- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (March 15, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060560444
- ISBN-13: 978-0060560447
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 72 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #388,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Write Away: One Novelist's Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life Paperback – March 15, 2005
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“An impressively thorough and down-to-earth guide...a perfect DIY guide for the determined new novelist.” (Sunday Times (London))
“Elizabeth George knows her stuff. How well she knows it is readily apparent in Write Away.” (Bookreporter.com)
“An inclusive and enlightening examination of George’s thoughts on the craft of writing.” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
“You should buy the book to learn her novel-writing specifics. They’re there in spades.” (Orange County Register)
“A fabulous book for writers.” (Birmingham News)
About the Author
Elizabeth George is the New York Times bestselling author of sixteen novels of psychological suspense, one book of nonfiction, and two short story collections. Her work has been honored with the Anthony and Agatha awards, the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière, and the MIMI, Germany's prestigious prize for suspense fiction. She lives in Washington State.
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Seeing the process behind the creation of something enables us to see it in a different light, and appreciate the final event in a way that is impossible without that knowledge.
Unlike many authors' works on "how I write," this is not a biography, not an egotistical wander down memory lane and certainly not an ethereally uplifting of the craft into the realm of either-you-have-it-or-you-don't.
George starts at the beginning, not giving us a useless miasma of "you get inspired by something" ... she talks about where she gets her ideas and then what she does with them in order to get them to work. Sometimes they don't, but she gives a blueprint (yes, with real questions that she feels one needs to know about the story) in order to assess the value of the idea and begins to discover it.
And she gets points with me for the simple fact that her character sketch questions are SO much more necessary than "what color is the character's hair?" and "What did he eat for dinner last night?" Because, let's face it, unless last night's dinner killed him, it really makes no difference to most plots.
She also tackles the relationship between plot and character and how they are symbiotic entities, informing and building on each other.
At this point, I am a little over halfway through, and it is already in my top 5 books on writing craft . And while it leans toward the mystery/crime genre, her points and "system" are not tied to that genre.
She gives examples from her own work (the Lynley series), and from other mystery writers (P.D. James, Dennis Lehane). She introduces the exerpts telling you what they are demonstrating and then afterwards, picks them apart, so you aren't left wandering around aimlessly in them wondering which part of the exerpt the author was referring to.
And her chapter on POV is arguably the best I have EVER read (and I've read a lot because it s of particular interest to me). She gives examples of how people have pushed the use of each POV, why it works and what the pros and cons are. Including the usual hang-ups for amateur novelists and the limitations that you have to live with.
As if all this is not already fantastic, at the end she summarizes her process "in a nutshell," so that you can see in abridged form, what you have read through, and which gives you a means to begin and then to immediately locate the long chapter that deals with that particular aspect of the process.
The treat of this book is that it is a real craft book, written by a prolific author who is sharing tangible information on HOW TO ACTUALLY SET ABOUT WRITING A NOVEL. You know: Step 1...then Step 2....
While it will not be the natural approach for everyone (maybe not even many), it is actually a useful approach for writers to explore.
In my (very humble) opinion, this book is much more "useful" as a book on craft and novel-writing-approach than the oft-recommended Stephen King's "On Writing," which I have read and enjoyed, but is more of a memoir of King's life, of his struggles and of the need of the successful author to be willing to succeed through sheer bloody-minded determination. All of these have their place, but George talks about her process in a way that the reader can actually apply it (beyond just "apply butt-glue and never give up").
And above that, her inclusions of exerpts from her own "Journal of a Novel," detailing her own hesitations, fears, self-doubts...well, that is priceless. I especially loved her thoughts on John Steinbeck:
"I am filled with doubts. Why isn't Steinbeck filled with doubts? I think he's had one lousy day of doubt throughout the time of East of Eden. Is it because he has so many outside interests? Probably. I have so few. I've never been a hobby person, and when I start working on a project, all I can think of is finishing the damn thing. And there's Steinbeck, building desks, carving oars for his sons, buying a boat, decorating his little house in New York. Should a Nobel Laureate have a little more angst? I'd certainly appreciate it.
- Journal of a Novel, October 12, 1994"
George gives many examples from her work and others to bring forth ideas that resonate. Though some a skilled writer might not adopt for they are already set in their ways, some ideas are ones worth looking at for relevance to ones own work.
This is not the place to start if this is your first day as a writer. There are other books for that, but if you have been practicing your craft and stumble across the conception that you have hit a wall, this book can help you find away around those blocks that stop us from being better writers. Specific things to develop in your writing to make it shine. And easily done in this guide instead of an entire book the focuses on one thing.
You do have to get used to George's journey, and how she has adopted her process. As I mentioned, some are ones one will use, and others are going to be left in the toolbox, and each person will pick different tools.