Writing about writing about writing Review 4

4th in an intermittent series of reviewing my writing books, with an aim of reducing how many I have. The previous post is here

The subtitle for this one should be: 3 books about sentences and one about flourishes.

I’m going to confess that I’ve never been able to finish this book, and if it were on the shelf I’d have got rid of it ages ago. It was a Nook purchase (remember Nooks? I bought one so as not to be tied into Amazon because Barnes & Noble wouldn’t disappear… ) But I’m mentioning it here because of this useful quote (from the introduction) – which is basically a retelling of something from a different writing book (which I don’t have and haven’t read)

In her book The Writing Life, Annie Dillard tells the story of a fellow writer who was asked by a student, “Do you think I could be a writer?” “‘ Well,’ the writer said, ‘do you like sentences?”

I’ve never had the energy to read this one all the way through for some reason – YMMV

I’ve never read Klinkenborg apart from this book – so can’t verify if his advice applies to his own work. The advice in this book is to start with short sentences and master short sentences. There is some philosophy of writing in here too. I ‘quite’ like it – although it’s not an easy read. The constant short sentences with line breaks makes it look like a poem and read like someone trying to be profound, and not quite succeeding. BUT there is some good info in here and in re-reading I got different things out of it than I got last time I read it. So for that reason it’s going to stay on the shelf. it’s best to be read in conjunction with the next book though I think.

Strictly speaking this isn’t on my shelf either – as I have an audio version (and a PDF) but it’s worth mentioning because unlike the Klinkenborg this is a celebration of the long sentence. I think Fish is a bit of both, long and short, (and potentially then the only one you need). However the good professor Brooks Landon who delivers these Great Courses lectures is so enthusiastic about sentences it’s well worth a listen.

Forsyth had a trilogy of little books about language out a few years ago and it’s possible to pick up all three in a handsome box. But of course I picked up my copy of Eloquence in a second hand shop and haven’t got the other two. This is a nice introduction to the elements of rhetoric with clear explanations of all those bizarre sounding Greek words you may of heard of like Zeugma and Diacope and Hyperbaton. More of use in speech writing probably but worth holding onto I think. One day I may spot the other two language books by Forsyth in a charity shop…

I mention above a phenomenon that always gives me caution when deciding to discard a book or not. The ability to get something different from it upon a re-read. My good friend David Gullen has written something similar today on his blog. What I need to remind myself of is that I’m looking for books in this cull that I don’t think a re-read, or many referrals to will happen in the future. But I do need to get rid of some books, as the shelf is full! (I know – I could always build more shelves, right? But then if the house has bookshelves in every room – then what?)

I’m done with books about style to some extent, but as I said last time I’m going to take a bit of a tangent into poetry next. Although I’ll be starting with metaphor, which is just as applicable to prose. I wonder if you’ve noticed that the covers to most of these writing books are very dull? I’ve looked at the next few books I’m going to tackle and they don’t improve cover-wise.

Drop a comment with your favourite writing book or tip here or email me via the Contact page. If you’re a publisher or Indie Author and would like me to review your writing book drop me a line!

Published by suttope

Pete W Sutton is a writer and editor. His two short story collections – A Tiding of Magpies and The Museum for Forgetting – were shortlisted for Best Collection in the British Fantasy Awards in 2017 & 2022 respectively. His novel – Seven Deadly Swords – was published by Grimbold Books. He has edited several short story anthologies and is the editor for the British Fantasy Society Horizons fiction magazine.

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