A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves
|A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves|
|Reviewer: Karen Inskip-Hayward|
|Summary: An inspirational book for anyone who wants to write.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: October 1999|
|Publisher: New World Library|
I have always written really – diaries every day for years, letters, stories, poems… Ciao and Dooyoo fitted into this perfectly and increased my confidence, as I received better feedback over time, gaining crowns here and Premium Fund payments on Ciao. I am not a particularly confident person, I have quite low self-esteem at times, but I love writing and believe it is my one talent. I think everyone has something they are good at.
This year, I decided to really try to get more work as a writer. I have a Dr. Who book being published hopefully this year – well, it's a detailed rewrite of Spearhead From Space, for anyone interested – but as you'll understand, that's rather a specialised market. I had 42,000 words of a novel unfinished, but little motivation to get back into it. Basically, I needed a good kick up the ass!
Then I saw a writer's group advertised at school, so went along to that and although there were only three of us, so it never took off, I met two wonderful women. One of these is now a very good friend and an inspiration to me, the other recommended this book – A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves.
The cover is a moody grey and black with a book, open-paged, apparently flying. This is very effective, but I was a bit daunted by the orange sub-heading A Spirited Companion And Lively Muse for the Writing Life worrying if it was going to be a bit schmaltzy, a bit American, maybe even religious. But it isn't, it's fine, so don't let that put you off!
It is a 215-page paperback, split into readable sections and clearly labelled. This is more of a flick-through book than one you would read in a single sitting. Dip into it to find inspiration to write, to help you with a particular writing problem or to clear your head and focus yourself on your task – to write every day.
There are some wonderful quotations in here, which you will relate to if you consider yourself a writer in any way. It will make you laugh at times and make you think a lot. But mainly, it will make you write – and that can only be a good thing.
The main premise of the book is that you improve your writing skills by practising. You need to find a place in your day to write, so make an appointment to 'turn up at the page'. This is not to make creative writing a chore, but to give yourself time when you 'allow' yourself to write – otherwise, it can become something that gets pushed out of your life, because you use your time elsewhere.
It would take thousands and thousands of words to tell you everything this book does, so I suggest you buy it for yourself if you are interested. To give you an idea of some of the topics covered though, we have these – How To Start, When Your Writing Bores Even You, Auditioning Words, Write From The Senses, Top Ten Excuses Not To Practice, Writing Goals, Writer's Block, Wordplay and When Your Writing Embarrasses You.
It is partly about the technique of writing, but never comes across as a boring, stuffy text book. It offers ideas and improvements when you are writing well, suggestions and guidelines for improvements when you aren't. It also lists ideas for different places to write in (cafes, on the beach, in the country, etc.) and writing in different ways.
One point I disagree with from the author is that Judy Reeves recommends you always handwrite, because the writing muscles include the hand and the heart and writing is a physical act; you should do it with your body. While I can understand the sentiments behind this, I find writing on the computer to be perfect for me – it is easily corrected, I type faster and clearer than I handwrite and I can then print out copies of my work or save them onto disk. But it's a personal choice.
One of the most popular reasons for buying this book must be the daily writing practice topics. There is a suggested topic or 'prompt' for each day of the year. The idea is that you make your appointment with the page, then look at that day's prompt and use it to inspire you. You may write a short story, a poem, a few key phrases, an almost nonsensical stream of consciousness piece or a whole novel. It doesn't matter. At the end of the day, you have written something and that is an achievement in itself.
To give you an idea of what the prompts are, I'll list the first few for March. (Hey, they might inspire you too!) March 1st – Write about hair. March 2nd – This much is known… March 3rd – You see a shooting star. March 4th – 'At 5 in the afternoon.' March 5th – What are you waiting for?
These may seem boring or predictable or just not your sort of thing, but believe me, they work! I looked at a topic the other day which was ‘'open the box'. Having no idea of what to write, I sat at the computer and created a short story about a man who owned a box which had its own little world inside. Another topic was about a quilt or a blanket – another short story which seemed to almost write itself. These two stories are amongst what I consider to be my best work.
The book also encourages you to join a writing group to exchange ideas and critiques of each other's work. I have started a yahoogroup for this now, using the Judy Reeves prompts. There's also an American group using the book in a similar way.
Since reading A Writer's Book of Days, I have become more confident in my ability to write and, specifically, to write short stories. I have written off to some magazines for details and have several short stories that I am planning to submit. Some magazines pay £100 for a short story, so it is worth a try!
When I went along to parents' evening at school last week, my daughter's teacher was lamenting the lack of good short stories they had to work with in class. I am now writing some for them, which will hopefully be published in a collection for use in schools. At last, it looks as though I can get some success writing, even if it won't be enough to make it my full-time career just yet.
I have this book to thank for much of this and if you are the slightest bit interested in writing, I wholeheartedly recommend this to you.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves at Amazon.com.
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