Writing About Writing About Writing Review 23

And so the return of Writing About Writing About Writing and a new review.

In the previous post I explained that one of the types of writitng books I have on the shelf is ‘Exercise and Prompt’ books. I also promised: “I’m going to be using those exercise and prompt books to practise and come up with new stories – I’ll blog about the experience, about the stories, about the submissions and rejections and acceptances, warts and all.”

To start I read What If? by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter

and didn’t do any of the exercises. They failed to spark anything new despite their promise at the beginning of the book that: “The raconteur will be able, at last, to write his story, and the competent composer will to come up (sic – I think that should be ‘will be able to come up’) with fresh and original ideas”

There is good advice in here – “No matter how widely published, a writer always needs to begin again.”

And I went up and down on whether to keep the book or discard it – it’s a bit muddled as it aims in some exercises for the beginning writer, a lot of the exercises are ‘bit pieces’  – write several first lines for example, and the student examples are not that useful (to me at least). But there are some very useful exercises in here – especially in the sections on story elements, invention and transformation and mechanics.

But, in the end, I failed to write a story using any excercise in this book. Maybe it was due to them not being prompts as such, but exercises?

As an example – opened to a random page and taking the first exercise I came across: “Using the first person, write a self-deceiving portrait in which the narrator is not the person she thinks she is – either more or less admirable. You must give the reader clues that the narrator is skewing the truth.” To me that’s not a story prompt – and maybe that’s not what the book is aiming for – after all it is a writing exercise book not a story prompt book. But I read that exercise and it doesn’t prompt anything for me…

Maybe I’ll have more luck with the next on the list:

The Observation Deck by Naomi Epel – “A Toolkit for Writers.” On the back it says it is an “ingenious solution for writer’s block,” and that it’s an inspiration deck. So maybe I’ll be able to write a story this month using this book? Tune in next month to see if I do…

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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