A succinct, clear, and encouraging companion for aspiring writers.

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STEERING THE CRAFT

A TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY GUIDE TO SAILING THE SEA OF STORY

Practical writing advice from an acclaimed storyteller.

Prolific writer Le Guin (The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories Volume One: Where on Earth, 2012, etc.)—author of more than 60 books of fiction, poetry, drama, and translation and winner of the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, among other awards—brings her experience as a writing workshop leader to this revision of her 1998 publication. In 10 chapters, the author considers basic writing topics, such as sound, rhythm, grammar, syntax, parts of speech (especially verbs, adverbs, and adjectives), and point of view. Each chapter contains examples from literature: an excerpt from Austen’s Mansfield Park demonstrates the author’s “vivid and versatile” syntax; a “glaringly bright scene” from Dickens’ Little Dorrit shows the power of a “single word…repeated like a hammer blow.” In addition, Le Guin has created short exercises “to clarify and intensify” awareness and hone technique. One exercise, “Am I Saramago,” (alluding to the Portuguese novelist who uses no punctuation), asks readers to write a 150-350–word narrative with no commas, periods, or paragraph breaks. A four-part exercise on point of view calls for writing a 200-350–word narrative and retelling it from the point of view of participants, a detached narrator, an observer-narrator, and an involved author. Le Guin guides readers in evaluating their work by themselves and in giving and responding to peer critiques. “While being critiqued,” she advises, “make notes of what people say about your story, even if the comments seem stupid. They may make sense later.” The book’s title emphasizes the author’s belief that writing is essentially a craft that can be learned, practiced, and improved through attention and self-discipline. “Forced to weigh your words,” she writes, “you find out which are the Styrofoam and which are the heavy gold.”

A succinct, clear, and encouraging companion for aspiring writers.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-544-61161-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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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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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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