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So You Want To Write Paperback – August 1, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
"Work is its own cure. You have to like it better than being loved," writes novelist and poet Marge Piercy in the poem that prefaces her and novelist Ira Wood's (The Kitchen Man) guide for careerist writers, So You Want to Write: How to Master the Craft of Writing Fiction and the Personal Narrative. "This book is a product of workshops we have given for many years," write the authors, and those not lucky enough to have participated in the workshops can now benefit from their no-nonsense wisdom. Eschewing the current trend in process-based writing classes and guides, Piercy and Wood urge writers to read critically and often; to ask themselves specific, exacting questions about their characters and plots; to complete the book's writing exercises; to do research in order to make a piece of writing believable; to participate in some kind of community of writers; and numerous other practical steps. Readers will appreciate the hardcore approach of these two dedicated writers.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Best-selling writer Piercy and her husband, novelist/publisher Wood, have been coteaching writers' workshops for about ten years. In an attempt to reach a larger audience, they have reproduced their master course in this useful manual. Advising against how-to books even their own the two authors encourage would-be writers to read as much as possible (included is a list of recommended books), as reading plays the key role in the process of learning how to write. The authors go on to discuss character, plot, dialog, and some of the nuts and bolts of the publishing industry. They also discuss how much writers can expect to earn, what those rejection letters from publishers really mean, and seven things to remember when the writing becomes intensely personal. The exercises at chapter ends are short and to the point, just enough to get the juices flowing. Because of the clear writing style and the authors' reputations, this book, although joining an already saturated market, is worth the shelf space. Recommended for public libraries. Lisa J. Cihlar, Monroe P.L., WI
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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The first exercise suggests you go back in time to a place in your childhood and literally walk through it in your mind's eye. Then write down every move, every sight, sound, smell, taste. This is a vital exercise to writing a memoir or a scene in a novel, whether action or just moving a character through dialog as the background movement. The ability to express minute physical descriptions is something I admire in Piercy's work as in the final paragraphs of Vida. Vida walks back and forth across the street from a hotel, suspecting the authorities have her under surveillance and are ready to arrest her. Piercy uses this technique and it's stunning writing. You are THERE, on the street as the snow begins to fall, going in and out of shops, unable to cross the street as Vida's very legs are tingling with the fear of being hunted. I had to read it five times in a row because it was so incredibly portrayed.)
Other exercises have you learn how to manage dialog, plots, titles, short stories, more. This is probably one of the best books I've read on the craft of writing, from a writer I deeply respect. It is not a substitute for a critique group or a good editor but it is a wonderful resource and exercise book. Highly recommended.
There exercises, some to polish dialog, and my favorite exercise, a sort of checklist to get to know your characters that reads like a questionnaire for a dating service! There are anecdotes about other famous writing coaches, such as the story of a short novel that goes from coach Maxine Kumin to Joyce Carol Oates. Kunin advises the author that the work is going to be a short novella. "No, it's a short novel of 180 pages" declares Oates. When the manuscript was finished, Joyce then tells the author "Treat this as if you are going to die. And this is what you will leave behind." Pithy. Meaningful. This is good writing coaching. This is a warm, wonderful book especially for the memoir or fiction writer.