Does 'far too' up its own arse mean that something can be moderately/acceptably arsey? Are there degrees of upitsownarsitude?

Deirdre
08-21-2007, 12:24 AM
I object to Goldberg not because of comfort zone issues. I object because she doesn't seem to know if she's writing about writing or about Zen - and she seems to know little of either.

It's worth noting that WDtB is published by a Buddhist press, not a mainstream writing press. Therefore, I'd argue that they thought it was a very Buddhist book.

Sometimes, I just need to be reminded about BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard), and WDtB is perfect for that sort of mood. That said, I hate her voice, so I'm not going to listen to her audio book.

blacbird
08-21-2007, 02:35 AM
The most useless book on writing I know of. Natalie Goldberg has made a career out of telling other people how to write, that being about the only successful writing she's done that I'm aware of. A much better book that mines the same territory is Rachel Simon's The Writer's Survival Guide. Far less airy and pretentious, and entertainingly written on its own.

caw

Christine N.
08-21-2007, 02:54 AM
I put this in the rep points I gave SP, but for everyone else, Self-Editing is more like "See all those adverbs? Delete 'em. See that passive voice? Change it to active."

Nothing about WRITING the story, all about EDITING a book.

The Crit book I mentioned before has great advice about things like 'the black moment' and 'show, don't tell'.

Very 'get in there and dirty your hands' kinds of stuff.

KTC
08-21-2007, 03:07 AM
The most useless book on writing I know of. Natalie Goldberg has made a career out of telling other people how to write, that being about the only successful writing she's done that I'm aware of. A much better book that mines the same territory is Rachel Simon's The Writer's Survival Guide. Far less airy and pretentious, and entertainingly written on its own.

caw

Sadly, I must continue to display my debauched taste within the confines of this thread:

I LOVED Goldberg's BANANA ROSE...and I loved her LONG QUIET HIGHWAY too.
I probably read Banana no fewer than 8 times.

Anonymisty
08-21-2007, 03:19 AM
I'd love to work in a library. First dibs on books...

It doesn't suck. :D I currently have Scott Westerfeld's Specials and Marcus Zusak's I Am The Messenger tucked behind the desk for myself. *grin*

aruna
08-21-2007, 08:45 AM
It's worth noting that WDtB is published by a Buddhist press, not a mainstream writing press. Therefore, I'd argue that they thought it was a very Buddhist book.

Sometimes, I just need to be reminded about BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard), and WDtB is perfect for that sort of mood. That said, I hate her voice, so I'm not going to listen to her audio book.
Yes, I know Shambhala Press. It's not a Buddhist Press; it published books on all eastern religions, Hinduism and Taoism as well as Buddhism; also Christianity, Yoga, Hinduism and Ken Wilbur. Some very excellent books, among them classics. But also a lot of New Age stuff. New Age sells. New Age is not Buddhism.

This is a press that is successful.

That means it has to sell commercial stuff as well as it's serious classical books. That's business. Someone there must have spotted the commercial possibilities of WDTB. They could not make money just publishing stuff like the Tao Te King.

(And I have a ms I'm going to be submitting to them...)

So the fact that it is published by a Buddhist Press" (it isn't!) means basically nothing.

Moonfish
08-21-2007, 11:59 AM
For me, it came at the right time in my life. I had just discarded my art and felt that I wasn't worthy of writing. I thought writers were these chosen people...that they had to be backed by something. I had not given myself permission to be one...and I was reading every single book in the library, trying to get enjoyment out of reading so I wouldn't pick up a pen and start writing...how dare I! Then I read her book and thought, "why can't I be a writer?"
That's pretty much exactly how I felt. I loved the book, it's the best writing advice book I've ever read. And I find "how-to" books incredibly boring! I know my grammar and POV's, thank you. I needed the permission. I've read WDTB many times and own the next two by her as well, although I like them less. Especially Thunder and Lightning didn't do it for me.
Julia Cameron's The Artists Way however puts me to sleep.

seun
08-21-2007, 01:50 PM
It doesn't suck. :D I currently have Scott Westerfeld's Specials and Marcus Zusak's I Am The Messenger tucked behind the desk for myself. *grin*

YAY! Another library person. :)

seun
08-21-2007, 01:51 PM
That's pretty much exactly how I felt. I loved the book, it's the best writing advice book I've ever read. And I find "how-to" books incredibly boring! I know my grammar and POV's, thank you. I needed the permission.

Just out of interest, why did you need the permission?

Kudra
08-21-2007, 02:36 PM
Wow, it's really interesting to hear all these diverse opinions. If Writing Down the Bones sucks for the majority here, how do you guys feel about Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott?

