Part 9 of an intermittent series where I read or re-read the writing books on my shelf to see if they’re worth keeping. See previous part here
As I previously reported I’ve been reading the How to Nuts & Bolts book The Making of a Story
This has the standard creative writing topics – description, Point of View, how to begin a story, characters etc. And each chapter has three parts – instruction, exercise and reading like a writer (which includes essays and short stories) – having re-read this I see why it’s the only really nuts and bolts guide on my shelf – it’s comprehensive and covers all the basics. I heartily recommend it.
I also read Aspects of the Novel by EM Forster. In any writing guide which discusses plot and character will reference this little book. Forster describes the difference between story and plot (The king died then the queen died is different to the king died then the queen died of grief) and round and flat characters.
The book originated from a series of lectures and although it was written in the 20’s there is a more conversational tone than most books of that era. Although there is some useful stuff in here it’s more a book of literary criticism rather than a how to guide and therefore it’s gone on the discard pile. I’ve read it twice now and that feels like one time too many.
The last book in this review is Classical Literary Criticism
Which I must confess I only skimmed – reading classical text is an odd one. Of course Aristotle, Horace and Longinus have important things to say and although they form the basis of Western thought on the topic these aren’t massively readable. It’s writing that tends to slip off my brain so I decided that because the text is easily found on the internet if I need it I don’t need this book on the shelf.
I was going to stick to the classics and read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg but I’ve remembered flicking through the intros that the subtitle of Lamott’s: “Some instructions on writing and life,” is accurate – these are more ‘how to be a writer,’ rather than ‘how to write’ books. Therefore I’m going to re-read a couple more books that lean more to the How to Write content before going to those.
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