Thursday, 13 October 2016

C is for Craft - Resources for the Novice Writer

Everything You Want To Know About Writing and Much, Much More: The Whole Kit and Kaboodle, by Sally Odgers

I'm exhausted just from typing in that title! Like the title, the book is very, very long and has everything. It took me days to read it. But of course, a book like this is not designed to be read straight through as if it were a novel. I only did so because I was going to review it.

Everything (I'm going to refer to the book here as 'Everything' because I just can't keep typing in that title) can be used in several ways. It is an astonishing reference, but the material is organised and laid out, with frequent exercises, so that it can also be used as a do-it-yourself course on the craft of writing. I say do-it-yourself, but it would work equally well as a text for a secondary or tertiary level course in creative writing. It's well written, too. Explanations are accessible without being patronising, and the tone is cheerful and breezy, making the book a sufficiently entertaining read that there is no sense of ploughing through a textbook.

Sally Odgers has been writing for a long time - her career spans six decades - and although one can see from reading Everything that she knows what she's talking about, her vast oevre shows where this knowledge came from. There is none of the facile prating that one too often sees in 'how to' books. It's all sound, solid knowledge, garnered over a lifetime in the business.

The striking thing to me about this book is the sheer scope of it. It covers, I think, everything the beginning writer will need to learn - from grammar and style to the unwritten rules of dealing with traditional publishers. It is a fantastic tool, and in all 700-odd pages I did not find a single statement with which I disagreed. It's really sound, and if one were going to buy just one book about the craft, I do not believe one could do better than this one. At $59 for the paperback it may seem expensive, but then one can't compare textbook prices to fiction prices. Some of my law textbooks were over $200, and you couldn't just get away with only one book. I consider it an absolute bargain at the price. I will be recommending it to my editing clients from now on, and in this it will be replacing Stephen King's sound, but annoying, book, On Writing

As well as writing, Sally is, like me, an editor, and her firm offers a very comprehensive range of services, including tutoring and promotion. Check out her website HERE.

How I Are Becomed a Very Much Gooder Author, by Sevastian Winters

Winters' book is very different. It doesn't cover the field, nor does it purport to. It is a collection of lessons the author has learned, often at great cost, over the course of his writing career. It's well worth the read, just from the point of view of avoiding those 'here be dragons' moments, and Winters' charming, self-deprecating style makes it a pleasant and entertaining experience for the reader. I didn't quite agree with everything in it - Winters' definition of omniscient point-of-view is, in my opinion, not quite right - but then I don't have to agree with everything a writer says to appreciate his work. There are some very fine observations on self-editing, and on 'going there', which make it well worth the read. You can get it HERE. The cover seems to have been changed to show the author as one Harry Widdifield, although Winters' name still appears in the front matter, so I hope this is not a pirated version. I have not been able to discover any other versions for sale.

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