Russell F. Hirsch
3 Wonderful Writing Resources
Well, we’ve turned the page on 2016 and are getting into the swing of the new year, but if you’re still seeking fresh inspirations for 2017, I thought I would look back on three of the writing resources that I came to love last year. They’ve been useful for me—maybe they will be for you too!
Write About Dragons Lectures by Brandon Sanderson
Check out the Write About Dragons channel on YouTube. It features hours of instruction from fantasy author Brandon Sanderson, who has published dozens of novels and is probably best known for The Way of Kings. The clips on this channel are compiled from creative writing lectures Sanderson gives at Brigham Young University in Utah and are compiled by Scott Ashton, one of his former students. (You can also watch the clips straight from Scott Ashton’s Write About Dragons blog.)
Sanderson’s knowledge is voluminous. Not only does he provide fascinating instruction on plot structure, character, and voice, he also details practical elements of the publishing process, the writing market, and everyday aspects of the writer’s life, from time management to dealing with taxes. He is incredibly articulate, always answering questions from students with concrete examples based on his own experiences. I get the sense there aren’t many questions he hasn’t heard!
The lectures are very fantasy/sci-fi specific, which is a blessing to those of us working in these genres. Clips are roughly 10 minutes long, but you can also watch them in sequence as full lectures. Since he’s American, some of Sanderson’s explanations on publishing are naturally US-centric, but still highly applicable to those of us writing in Canada or elsewhere.
Honestly, I feel like I should be paying tuition to watch these and I’m so grateful that Brandon and Scott have made them available!
First Draft Podcast with Sarah Enni
Based in L.A., host Sarah Enni has interviewed close to 100 YA and Middle Grade authors, including stars like Marie Lu, Ransom Riggs, and Veronica Roth on this wonderful podcast. New interviews are posted every week and are usually about an hour long.
I love how comfortable and honest everyone is in these sessions—it’s like you’re sitting around with good friends talking about books, only in this case, those good friends are brilliant authors! Enni always starts the interviews asking about the author’s childhood and this sets the tone for the whole episode, as it gets the writers talking about not only their writing process and influences but also their general interests, family, relationships, and life-on-the-whole.
These podcasts make me reflect on my own writing process and also serve as a bit of a healthy therapy session where I can hear published writers talk about the same feelings of triumph and frustration, inspiration and despair, that we aspiring writers feel. It’s an important reminder that I have comrades-in-arms (comrades-in-pens? Keyboards?) at a distance!
Importantly, the podcast also emphasizes diverse voices, and sometimes Enni takes the show on the road and does collections of shorter interviews with authors at conferences and conventions.
Biology of Story by Amnon Buchbinder
Amnon Buchbinder is a screenwriting prof and researcher at York University and I had the chance to hear him talk about his latest project, Biology of Story, at the Canadian Writers’ Summit in Toronto last summer. Needless to say, I’ve spent many-an-hour in the months since exploring the Biology of Story website. But what is it?
The site is an evolving research project featuring dozens of interviews on stories with an incredibly wide range of interviewees including Hollywood script writers, authors, academics, First Nations storytellers, scientists, and even an astrologer. The interviews strive to provide a science of story, an exploration of the function and nature of stories and an examination of how they are integral to our lives.
At the conference Buchbinder joked that people have been telling him he’s created the greatest-ever procrastination tool for writers. It is certainly easy to go down the rabbit hole watching the interviews and not reemerge for a while, but it’s time well-spent in a wonderland of story wisdom.
As a kid-lit enthusiast some of my favourite interviews have included those with His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman, fairy-tale expert Jack Zipes, and renowned Canadian children’s author Tim Wynne-Jones.
Happy listening and viewing, and all the best for your writing in 2017!
Picture honour roll:
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