Book Review: Writing Down the Bones
I both loved and hated this book. I loved the simple writing, the personal tone the author struck, and the short chapters you could skip around without too much worry of losing your place. I hated the strong poetry slant that made me feel if I wasn’t slavering and twitching while using sentences like, “The succulent mauve tentacle leeched bitter incantations from my pulsating ventricles” or something, I wasn’t reaching my true potential. Nevertheless, I did see great improvement in my work, so let’s talk a little bit about my experience with Writing Down the Bones.
When I first opened the book, I had high hopes for it. Right from the beginning, Natalie Goldberg sets you at ease with her calming voice. She explains in simple terms one of the hardest parts of writing: Getting started. One of the first things she mentions in the book is that even when you’ve written a hundred stories before, you may still have that nagging worry that you’ll never write something that good ever again. Though some of my own work is popular (Even reaching as high as #7 on wattpad. WOO! Thank you readers!) I always feel that way at the beginning of every story.
One of the first recommendations she makes is to experiment with mediums for writing, and gave you the simple rules of writing. When you write, set a time limit for writing, do not stop, do not cross out, do not edit in any way. Just go.
I’ve done this before in one writing class or another, turns out even though I’ve had practice with it before it is still not so easy. I selected 15 minutes for my time, and tried twice on my first day. The first time my husband came home mid-15 minutes, and I forgot all about writing to dance off like some mad puppy. A few minutes later I tried again, and made it the whole 15 minutes except that I corrected twice. I just can’t help myself. I am moderately aware that what I’m writing is utter crap, but I can’t publish it at all if there are no words, right? So crap words are better than no words.
Pressing onwards, I had an epiphany as to why this girl needed the prince, and what sort of sacrifice it might mean to give him up. I also discovered the true hero of the book, and so much more by forcing myself to write witlessly. Writing novels isn’t new to me, so I know how my own writing system works, and my goal was to reach 20,000 words in the first draft of the novel. (Yes really. All my stories start out as this stunted, shriveled thing, but that’s okay. That’s my style. It obviously works because my 30k rough draft, Diary of a Non-Conformist Vampire Victim, has over 250k reads on it. You should totally go read it too.)
I wrote at the park, in my car, at the library, and in all the different rooms in my house. I got the fewest words at work. I brought my notebook intending to write a few words and got a whopping zero. The most I got was at the park, with over 1,000 words in one sitting. Ironically the time I went when it was raining, although my second highest at 750 words was also at the park.
Since this also happened to coincide with NaNoWriMo, I experimented with word sprints and other social mediums too. During a stretch of consistent writing time, I got as much as 2k in one sitting.
I also did write better in different notebooks, and with a specific pen.
The book had a lot of good advice in it, even if you are not a beginner. I liked the fact that the chapters were short, in no particular order, and complete enough to where you could just focus on one chapter without having to read the whole book.
I did not enjoy the poetry sections, but then you could not possibly meet a person less interested in poetry than me.
Also, she should marry this “Katagiri Roshi” as she can’t go two chapters without chatting about him.
Anyways, I do think this book was worth reading. Most of it anyway. Sample of writing before this book:
No really. I hadn’t started the book yet. Just picture a vast nothingness. A void so deep, you could get sucked into it and end up in another dimension.
Sample of writing after:
Terrified, Kendra pushed back with all her might, but it was no use. She was pushed over the edge of the fountain by the excited mob and into the water below. As soon as she hit it,the water exploded into technicolor, and the crowd cheered. Kendra could hear it dimly as the water closed over her head. She struggled against a surprisingly strong current sucked her down well below the visible depth of the fountain.
Real terror ceased her as the desire to breathe pressed into her lungs. She bent to undo the lacing on her boots, and tie them to the boot next to it, using it as a saw to free her wrists. With a kick, the boots were off along with the ropes, and she was free.
She was too far away to make it to the surface, especially with that current, but the way it pulled it was going somewhere. Hopefully somewhere with air. She twisted around and kicked with all her might, praying it was close. She managed two kicks, three, and then she had to do it. She had to let out a stream of bubbles and pull in a deep lung full of magical water. The agony of it lasted only a moment before she was evicted forcibly from the water and landed heavily on bricks of polished quartz.
Coughing, Kendra pulled herself blearily to her knees, and looked up to see two men looking down at her.
“Still conscious and with the bonds off. She truly is remarkable.”
Word count before this book: 0
Word count after 1 month of using this book: 11,654 words.