Thursday, April 2, 2015

B is for the boys in the basement

B is for the Boys in the Basement and Books

Who are they, some of you may ask? The boys in the basement stand for our intuitive, deep hidden wisdom. They came to light by the pen of Stephen King who talked about his muse:

“There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement kind of guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think it’s fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist, but he’s got inspiration. It’s right that you should do all the work and burn all the mid-night oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life. Believe me, I know.”
So? Don't we just need the boys in the basement (or in my case the scary woman in the lamé dress - more on her later on this month) during the writing of our first dirty draft? I don't think so. I think we need those boys all the way through. They must be controlled, just as the editor needed to be controlled when you were writing the quick and dirty draft (or the clean slow one if that is how you roll). Occasionally however, you must take your revised text down to the basement where the boys will tell you if you are being true to the vision or if, just perhaps, you've gone too far in pleasing perfect mode and forgotten what you do this writing thing for.  Just saying - they know.

Books - and that brings me to the list of books I keep by my desk for the revising period.


  • The Artful Edit - Susan Bell - this is the hands down best book on revising I've ever come across. It is brilliant
  • Revision & Self-Editing - James Scott Bell - a workhorse of a book and very helpful
  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers - Renni Browne & Dave King - another hard-working book
  • The Modern Library Writer's Workshop - Stephen Koch - excellent chapters on Working and Reworking and Finishing

  • On Writing - Stephen King - not that there is lots on revising but he keeps you inspired and he surely knows his craft
  • Bird by Bird - Anne Lamott - again for flagging inspiration cannot be beat
  • Maps of the Imagination - Peter Turchi - weird and wonderful - not for everybody.
And here is a gratuitous photo I took from the bridge on the way to work the other day - it is snowing again today. Yes, it is! April 2nd....

..


11 comments:

Duncan D. Horne - the Kuantan blogger (大哥) said...

Look at all that snow! Speaking of books, I'm looking at those written by Dan Brown:
Dan Brown A-Z

Margot Kinberg said...

Thanks for that list of book, Jan. I always like to hear about useful tools for revising and editing. And about the muse? I couldn't agree more. Writers need to make inspiration welcome, provide a home for it and nurture it.

Luana Krause said...

Jan, excellent post. I am a writer as well and Stephen King's "On Writing" is my favorite reference. I read it over and over for inspiration and encouragement.

Rob Z Tobor said...

Thanks for passing By Editing . . . DAMN I knew there was something I never do. Still it saves loads of time.

Very cool (and cold) looking snow, better than grey rain with the slight smell of chicken manure drifting in the wind that we have here today.

Hart Johnson said...

I have long kept a team of boys in my basement. Sometimes I dress them in drag and make them dance like I like, but you know... I haven't done that recently... Maybe that is why I am having this dry spell...

Marion Ueckermann said...

Love your blog :)

Marion Ueckermann said...

Love your blog :)

Susan Scott said...

Jan I loved this post thank you! Those boys in the basement are essential in our lives .. Loved the Stephen King quote. Will bookmark.

How can I receive your posts automatically? Please advise... thank you.

Melissa Sugar said...

Incredible post. Thanks for the list of revision and editing books. I discovered two that I was not aware of and headed straight to Amazon and got them. I read someone else's blog post , but I can't remember who it was, but they also talked about Kings, "Boys in the Basement." I think it's some of the most insightful novel writing advice ever given. Thanks for the detailed account of it. The other blogger just touched on it, but you made it real.

J Lenni Dorner said...

J here, stopping by from the #atozchallenge - where I am part of the A to Z Ambassador Team! (I'm a minion/volunteer under Arlee.)
Great post. I'm looking forward to more. Let me know if I can help you in any blogging way this month. I've followed you on your listed social media sites.
@JLenniDorner

Ohh... more books for my Amazon wishlist.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

I am going to like your posts this month--it's all inspiration I can use right now. Love the idea of Boys in the Basement, and Stephen King's quote.