In the midst of a sort of overview of the state of publishing, this article by Jessa Crispin (founder of Bookslut) has a handy little summary of what you’ll learn if you read all the books there are on how to write (what she calls “the poor man’s MFA”):
you should write a shitty first draft and then revise until perfection; you should avoid adjectives and adverbs as much as possible; you should only use the word “said” and not ”groaned,” “sneered,” “exclaimed,” or “sighed.” They are all pro-“throat-clearing,” also known as The Artist’s Way journaling. Style is king, and not content (although they each have tips on how to use your own life as the model for your novels and memoirs), and so they’re much more in favor of close reading than wide reading. “Reading is knowledge,” writes Rosenblatt, “and it is possible to have too much of it.” And, of course, you should publish, publish, publish. “Work never sent out is never finished,” sighs Priscilla Long, author of The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life.
I think that’s kind of it. Hopefully reading the article will save someone somewhere a few tens of thousands of dollars in course fees. Also, this sentence:
I wanted the books to tell me why one would want to be a writer, especially since all appear to agree that it’s not a love of reading that fosters a love of writing.
…reminded me of something Stephen Elliott said in a recent interview:
I realized there were two types of writers. There were writers that started at a young age because they had something in them that had to come out. These were the spoken word poets… [they] were writing because they had this scream inside of them and they had to get it out in such a way that someone else would receive it. That doesn’t mean they loved to read… Then there’s this other group of people that, usually in high school, first year of college, they read something that impacts them so much that they want to be part of that tradition. More often, I think you see them in MFA programs. They love literature, so they want to be writers.
Strikes me that the two don’t entirely agree. Summary: motivations are murky.