Part 12 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 said last time round I’m doing NaNoWriMo (currently at 6074 words which is off the pace!) so less reading time available. However I did manage to read Monkeys With Typewriters which allows me to do a mini WAWAW review.
This book stems from Thomas’s creative writing lectures at the University of Kent and like her fiction books has an interesting premise/idea at the heart but doesn’t quite live up to it. Thomas has split the book into two halves – theory and practise and it’s genesis means it’s aimed at the kind of people who do MA’s.
The theory part sees Thomas do a round up of narrative theory from Aristotle to Propp to Booker and then add her own take with ‘eight basic plots’ (one of which being Modern Realism – which I’d call a mode rather than a plot for the exact same reasons she rejects Irony as a plot) – as with any summary of other people’s ideas there is a lot of elision but it’s a fairly good Cliff Notes version if you can’t be bothered to read the source material – albeit one liberally sprinkled with Thomas’s own views.
In the second part there is the usual sort of writing advice and the interesting idea, which is that novels can be seeded using a story matrix. Basically a glorified version of putting things like character name, location and situation in columns and then choosing one from each column. Except Thomas’s matrix has heading like ‘what is your current obsession’ or ‘your four favourite novels and why.’ Her thesis is an expansion of ‘write what you know.’
I found this idea interesting and maybe I should try it before I knock it but it seems to require a lot of self-reflection and I suspect wouldn’t change enough between novels (if you follow her exact matrix) to generate that many ideas.
Since the summary isn’t needed for me (I’ve read most of the sources) and the general writing advice is mostly variation on a theme from more focused books I think this is for the discard pile. I may try the matrix thing before getting rid of it finally but it’s not a keeper.
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!