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Let me just say this up front: I don’t like craft books.

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Yep. You read it, right.

I don’t like craft books.

I’m sure there’s a deep-seated reason for this, which probably requires years of counseling, however… I am a writer who has holes in her clothes and I can’t afford years of counseling. So, unless someone decides to cough up the money to take care of my soul, it seems the roots of my craft-book dislike may never be discovered.

So, when the members of the Toll Booth said, “Let’s take the summer easy and we’ll each blog about a craft book for a week.”

I basically went all silent scream.

It’s a good thing this communication occurred on email because I probably would have scared them with the silent scream face.

So, because I have some sort of death wish (Please do NOT kill me fellow tollboothers and writers and most importantly writers of craft books) I am going to create my own, special GLOSSARY OF IMPORTANT LITERARY TERMS, WHICH I WOULD (MAYBE) FIND IN A CRAFT BOOK IF I COULD BRING MYSELF TO READ ONE AGAIN, WHICH I CAN NOT SO NO TRYING TO FORCE ME I AM NO LONGER IN A MFA PROGRAM SO JUST STOP IT RIGHT NOW. IT’S MY OWN LIFE DAMNIT:


Active Verbs

These are the verbs that everyone wants. These verbs take no prisoners and aren’t all namby-pamby passive like everyone’s complaining Bella in the Twilight series is. These are the Rambo of verbs, the Natural Born Killers of verbs, the Stephen Colbert of verbs.

Interestingly enough, in the sentence, I WILL LICK YOUR FEET, MR. PRESIDENT, lick is an active verb, not a passive verb.

See? It makes no sense.


The horrifying addiction (not described in most craft books) that happens to authors after their book debuts. Symptoms include:

  1. Obsessive checking of book stats, namely Amazon.com Sales Rank

  2. Screaming

  3. Massive Depression

  4. Constant murmuring of “It’s #831,051 in books, how can this be? How? CAN? THIS? BE?

  5. Frantic calls to editor/agent

  6. Consumption of a lot of cosmopolitans (if you write chick lit) and/or rum and Cokes (if you write werewolf horror novels)


Book contract

This is the ultimate of all goals for most writers, unless of course, you are Stephanie Meyers, J.K. Rowling, or God, then your goal is media domination or at least a multi-book, seven-figure book contract.

Here. Let me use it in a paragraph:

The author claimed to have a book contract, but actually it was a book contact. It’s true. She touched a book. Once.



Oh, the comma. It is the evilest of the punctuation marks. It once made a Kirkus reviewer very mad at me. Who would think that this ,,,, could be so evil? Oh. Right. The Kirkus reviewer.

Comma Curse

This is what happens to writers who do not memorize Diane Hacker’s RULES FOR THE WRITER ( Memorize that fifth edition – it’s the best!!!) and they fail to remember not to “use a comma between compound elements that are not independent clauses.”

You can never be free of the comma curse once you have it. Trust me, you don’t want it. It causes embarrassing itching in between the typing fingers.


dénouement (IPA:/deˈnuːmɑ̃/)

The hoity-toity word for all the stuff that happens after the climax. The climax in the book. Geesh…



According to Evolution 101 at Berkley this is “descent with modification. This definition encompasses small-scale evolution (changes in gene frequency in a population from one generation to the next) and large-scale evolution (the descent of different species from a common ancestor over many generations). Evolution helps us to understand the history of life.”

Try not to write about this. It may make your book banned.



This is what happens when you get super famous and dead and other people (Teachers) force students to read your work in high school or college and they (the forward writers) have to explain before the actual text how important you and your writing is to the entire universe or at least to post-colonial New England, specifically Amherst, Massachusetts. It also shows up in those BEST OF AMERICAN SHORT STORY collections.

Hint: If you have a foreward in your book, you may be dead.

