Last week one of my critique group partners lent me a book of hers. It's called Spilling Ink, and is written by two local Ithaca/upstate NY authors, Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter. Since I generally am into pouring over the books for aspiring writers, I brought his one home with me and began to read (between all the illnesses). It is a writing guide for young authors, but who says us old folks who are beginning writers can't read it too?
When I was 14 I could have used this book. In middle school I was in a computer class. It was one part computer usage, programming, and DOS education, it was another part typing. Towards the end of the class, we were assigned a project that included writing a story of a certain length, to show our typing skills and formatting ability. I can't remember the exact details of the assignment, but I definitely remember my story. It was a great beginning. About a group of teenagers who travelled the world in search of old treasure and solved archaeological mysteries. It was a cool mystery story, and I wrote the first three chapters or so before having to hand in my work at the end of the semester. My teacher loved it. I got good marks for the technical aspects of it, but he also commented how much he enjoyed the story and claimed he wanted to read more, when I wrote it. I remember being very flattered, and amazed that someone liked what I had written. And being the first time I had written fiction and let someone read it, I was amazed.
But I never kept going with that story. I moved on to other grades, activities, priorities. And the one paper copy of "Adventurers of the World" fell into a box. Where it remains to this day. Perhaps if I had had this book back then, I might have finished that story, and gotten a 22 year jump on my writing career.
Now, at 36, I think I can use Spilling Ink too. It's a very informative guide to many of things a writer needs to know when it comes to, well, being a writer. Like much in our short attention span era, the style is quick and bite sized, which feels a little bit lacking for me. But a teenager could read a short chapter in between classes, and probably would appreciate the speed and conciseness at which the pace of this book moves.
The more I read this book, the more I liked it. They cover all the usual topics of writing; plot, characters, setting, endings, voice, writing rules. All with a simple flair and readable flow. It is full of writing prompts and practice suggestions. But it grew on me not because of the techniques or style, but because of the bottom line of what the authors were working very hard to convey to their readers; that writing is a long, hard process, you will make mistakes and you will make good turns, and all those things will lead you down a path to finding your skill and passion as a writer. If you let them.
I felt really reassured because much of what they profess, I immediately understood and identified with as a beginning writer. I was pleased to think that perhaps I am on the right track. But I think that was their point. If you are doing it, you ARE on the right track.
Spilling Ink left me feeling very positive about my writing, and feeling inspired to get back down to work. I put the book down remembering the early days of what it was like to be a teenager, writing fiction, just beginning to understand the world and put it all on paper. I connected with the youth and hope and lightness that I had back then, and wondered if I should dig out that old relic of my original writing beginnings and find out just how the "Adventurers of the World" ends.