Friday, 24 April 2015
Review: Gotham Writers' Workshop Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide From New York's Acclaimed Creative Writing School
Gotham Writers' Workshop Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide From New York's Acclaimed Creative Writing School by Alexander Steele
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
One of the pull quotes on the cover of this book (from a review by The Writer) says: "Explains all the basics of writing fiction in a simple, easy-to-understand manner." That's an excellent summary.
For a beginning writer, this will be tremendously valuable as an introduction to the important factors you need to consider when writing fiction: character, plot, point of view, description, dialogue, setting, pacing, voice, theme, and revision. (There's a closing chapter on the business of writing, but it's a bit outdated and almost entirely about traditional publishing.)
For an intermediate writer, which is what I consider myself to be, it's a good revision text with the occasional useful bit of advice, like "give your characters contradictions" or "after you write your first draft, decide what the story is about and rewrite with that in mind". If you've spent much time learning from other sources, though, whether it be podcasts like Writing Excuses or other introductory books or writer blogs or workshops, most of the content will be thoroughly familiar, well-trodden ground.
Although genre fiction is mentioned (in a patronising kind of way) in the first chapter, and the classes at the Gotham Writers' Workshop include some on genre fiction, almost all of the examples that are used throughout the book are from literary classics of the 19th and 20th centuries. There's nothing wrong with that - they're widely acknowledged as examples of good writing, and serve to show that different authors take very different approaches to the "rules" - but if you're not that familiar with literary fiction, some of the points may pass you by.
There are exercises, which would be valuable if the skills are new to you.
Recommended, but primarily for beginners.
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