01/12/2008. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Palgrave Macmillan. 205 page indexed enlarged paperback. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-4039-8811-9.
check out website: www.palgrave.com
For you neo-writers out there, the main choices when starting out is to join a creative writing class or be gung-ho enough to just get out there, self-educate and write. Whatever the choice, you'll always be on the look-out for clues and advice to ensure you're doing the right things and more importantly, the right way for you. It's also like acting in that writing is a very insecure profession and certainly why in the UK it makes sense to have a bread-and-butter job to keep you going. I hope that's true the world over.
Amanda Boulter's book 'Writing Fiction' is, as its sub-title suggests, explains a lot about the mechanics of putting a story together, stringing together the opinions of various writers on the subject. A lot of which I also agreed with. Rather interestingly, for a book centred on general fiction, it does use examples from our genre showing that common elements are found throughout. So, you see examples from 'Harry Potter' to 'Star Wars' and 'The Matrix' mixed in with the classics.
There's even a feature on how we perceive writers and how SF writer Alice Sheldon did it under her pseudonym James Tiptree Jr. Although I doubt Boulter is an SF fan, after all two of her examples are based on films not novels, any potential SF or fantasy writer believing themselves to be out of their comfort zone shouldn't have any problems here. I hope a lot of the time you'll be nodding your head in agreement over certain practices and with others willing to explore them. A lot of them time, I came away from this book with the belief that I could go back and re-digest chapters later as I adapted to the ideas which is always a good sign.
Picking out particular chapters here would be difficult. I mean, is it because it drew my attention or more importantly, would it be of significant interest to you. In the end I opted for using Chapter 7: Exploring Possibilities because of how it covers writer's block as its something most writers experience at some time or other.
Boulter gives a good case that there are three aspects to it and how to sort them out so at least you aren't left pondering how to get out of it and get something written down. Something else Boulter hits on the head is a need to write every day.
Granted that it is a useful discipline, especially as deadline looms, but productivity is also likely to go up if you're prepared to take some time off to get your thoughts put together first. Just be prepared to put the graft in when you're ready to go. No wonder we writers aren't very sociable beasts.
A lot of the time I was nodding in agreement. Boulter acknowledges that editors face these kinds of problems all the time so you can put that down to my own first hand experience. For you writers out there, neo and otherwise, it would certainly be one to add to your collection. It's also small enough to hide away in a pocket and absorb at your leisure and give some grounding in the basics. A useful tome.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA