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Wordsmithery: The Writer's Craft And Practice edited by Jayne Steel

01/07/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Wordsmithery in the USA - or Buy Wordsmithery in the UK

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pub: Palgrave Macmillan. 183 page indexed small enlarged paperback. Price: 16.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-4039-9828-6.

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'Wordsmithery' is a book more stylised to back up lectures in creative writing at university standard by Jayne Steel and eight other tutors. That shouldn't put anyone off reading this book. After all, lessons are lessons and you don't need to get qualifications to pick up some tips to develop your storycraft.

There is a lot more emphasis on story pace, character development and the importance of location as a character in this book. It also examines the use of poetry to understand the rhythm and flow of language.

Deciding what is most useful in all the thirteen chapters, I think the examples of how to switch from first to second or third tense is probably the most illuminating. First person writing only sees one perspective in a story although I do disagree that you can't see different viewpoints simply by what is said in conversation to the lead character you can convey other information that can fill in the picture to the reader. The dialogue demonstrations showing double meaning conversation is something that we don't really come across in our genre although I suspect that any of us reading this book will come away with some thoughts on trying it out.

Although it doesn't focus on our genre, I did get some insight into their attitude on page 50, where Grame Harper describes SF as shallow. Another contributor sees SF going for big. In my experience there's been a lot of SF that has also gone for small as well. Not every general writer can do SF so it's probably understandable that they haven't really explored the subject sufficiently to see its depth themselves.

Rather oddly, where there is discussion about authors giving readings having their audience confusing fiction and real life experience, there is no consideration that the reason that readings by SF writers aren't considered liars is because they are known to be so from the start. Maybe there should be lessons of comparison to SF for general genre writers to ensure they can put a difference in their own fiction. Even so, SF set in current reality has confused people that authors have stroked below the surface of events either shows readers are easily convinced or authors can be awfully persuasive.

This criticism shouldn't be seen as totally derogatory. Insight is useful whichever side of the genres we live on and writing is still writing. It made me stop and think and ponder on my own situation. Would you learn from reading this book? Certainly. Would you become a better writer? That depends on you. Understanding your storycraft needs insight from all sorts of directions. Uncluttered by our own genre, it might be beneficial in terms of what can be applied to it.

GF Willmetts

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