Thursday, 13 February 2014

Read to Write

As a writer it’s easy to convince yourself that reading books about writing is as important as writing itself. It isn’t, I know, but sometimes a little help is welcome. The following three titles are ones I’ve found really useful.

WRITING FICTION WORKBOOK  by Lisa Selvidge, Ashley Stokes and Ian Nettleton

[ISBN  978 1 84728 250 7 available from Amazon]

This is self-published. I can’t imagine why a publisher didn’t snap it up because it’s one of the best of its kind especially if you’re at the beginning of your writing life or helping others get started.

Dealing mainly with short stories, the book begins by suggesting ways of stimulating ideas and what to do with them once they arrive. The middle section concerns plotting, characters and point of view. How to set about re-writing and re-crafting forms the final section.

Within this structure are innumerable examples of how other writers have tackled the hurdles of writing, references to useful websites and other resources and empty boxes for scribbling your own comments and ideas.

I’ve dipped into this book more times than I’ve faced a blank page.

HOW TO WRITE FICTION [and think about it] by Robert Graham

[pub. Palgrave/Macmillan  ISBN 1 4039 9315 7]

The subtitle suggests why this book is different from many others of its ilk. Robert Graham believes in what he calls ‘reflective learning’ – self-evaluation and reflection projects, both designed to ‘develop the habit of examining not only the creative processes....but ...your growing understanding of the kind of writer you are...’

There are innumerable helpful ideas of the technical kind and what Robert Graham calls ‘Writing Bursts’ which he describes as ‘ten-minute exercises designed to get you writing fit.’

For more experienced writers keen to extend their creativity, this is an excellent book.

CREATIVE WRITING – a workbook with readings ed. Linda Anderson

[pub. Routledge/Open University ISBN 0415 372437]

For me this was a serendipity, though weighty, find. It’s part of an OU Creative Writing course but can be used individually. A very practical workbook with activities designed to produce writing in several genres, it was written by published authors with tutoring experience.

Each aspect of writing covered is supported by a wide range of examples from published work. As the editor says, ‘Reading is the chief way to train yourself as a writer.’ The writing exercises are practical and designed to ‘...engender your own abundant stack of material.’

I paid £22.99 for this book but it was a worthwhile investment.

There are many how-to-write books sitting on my shelf, all of which offer suggestions and help to get the best words down in the best possible order. For me, these three are the best.

Heather Shaw

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