### I will continue with this tomorrow if I don’t get kicked out of the Tollbooth.


( 42 comments — Leave a comment )
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Aug. 4th, 2008 01:07 pm (UTC)
When I was a teenager who knew I wanted to write professionally, I devoured craft books because I was sure one of them would hold the Secret Key to Publishing Success! For about the last ten years, though, I've avoided them - the books that actually help me write are on the inspirational side of the spectrum, like The Artist's Way - the closest I come to books on sheer craft is Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, which is really more about attitude (and even that I haven't re-read for about 4 years, weirdly). I'm glad I did soak up those craft books when I was younger - I'm sure I must have absorbed a lot of good advice that I just take for granted now, forgetting where it comes from - but at some point I think they stop being helpful. When I look at them now, I can feel myself turning over-analytical, which is the death (for me, personally) of creativity!
Aug. 4th, 2008 01:12 pm (UTC)
Oh, maybe that's it. I read so many when I was a kid and when I was in the MFA program, and now when I read them, I can't write at all.

Thanks for saving me the counseling expenses.
(no subject) - carriejones - Aug. 4th, 2008 01:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - stephanieburgis - Aug. 4th, 2008 02:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - carriejones - Aug. 4th, 2008 02:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 4th, 2008 01:30 pm (UTC)
I think I might have the Comma Curse. :-( And because I didn't go to Professional Writer School, I am now terrified that I will make a fool out of myself with my misplaced commas. See that one up there? It probably wasn't necessary. THIS is why I should not try to write books.
Aug. 4th, 2008 01:36 pm (UTC)
Well, as you know, I have the comma curse big time. It has not stopped me from trying to write books.

Commas be darned. Go for it, Girl.
Aug. 4th, 2008 01:41 pm (UTC)
These are brilliant and funny and totally satisfy my alphabet cravings. More please!!
Aug. 4th, 2008 02:05 pm (UTC)
Oh, thanks, Jama. Yay!!!!
Aug. 4th, 2008 02:01 pm (UTC)
Hahaha, love this. I don't like craft books, either. Reading actual books has helped me a lot more with my writing, quite frankly. Oh yeah, and all those AP Language Arts classes I took in high school -- it's because of them that I now have the semi-colon curse, and not the comma one. ;)
Aug. 4th, 2008 02:06 pm (UTC)
I think that's such a good point. Reading, studying, learning, absorbing actual book-books (of the non craft variety) is so important.

Darn that AP LA course. I'll have to have you write the guest entry for the letter S and the Semi-Colon Curse.
Aug. 4th, 2008 02:04 pm (UTC)
Carrie- You're a nut, although not, as far as we can tell, the kind in need of counseling. At least not for craft book aversion, which up to now you've concealed very effectively.

Your alpha-craft thesaurus thingy is fantastic.

Seriously, I think some of your commenters make a really good point. No craft book is going to solve a writer's problems and hand them a dream career. That requires- uh- sitting down and writing.

Aug. 4th, 2008 02:07 pm (UTC)
Well, you know, I am good at hiding things...

Thanks for not kicking me out. Yet.

And you are right, of course, sitting down and writing is what makes you a writer.
Aug. 4th, 2008 02:38 pm (UTC)
Book Contact
This is so funny I wanted to laugh loudly but I am in the Leonardtown Library and people would give me the hairy eyeball. (They already did once when my digital voice recorder started and wouldn't stop. I think it is possesed. I had to take out the battery to get it to shut up.) Keep this alphabet coming. Don't forget W= writing time. What every author wants but can't find. Many writers have been known to sabotage actual writing time by hanging out on LJ if they get any. ACK!
Aug. 4th, 2008 02:51 pm (UTC)
Re: Book Contact
Oh, no. A possessed voice recorder... hairy eyeballs... laughing in the library. The people of Leonardtown are going to be wondering about you, Anna.

I love the WRITING TIME. I'll have to use it. Thanks.
Aug. 4th, 2008 02:46 pm (UTC)
I actually really needed that explanation of evolution. And this is my kind of craft book...
Aug. 4th, 2008 02:51 pm (UTC)

Thanks goes to Berkley.

Aug. 4th, 2008 03:12 pm (UTC)
I used to read craft books when I was younger (like, 12-16 maybe?), mainly about creating characters, because I thought I was SO good at it that I would just read through them and go, "Oh, I already know all this. I already know ALL THIS! HAHAHAHAI'm awesome!"

