Today marks the final round of question and answers, and the questions are kindly donated by Beth :)
Do you "believe in" writing books? If so, which is your fave?
Hmm. I think that at various points in your writing career, yes, writing books are useful. I learn well from books, and a couple of writing books - see below - were the key that kicked me into actually writing, and told me what the key issues that writers need to learn about are.
These days, however, the only reason I'd pick up a how-to-write book is to either deliberately fill a gap in my knowledge; for example, my revision skills need honing, so I'm taking the How To Revise Your Novel course; or because I was interested in reading the book anyway - I'm keen to read Stephen King's On Writing, just because people talk about it so much.
Which ones were influential? The Writing Book by I think Gardiner, which taught me what the basic elements of the craft were; one by an Australian author that I don't remember the name of but that taught me how to not worry so much about trying to have an entire plot before you write, and that is responsible for actually getting me to write, rather than just talk about writing; and The Plot Thickens, by Noah Lukeman, which actually taught me a lot about characterisation.
My 'fave' though isn't actually a book, it's a course: Holly Lisle's How To Think Sideways course, which is the most nuts-and-bolts, practical approach to teaching writing I've ever seen. It's process-based, not results-based (this is how you do it, rather than this is what it looks like), and it completely revolutionised both the way I approach writing and the way I actually write. By learning another writer's approach so thoroughly, it actually helped me to learn my own.
If I'm not allowed to pick a course, though, I'd have to say her "Create A Plot Clinic", which despite what I said above is the one how-to-write book that I do actually use on a regular basis; it's full of fantastic tools for getting your imagination going, for figuring your way through sticky problems, and for generating ideas, and I pull it out when I start at least half of the novels, and use concepts from it for every story.
What was your first story/poem/whatever about (that you can remember)?
Lol! I remember. My very first story was technically, I suppose, fanfiction: a story about Danny and William, two dogs from a picture book at school, who went on an adventure that sounds very much like Narnia O:)
My first poems were in highschool, and were mostly teenage-angsty :D
What is the best advice you've ever received as a writer?
I hope you know how insanely difficult this question is to answer :P
I think, in all the things I've ever heard or been told or read or seen about writing, one thing has been both the hardest lesson to learn, and the most encouraging thing to remember. It's this:
Be yourself. The reason your stories matter is because no one else can write them. Only you are you; only you see the world as you do. Write you, because that's the only thing no one else can do.
And most importantly: Dark or milk chocolate?
Dark, absolutely. About 70% is best B-)
Thanks, Beth, for some awesome questions! Also, if anyone's interested, you can download and read the first few sections of the Plot Clinic for free :)