Have you ever wished you could take a copy of that workshop you just listened to on developing powerful scenes, and the article you read a few months back on great characterization, and take the one chapter out of the book on writing that really explained POV, then put them all together into your own personal writing reference book?
Basically the editors from Writer’s Digest have done exactly that in Crafting Novels and Short Stories, which released last year. However the advice given is timeless. They have excerpted top quality articles from their books and their magazines then compiled them into over thirty-nine chapters to give writers practical applications for craft and creativity. It’s a goldmine.
In addition to seven sections that highlight excellent writing techniques, they include a sequence, Focus on the Writing Life, with encouraging insights into developing a lifestyle for writing. Need to re-charge some batteries—how about “a creative lollygaggers to-do-list” offered by Michael J. Vaughn. Or explore Heather Sellers advice that, “Finding your material is just like maintaining a compost pile.” I was so impressed with N.M. Kelbey’s two articles that I ordered her book to review. The editors also include “Researching Your Ideas” which is invaluable, especially with the need for authenticity and professionalism.
The wide range of talent and perspective offered by the contributors is like a delightful banquet. James Scott Bell notes that, “You don’t have to pause and ask them to repeat something. You can linger over a section of the book as long as you want.” I agree—I’ve been lingering and re-reading and am already incorporating suggestions and a year later still going back.
For instance, we know the need to develop emotionally true characters, but sometimes they’re not quite as willing to open up their unique selves as quickly as we would like to develop our story. David Corbett suggests that compelling “characters can be boiled down to four crucial elements: a driving need, desire, ambition or goal; a secret; a contradiction; and vulnerability.” The idea of incorporating contradictions as character development has given me new insight. Usually if I look at contradiction I look at them from the outside in as plot barriers. Inside out is a different view. Plus it’s fun to brainstorm.
This book’s advice will keep any reader busy for another year ahead with pleasurable, propelling instruction. Highly recommend! It’s going on my classic shelf already.
“by a CEN member”
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