Sunday, 12 October 2008

The New Writer's Handbook (Volume Two)

In the three decades that I've been writing I've read many books about the craft. While the books which help me structure my work or write convincing dialogue are useful, I prefer those which give me some insight into how real writers think and feel about their work.

Ever since it was first published in the 1980s, I've delighted in Taking Reality By Surprise, which was edited by Susan Sellers. It's full of first-hand accounts of how real writers—published and unpublished—write and work. I've bought many copies over the years and have given several away: the others I've just worn out. It's a dated now, but it is still wonderful. And now I've found a new book which rivals it, and which promises to last me another twenty years.

The New Writer's Handbook (Volume 2), from Scarletta Press, contains over sixty essays on writing, publication, and the writing life, across all genres and media, written by people who know what they're doing. I've been reading it for days now, dipping in and out of the various sections with increasing delight. There are articles about writing fiction and nonfiction, journalism and autobiography; pitching and marketing your work; the business side of writing; and pieces which analyze and encourage creativity and motivation.

There is a useful article about multiple submissions by A C Crispin of Writer Beware, and an article about short story writing by Stephen Moran, which first appeared on the Willesden Herald blog (and which I linked to a little while ago, here). There's some excellent advice about how to use tension and conflict in writing by best-selling author Tess Gerritsen; and a lovely little observation about writing even when you think you can't, from Kirby Larson. While not all of the contributors have names I recognized, all of them have something valuable to say: there's not a single weak piece in the whole collection, and each time I reread it, I discover something new.

It's a fabulous book, and I recommend it very highly. Treat yourself to a copy now. You won't be sorry.


Sally Zigmond said...

Like the good, obedient (did someone say, easily led?) girl that I am, I have done as instructed and a copy is winging its way here as I type.

Jane Smith said...

Do you have Taking Reality, too, Sally? I just wondered, because I've loved it for so long but have never found anyone else who had even heard of it, let alone enjoyed it like I have.

I'm going to recommend Bad Science as soon as I get around to it, too. It's great for non-fiction writers, and the blog is a laugh a minute. If you're nerdy and obsessive, like me.

Sally Zigmond said...

Yep, I have it in my collection as well as Delighting the Heart although it's a while since I read either. I will find it and re-acquaint myself.

I expect you've also read Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Naimark Goldberg, another excellent volume.

Jane Smith said...

Yes, I have those too and like them a lot. Another favourite is "Moritfication" edited by Robin Robertson--not that it gives any help with writing.

Governance Geek said...

My copy of The New Writer's Handbook (Vol 2) just arrived. It looks packed with useful stuff - many thanks for the recommendation, Jane!

Jane Smith said...

Apologies for the comment-spam which appeared here just now: I've deleted it, and have switched on the comment moderation feature in an attempt to stop it happening again.