Monday, July 6, 2009

Writer's Book of Wisdom--Review

Every summer I go on a reading orgy. I read lots of books that are what I call brain candy. They are quick, fun, and not in any way taxing on my brain. I tend to read of lot of  urban fantasy--fantasy novels set in the contemporary world.  

But, eventually, I start to think that, for some reason, I really ought to read some professional books. I love to read books about writing. I can read books on pedagogy and theory, but I am frankly not as patient with them. I like to get to the nuts and the bolts. So, after reading ten or twelve fantasies (and some graphic novels, too--almost forgot those), I pulled out a book I purchased in May with a birthday book card I received and began to read it.

And a few days ago I finished reading The Writer’s Book of Wisdom: 101 Rules for Mastering Your Craft by Steven Taylor Goldsberry. It is set up as a list of rules. The author himself acknowledges at the end that some of the “rules” contradict each other. That is okay. Different people need different guidance. There is something in here for just about everyone. With each rule lasting only a page or two long, the book reads quickly. That is, if all you do is read it.

It is intended to be more than a quick read. It is intended to be inspirational--get the reader energized to trade reading for writing. As I usually find in these books it tends to slant heavily to narrative fiction. That is somewhat useful to me professionally, as I need to teach narrative writing. It is not as useful to me as a writer. I tend to write poetry and nonfiction. There were some ideas that I found useful for those genres as well.

Some of the rules are gems that I am going to use with my writing classes next year. They will be easy to build mini-lessons around. For instance, in discussion of dialogue, Goldsberry breaks that topic into three of his rules. It reminded me that, as a teacher I need to break down the processes more for my students. It also, by its very structure, exhibits and promotes the idea of strategic writing. Have a plan going in. Know what you want to accomplish. Think of your audience to help figure out the best way to accomplish the goal you set yourself.

I am working on getting a list of nonfiction writing titles together for inclusion in a classroom library. While I would not put this book in the same league as Writing Down the Bones or Writing Toward Home, it is in some ways more accessible to beginning writers, I think. It is informative, interesting, casual in tone, and well worth the time.

©2009-Art Belliveau


Melissa B. said...

Thanks for the tip. I'm always looking for ways to open up the minds of my high school cherubs!

Art said...

I will be having a few more books to recommend before the end of the summer. Keep watching.

J said...

Your blog is an excellent teacher resource. I admit I didn't read the book you are working on right now.

I have added a link to your blog here on my free teacher tool site:

.... am looking forward to networking with you,

Steu Mann, M. Ed.
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