I’m always looking for ways to improve my writing. Some of the ways I do this are by attending workshops/conferences, talking to other writers, reading books as a writer (yes, it’s different to reading a book as a reader, I do both!), and one of my favorites, reading books about writing.
Through recommendations, I’ve come across several books that have been helpful in one way or another. I don’t like every book about writing that I read and I don’t always agree with the advice and suggestions, but they are all great to get myself into a frame of mind where I am critical and open to experiment with my writing. This is the first part of this particular review series, I’ll post other reviews once in a while when I discover other books that I find useful.
The Fiction Writer’s Workshop
I came across this book a few years ago when I started writing “seriously”. By that, I mean I sat down regularly to write, not just when the mood struck every full moon. I’m not an English Major, and I had never attended a creative writing course in my life. Basically, I didn’t know where to start. People usually say: “just sit down and write!” and that’s exactly what I did. I wrote by instinct, and I learned a great deal through trial and error. But I also felt the need to find resources to learn more. I needed to better understand the tools of the craft I was so intent on learning. An acquaintance recommended me this book and I decided to buy it. It seemed like the right place to start. It definitely had the perfect title, a workshop about writing fiction is exactly what I needed.
I’d recommend this book to everyone, newbies and seasoned writers alike. I can see some people rolling their eyes and thinking “I’ve heard this all before”, and maybe you have, but this book set up in a way that everyone can benefit from it. Novakovich shows a deep understanding of the intricacies of fiction writing and communicates it with brilliant simplicity.
Each chapter discusses an element of fiction and offers exercises as a means to explore and understand those elements. I find that the exercises are also helpful on those days when I feel like I need a little push, or simply to get my imagination going (it does get rusty if I don’t use it often!). The last chapter is one that I found particularly helpful. It’s about the process every writer dreads: revision. It offers some great advice and questions you can ask yourself while going through your book about plot, POV, dialogue, timing, etc.
To follow the book, it’s not necessary to do all the exercises, and actually you don’t even have to read the chapters in order. I’ve read the book once from the first to the last page, but I’ve also gone back to read particular chapters.
This is not a “How-to” manual or a set of “Do’s and Don’ts”, and it doesn’t try to be either of those things. Ultimately, there are no hard and fast rules in writing, so be wary of any book that claims otherwise. But I will say this: to reach the point where you can pull off anything, you need to know your craft and the tools of your craft. I think this book is a great way to start.
My favorite advice from this book:
- Don’t wait for inspiration to write.
- You are a writer, as long as you are writing.