Part 18 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
I’ve moved onto Nuts & Bolts for specific genres
First up was Orson Scott Card’s How to Write SF&F. I’m aware that Card is a problematic figure and I wouldn’t recommend getting this book first hand – the man needs no more money to funnel into his pet hates. But. I wouldn’t recommend this book anyway – it has some useful stuff in, the MICE quotient for example (the mix of Mileu, Idea, Character and Event ), but you can get this info by Googling. Also the first chapter is defining genre – a dull and pointless exercise at the best of times I find.
Another dud was this collection of essays on writing – there are a few good essays in here but most of them are terribly dated and not useful. At least they’ve tried with the cover (bad covers for writing books is a common theme running through this review series) although it’s a bit sexist. Love the fact he’s giving a floppy disk to the warrior. This is probably out of print and I’d say it’s not worth tracking down second hand. It also skews very much to horror with some fantasy and I struggle to remember any advice on SF at all. I don’t mind this mix, being a horror writer (allegedly) but it depends what you’re looking for. It’s a confusion of essays and feels very 1980’s (published in 87.)
A much better series of essays are collected in this writers workshop published in 2010 (should there be an apostrophe there?) – there are very familiar names: Clive Barker, Joe Lansdale, Ramsey Campbell, Tim Waggoner etc but also some names new to me. As with all such collections there are hits and misses but in this one, for me, more hits than misses. There’s some solid advice in here, for example a very good essay on character by Gary Braunbeck I found especially useful. I’d say this was skewed more towards a beginning writer with some essays covering the basics that you should know. Publishing advice from over a decade ago is, no surprise, a little dated though.
Another good collection is Where Nightmares Come From
with a much better cover than the Writers Workshop (imho). Some of the same names recur (Barker, Lansdale) but it’s a much more up to date (well, 2017) than the Writers Workshop (is this like Blakes 7? where is the apostrophe?) There are more interviews in here than in Writers Workshop and I find written interviews a bit dull to be honest but the quality of the majority of the essays offsets this in my view. Again it’s skewed towards beginners but with enough substance that I felt was helpful it also earns a place on the shelf. It’s a bit more eclectic too with a nice essay on Z Nation from Craig Engler, one of the shows creators. Big fan of that show and looking forward to Black Summer 2. I’ve recently complete a rewatch of the entire series and Engler’s essay was written at the time they were working on series 4 and covers some of the origins of the series. Another essay I really liked was on Creepypasta by Michael Paul Gonzalez. Crystal Lake have another essay collection (It’s Alive) that looks like it’s in the same vein which looks interesting. But I’m doing this to cut down on the number of writing books – so I should resist, right?
I was going to move onto specific media next (I have some playwriting, scriptwriting and comics writing books) but I have a late entry to this Nuts & Bolts essay collections category with the Pocket Workshop from Clarion West which literally arrived today. I also feel that I should complete the Nuts & Bolts by going through the editing books I have. So that’s the direction you should expect next time.
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