Writing About Writing About Writing Review 13

Part 13 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

Part 13 on Friday the 13th you say? What could possibly go wrong…

First up this time round, continuing the ‘generic writing books by actual authors’ is Chuck Palahniuk’s Consider This. This is a writing book in the vein of Stephen King’s On Writing, in that it includes a hefty amount of autobiography. It is, dare I say it, a better book (for writers) than King’s as the advice is both more liberal and useful than King’s. It is also a great read – I’ve not read much Palahniuk (which I should remedy) but he’s got a voice and it’s a very readable one. I’m keeping this one.

Moving into books with a narrower focus I’ve made a start on ones which concentrate on one aspect of fiction.

I believe I’ve formulated a new rule too – if a book has “The Art of” in the title it probably ends on the discard pile.

The first of the “Art of” books is this one by Charles Baxter – it’s not a how to but a meditation on subtext in some of Baxter’s favourite books – it’s lit crit and also a bit dry. Discarded.

This is a book for poets – that doesn’t make it a bad book, just not what I was expecting and not very useful for prose description. I’ve put it on the poetry shelf so it’s no longer on my fiction how to shelf – which is a partial discard.

This is one of two ‘How to Character’ books I read and is the lesser of them. Not wanting to duplicate books unnecessarily this is the one I decided to get rid of. It failed to talk to me, it seemed mechanical and joyless and inpersonal. Everything the next book is not.

So Creating Characters is from the same author as Techniques of the Selling Writer and, although not as useful as that book, is written in the same voice (but with less lists). Swain is passionate where Corbett is restrained, witty where Corbett is dry, evocative where Corbett is er… not evocative. In summary it’s a better book. I’m yet to come across a great book on creating characters, but until I do Swain’s book is a good go to. Being less ‘listy’ than Selling Writer it is a little less referenceable though. But still it stays on the shelf, for now.

Next up is another book where the author is known for an absolute classic in the genre but hardly known for the follow up. I’ve just started reading Dialogue by Robert McKee, he of ‘Story’ fame (which is a book I’ll be getting to fairly soon.)

Once I’ve finished this, the sub-category of single subject books is pretty much exhausted and I’ll be moving onto Story and Structure How To.

On NaNoWriMo I have started well (although about to reach the midpoint) and am on 18583 words. This is not 25000 words, which is what I should be on when I get to the 15th I guess, but hopefully I can make up the difference later. Ah, ‘later’ the author’s best friend…

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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