Moonfish
08-21-2007, 03:46 PM
Just out of interest, why did you need the permission?

I was ashamed that I wanted to write. I thought people would find me conceited and full of myself. I was worried I'd fail, so why even try? I don't have the best of self esteems...
It really helped that she told me "Let yourself totally be a writer from now on."

I guess if you've never felt the doubt then the book has nothing to give. But for a doubter, it's worth gold.

seun
08-21-2007, 03:52 PM
[quote=Moonfish;1565146]I was ashamed that I wanted to write. I thought people would find me conceited and full of myself. I was worried I'd fail, so why even try? I don't have the best of self esteems...
It really helped that she told me "Let yourself totally be a writer from now on."/quote]

Fair enough. Glad it helped you. Just don't forget you have nothing to be ashamed of.

Well, you might. I don't know. For all I know you're an axe murderer who wears children's underwear on your head, but when it comes to being a writer, you have nothing to be ashamed of.
;)

aruna
08-21-2007, 04:04 PM
I can't argue with anyone who says a certain book helped. And I totally understand that "writing from within" thing, as that is what I do - but then I have a decades-long meditation practice so the book was not of any help. And I totally understand how a few well-placed words can kickstart one's creativity.

I was just irritated by her trying to connect it to Buddhism; and anyway, Dorothea Brande said it with far more depth, much earlier; without any of the success Goldberg had. So for me it was a rip-off!

For those who prefer to overcome writer's block without the spirituality,. I'd like to remind you of our own Jenna's book OUtwitting Writer's Block... (http://www.amazon.com/Outwitting-Writers-Block-Other-Problems/dp/1592281249)

And it really isn't fair to compare "overcoming writer's block" and "releasing creativity" books to the nuts and bolts books of pure technique. They address completely different aspects of writing; it's like apples and oranges.

aruna
08-21-2007, 04:06 PM
I was ashamed that I wanted to write. I thought people would find me conceited and full of myself. I was worried I'd fail, so why even try? I don't have the best of self esteems...
It really helped that she told me "Let yourself totally be a writer from now on."

.

I wasn't ashamed, but I felt totally inadequate and incompetent. Brande's book was like a magic wand that removed the "I can't!" curse completely.

Bubastes
08-21-2007, 04:30 PM
I was ashamed that I wanted to write. I thought people would find me conceited and full of myself.

Oh wow, that's how I felt too. In fact, I still feel that a lot now even though I know I can write! Ah well, just another hurdle to write over.

scarletpeaches
08-21-2007, 06:17 PM
Heh.

Permission is the one thing I've never needed. Everyone who knows me, knows I write. Some friends have started introducing me as, "This is Nicky; she's a writer." (The only part I object to is being called Nicky, but hey, there are worse nicknames out there).

I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that writing is the one thing I love, have always loved, and always will love. I'm straying into wankitudinous (yes, that's a real word) territory here, but it's my passion. Love is not a big enough word to describe how I feel about books and it far outweighs anything I've ever felt for another person.

Permission? Who needs it? I'd like to see anyone try to stop me writing.

janetbellinger
08-21-2007, 07:22 PM
I've given away every last one of my how to write books, including WDtBs and all of J. Cameron's books.

Deirdre
08-22-2007, 01:05 PM
Yes, I know Shambhala Press. It's not a Buddhist Press; it published books on all eastern religions, Hinduism and Taoism as well as Buddhism; also Christianity, Yoga, Hinduism and Ken Wilbur. Some very excellent books, among them classics. But also a lot of New Age stuff. New Age sells. New Age is not Buddhism.

That's way more true now than when WDtB was published, though. At the time, it was pretty limited in scope. I'd argue that the success of Goldberg's book allowed them to branch out.

Deirdre
08-22-2007, 01:07 PM
Wow, it's really interesting to hear all these diverse opinions. If Writing Down the Bones sucks for the majority here, how do you guys feel about Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott?
Love Anne Lamott in person, think the book's a bore. Never have been able to finish it.

I have a truly amazing collection of writing books and I've read most of them. I still keep Bird by Bird in that bookcase, but I'm not sure why.

aruna
08-22-2007, 01:24 PM
That's way more true now than when WDtB was published, though. At the time, it was pretty limited in scope. I'd argue that the success of Goldberg's book allowed them to branch out.

Then it was a wise marketing decision to take on a pop-art wannabe-Zen-Buddhist-writing book! And I'm sure they were aware of this at the time.
But a genuine Zen master would turn in his grave at the idea.

gingerwoman
10-05-2007, 03:23 PM
Does it improve? no