Friday, December 11, 2009

Memoir Monday: Rita Mae Brown

I know, it's been a while since my last Memoir Monday. I have finally finished reading Rita Mae Brown's writing memoir, Starting From Scratch. This is an older book, published in 1989. But even at 20 years old it still has some useful information for writers today.

The first thing that's obvious is Ms. Brown is a highly educated woman who is full of wit and great, straight forward advice about every aspect of the writing and publishing process. With that said, I have to admit that some of this book is intimidating to say the least. Her fluency in languages, mythology, and the history of literature is astounding.

I consider myself an education lifer, both in traditional classrooms and in learning new things in day to day life. but at my pace I would need another lifetime to achieve the levels she has. Although I am tempted to take a Latin class and the mythology also sounds interesting.

Outside of her education, I am also impressed with her dedication and self motivation when it comes to writing. She believes that writing comes first, above all else in your life, and that you need to be in the best physical and emotional condition to do it well. She actually follows a routine to get her mind and body ready to start a new book.

As I have said before, we all take something away from every book we read. Here are some of the points that stuck with me in Starting From Scratch.
  • Writing the truth can be harder than speaking the truth.
  • Don't get hung up on reading every review of your work. They come after the book is finished and therefore too late to do you any good.
  • Never hope harder than you work.
  • Stories can find life in other forms, outside of novels and short stories. Brown also enjoyed writing screenplays.

Compare & Contrast

Both Stephen King and Rita Mae Brown believe that you have to read a lot of books, good and bad, to understand what works and what doesn't in your own writing.

Brown believes the craft of writing can be taught; that a competent writer can be turned into a fine craftsman...if not a blazing genius. As opposed to King, who believes there are set levels of writers and no amount of education can change a competent writer into a great one.

Twitter me this...

As I read these memoirs I can't help wonder what these authors would think about today's on line social networks, which have become common place for writers and others in the book world. I imagine that Rita Mae Brown would not like Twitter. She is very strict about not talking about her writing and says that if you're talking you're not doing.

Have you read Starting From Scratch? If yes, I would love to know what you thought. Was it helpful to you or did you have a hard time connecting with her advice?

I'll finish with a great quote from Rita Mae Brown.

Creativity comes from trust, trust your instincts. And never hope more than you work.

Thanks for stopping by.

Kristin : )


  1. I read it ears ago and remember not being able to connect at all with her advice. However, that was just me and I know that some things aren't for everyone.

    Stephen King's On Writing worked much better for me.

  2. Never read the book but I'll keep an eye out for it now, especially after reading "never hope harder than you work". I'll remember that.

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