Sunday, August 17, 2008

Gotham Writers' Workshop: Writing Fiction

I was really flattered by A&C Black deciding to send me some writing books to review. I know a lot of the MFB readers are writers themselves, either published or hopefuls and thought that covering some of the newer writing reference books on MFB would be of help.

Here then is my first review:

Gotham Writer's Workshop - Writing Fiction

Gotham Writers Workshop is America's leading private creative writing school. This is their website:

Writing fiction walks you through the fundamentals of writing fiction - character, plot, point of view, description, dialogue, setting, amongst others. Not so different from many other writing guide books out there, you would think. And you are right - it covers a lot of similar ground to others but it presents these subjects afresh and therein lies the fun.

It is one of the most accessible books I've read on the craft of writing. You can literally jump between chapters and each chapter in itself is broken down into informative and informal lessons giving advice and guidance on matters such as Chapter 10 - Revision: Real Writers Revise

It is broken down into the following:

First Drafts

Prelude to Revision

The Revision Process

The Big Picture


Point of View



amongst others.

It is a concise and thorough guide and one that I enjoyed as an aspiring writer. The book deals with many questions and the thing is: they don't dolly up writing into something amazing and wonderful. They clearly state that it is hard work, they give examples of well known books to look at and there is a short story, Cathedral by Raymond Carver which they refer to during the course of the book which is included in the Appendix.

Each chapter is written by a different tutor and it is interesting to read through - you can tell they sourced the best of their course to put together this book and unlike some other writerly books, this one does not intimidate or talk "down" to the prospective writer. I would rate this very highly, and it has taken space next to my all-time favourite writers guide, On Writing by Stephen King.

There are bits of excercise you can do, after each chapter and section and these are aimed to help and make you consider your own thinking. Again, not so new, you might think, compared to some other writing guides. These excercised however are focussed entirely on you and your writing, as an example, in the chapter: The Business of Writing: Driving yourself nuts for fun and profit, the "Your Turn" excercise made me hesitate a bit and I felt guilty because I examined my own life and fell way short. This is what it says: Make a list of ten things that you can do to make writing more a priority in your life. This can include anything from waking up earlier to hiring a baby-sitter to excercising (to give yourself more energy) to signing up for a writing class. Post this list somewhere, above your desk or on the regrigerator. Then really do those things, at least some of them. The best way to become a writer is to get serious about being a writer. And the best time to start is right now.

More direct encouragement, you surely do not need. I'm signing off now, to go and write whilst my Sunday roast is cooking. Happy writing and reading!

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