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.