Books written for teens on how to write often just tend to be more simplified but "cool" versions of adult style books. But most people I know who wrote as teens, their biggest problem was MELODRAMA. So someday, I need to write a book for all the young egotistical mes out there called "Do Everyone's Parents REALLY Have to be Murdered Before Their Eyes?: A Character Guide for Teen Writers".
Aug. 4th, 2008 03:18 pm (UTC)
You crack me up and remind me that I need to have an entry for M... Melodrama. I don't suppose you want to write it?
Aug. 4th, 2008 04:35 pm (UTC)
Carrie... you're funny. And you know your ABCs. Two for two in my book. (Not sure which 'book', but you're still two for two.)

Looking forward to more of your wit. I said WIT.
Aug. 4th, 2008 04:39 pm (UTC)
I do! I do know my ABC's... at least until F. We'll see how I do tomorrow.
Aug. 4th, 2008 04:37 pm (UTC)
You could totally have book contact, uh, I mean get a book contract and make this into a craft exposé. "Craft haters unite! And all that jazz." - could be your marketing slogan.

I was just having a discussion with my fellow writer friend about whether published authors read craft books before they started their first novels or if they spurned them and just began writing all willy-nilly.
Aug. 4th, 2008 04:42 pm (UTC)
Were you really talking about that?

I think I've had a long love-hate relationship with them. Right now, I'm in a "PLEASE DON'T MAKE ME READ ONE SO I REALIZE HOW MUCH I'M MESSING EVERYTHING UP" phase.

But before I was in a "PLEASE I NEED HELP" phase.

I like your idea. Any publishers out there?
(no subject) - omagnas - Aug. 4th, 2008 04:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - carriejones - Aug. 4th, 2008 05:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lizjonesbooks - Aug. 4th, 2008 05:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - carriejones - Aug. 4th, 2008 07:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lizjonesbooks - Aug. 4th, 2008 07:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 4th, 2008 05:00 pm (UTC)
I, too, do not like craft books.
Well, except for Writing down the Bones,
which is to craft books on the whole
as Wittgenstein is to Kant.
This craft essay, OTOH, (note commas)
Is made of awesome.
Aug. 4th, 2008 05:41 pm (UTC)
Oh, Liz... You are too great. You are so right about Writing Down the Bones. That was the craft book (post high school) that got me started.
(no subject) - lizjonesbooks - Aug. 4th, 2008 05:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 4th, 2008 05:28 pm (UTC)
Carrie. You're hilarious. And wonderful.
Aug. 4th, 2008 05:40 pm (UTC)
Just as long as you don't bump me off the booth I'm happy.

Because you guys are the wonderful ones.
Aug. 4th, 2008 06:46 pm (UTC)
Consumption of a lot of cosmopolitans (if you write chick lit) and/or rum and Cokes (if you write werewolf horror novels)

That was you peeking in my winder, wasn't it?!? I'd make a Long Island iced tea, but it wouldn't be any fun without someone there to eat my cherry. Again.

Hilarious blog, by the way! Except for "Forward," which is a motion where you move in the direction you are facing. You wanted a "Foreword." hehe Don't worry ... one of my books was published with a Forward.
Aug. 4th, 2008 07:10 pm (UTC)
Oh, man... Why do I not proofread? I did it twice, too!

Urck. Thank you, Mr. English Teacher.

And I will confess to peeking and eating cherries.
Aug. 5th, 2008 02:29 am (UTC)
"The climax in the book." Hahahahahahaha!

God I love you.
Aug. 6th, 2008 02:28 am (UTC)
Re: Denouement
I love you back. I was so bummed I missed you today. It was good just to hear your voice.
Aug. 5th, 2008 05:04 pm (UTC)
Have I mentioned the part where you make me laugh a whole bunch? Because you do.

And that's a good thing. I needed a laugh today.

Though "I WILL LICK YOUR FEET, MR. PRESIDENT" has put a COMPLETELY HORRIFYING image into my brain. *shudders*
Aug. 6th, 2008 02:29 am (UTC)
I know! I was shuddering when I wrote it.

I'm so glad you laughed and SO sorry you needed to today. I hope tomorrow is better.
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