NaNoWriMo Month Inspiration

Northeast Library

NaNoWriMo Month Inspiration

Reviews of Books on Writing

Several guides to writing have been selected by the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) Committee. Here are reviews of four of these books that can help you on your journey to writing a novel.

Beyond the First Draft: the art of fiction, by John Casey, W.W. Norton & Company: New York, 2014

Casey tries to capture what writing is all about by telling stories of his education at the University of Iowa writing program that emphasizes comparison between writing and the other arts. He begins with surveys of the other arts, such as music or sculpture, regarding how to begin a work or how to develop a theme. We learn a great deal about how the analogy or comparison operates when working from one art and applying it to another. According to Casey, this perspective is very important to writing that follows the shape of ideas that emerge from the practice of writing. The author’s approach is indirect; he wants to get us to think about the process of writing from a point of view that is more comprehensive than the usual writing guide.

The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop: a guide to the Craft of Fiction, by Stephen Koch, Modern Library: New York, 2003

What is so helpful about Koch’s book is that it gives precise and exact descriptions of the real writing process: how to begin, how to proceed, and how to flesh out a sketchy start. All these steps require improvisation, tinkering, speed sketching, and not inspiration. What becomes apparent is that writing only demands a feeling, a sense of things, a perspective on character and nothing else. The rest is given as we proceed in discovering what we come to know about the characters and situations. Writing is discovery and that is why we must just plunge into the process of writing.

Building Great Sentences: How to Write the Kinds of Sentences You Love to Read, by Landon Brooks, Penguin Group: New York, 2013

Here we get an introduction to the different types of sentences we encounter in writing: initial sentences, expositional sentences, and concluding sentences. What is interesting about these sentences is that each has a different function. Initial sentences lean into the subject and have a force that begins a topic. Expositional sentences explain and carry out tasks important to the essay or narrative. Concluding sentences summarize the previous set of ideas. Distinctions like these permit us to really sense how sentences work in different ways to convey meaning.

The Novelist’s Lexicon: Writers on the Words that Define their work, Ed. Villa Gillet/Le Monde, Columbia University Press: New York, 2011

This book is a treasure. Here we find a series of paragraphs placed under the important terms that explicate the activity of writing. Each paragraph is by a different author and reveals the author’s thinking on the subject. Thus, we get many different statements about the activity of writing, from description to characterization, set in the different styles of these various authors. Each definition of each term is like a jewel placed in a jewel case. Please read this book.