Good Reading : May 2010
MAY 2010 ı goodreading 15 writing in the US than in Australia or New Zealand; Lamott as a memoirist and humourist and Goldberg as a poet; but they are both world famous for these writing manuals. Bird by Bird is named for a school paper Goldberg's little brother had to write -- one he'd had three months to complete and left until the day before it was due. It was on birds, and their father's advice 'Just take it bird by bird, buddy', struck Lamott as good advice for any writer intimidated by the craft. The book is really more about getting started than about breaking down the novel into its parts, or providing any for mula for success. It has the reassuring chapter entitled 'Shitty First Drafts' and advice on coping with writer's block and crushing self-doubt, among other neuroses. Lamott's neuroses are frequently funny and her hard-won battles to write are inspiring and realistic. Goldberg's approach is to write as though it is a Zen practice. Write every day, she says, and when you're not writing, you are still a writer. It's an inspiring way of approaching the craft as a religion, or a way of life. Famously featured (or parodied, depending on your point of view) in the Charlie Kaufman/Spike Jonze film Adaptation, Robert McKee would have to be the biggest name in writing seminars. His for mer students include Peter Jackson and Paul Haggis.The book of the seminar is called Story: Substance, structure, style and the principles of screenwriting. He emphasises having respect for the audience above all. By most accounts, it's a good field guide on the road to making stuff happen to your characters that people want to read about. Another screenwriting guide that could easily be used by novelists is Which Lie Did I Tell? by William Goldman, the writer behind The Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy and he Sundance Kid and Marathon Man. Like King's book, it's partly autobiography. It's also partly cautionary tale, entirely salacious and an entertaining romp through Hollywood. It's more up-to-date than its predecessor, Adventures in the Screen Trade, and it dissects the films of both the Coen Brothers and the Far relly Brothers. The Writers' Journey by Christopher Vogler is also pitched at screenwriters, but its emphasis on storytelling makes it a popular choice for teachers and university lecturers of creative writing. The book takes the concept of 'The Hero's Jour ney', from the psychology of Carl Jung and the mythic studies of Joseph Campbell, and creates a framework of good stories.Vogler provides numerous examples of successful films that follow this framework but also, refreshingly, he is upfront about the criticism of his approach and acknowledges that his ideas aren't always appropriate. David Lodge, author of Nice Work, Small World and Changing Places, all set on university campuses, has worked for many years as a university lecturer in English. His novels work on several levels, containing parody, classical allusion and simple romances all at once, and much can be lear nt on the craft of writing simply by reading them carefully. However, his book The Art of Fiction dissects the way writers, contemporary and historical, address the various concepts of writing fiction, such as suspense, point of view, introducing a character and magic realism. He quotes from many authors, including Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Muriel Spark, Milan Kundera, Vladimir Nabokov, Fay Weldon and his good self. Another university text is Writing Fiction: A guide to the narrative craft, b y Janet Bur roway and Elizabeth Stuckey- French. This tome is very structured and geared towards a disciplined lear ning of the craft. It contains essays on story arc, point of view, theme and revision as well as excerpts or short stories (many of which are compelling and astounding in and of themselves) and writing exercises. This book is in its seventh edition, testament to its longstanding appeal. A text recommended by Janet Bur roway herself is Jerome Ster n's Making Shapely Fiction, a neat and accessible book that spends its first third talking about 'The Shapes of Fiction', which are ways for a story to evolve, be it through the introduction of a surprise visitor or a journey for the hero. Each of the shapes provides a good springboard of ideas for the novice writer faced with an intimidatingly blank screen. Its second two-thirds contains an 'Alphabet for Writers': definitions and tips on everything from accuracy, allegory and allusion to trust, voice and zigzag (aka 'microplotting').This book is clear, amusing and inspiring. In 2006, Louise Doughty, published author of five novels, wrote a column for the UK's Telegraph entitled A Novel in a Year. Every second week she'd set an exercise for beginning writers, encouraging readers to send in their homework, and every other week she'd explore an aspect of writing that, she'd reason, everyone, novice or veteran, could lear n more about: dialogue, character, cliché, editing. She maintains that first-time writers with a nor mal amount of commitments ( job, family, mortgage, etc) will take around three years to write a novel. But she offers this book, based on the year of columns, to help get them through the first of those three. This is another in the vein of pragmatic, encouraging guides. There's nothing more encouraging than hearing about favourite authors' struggles with self-doubt and writer's block only to come through with novels categorical here’s nothing more encouraging than hearing about favourite authors’ struggles with self-doubt and writer’s block only to come through with novels we love and revere.