A brief but energetic guide that makes good use of sample passages to turn readers into practitioners of clear, effective...

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A NOVEL APPROACH

TO WRITING YOUR FIRST BOOK (OR YOUR BEST ONE)

A common-sense approach to turning inspiration into a novel.

In this how-to guide for aspiring writers, London (Virginia’s War, 2009) offers a series of simple recommendations for writers looking for help in researching a topic, suggestions for maintaining motivation and advice on avoiding grammatical errors. London draws heavily on his own experience writing military historical fiction, but to illustrate his points, he also makes use of numerous excerpts from well-known books: e.g., Girl with a Pearl Earring is an example of deft research; A Scandal in Bohemia opens an exploration of the character-driven story. A discussion of pacing uses Debt to Pleasure and The Da Vinci Code as particularly effective examples of the extremes plots may reach. A concluding section addresses polishing and revising the completed manuscript—London recommends hiring an editor—and the importance of book reviews. The book’s approach to fiction writing, particularly historical fiction, is on the whole reasonable, urging readers to develop literary skills by reading widely and evaluating other works. The tone is encouraging but not given to cheerleading; it’s directed at the reader who prefers a tutor to a support group. The book’s brevity, also one of its assets, allows targeted analysis with a clear, incisive point regarding a scene from, say, Gone with the Wind. London doesn’t get bogged down in extended literary criticism, and his book has its limitations. Some will find the dogmatic tone excessive—“Your first commitment is to write one thousand words a day. Every day”—while descriptivists will bristle at the depiction of Eats, Shoots, and Leaves as the modern authority on grammar. Minor but notable mistakes may catch the reader’s eye: London treats “Strunk and White” as a title instead of a pair of authors, and Jane Austen fans will cringe at multiple references to “Elizabeth Bennett.”

A brief but energetic guide that makes good use of sample passages to turn readers into practitioners of clear, effective writing.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0990612100

Page Count: 98

Publisher: Vire Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2014

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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