Monday, February 25, 2013

Book Review: Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction

Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction

by Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd
New York: Random House, 2013
Tracy Kidder, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and Richard Todd, long-time magazine and book editor who teaches in the MFA program at Goucher College, have a working writer/editor relationship going back to 1973 when they met at the offices of “The Atlantic Monthly.” In “Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction,” the two share the story of their years laboring side-by-side as well as the knowledge about writing they have acquired along the way.

They both believe that while talent and inspiration certainly come into play, one can learn to write better. “Writing is revision. All prose responds to work.” As Kidder states, “We rarely get the kind of chance in life that rewriting offers, to revise our pasts, to take back what we’ve said and say it better before others hear it.” To make the most of that opportunity to make one’s words be the best they can be, Kidder and Todd offer advice on beginnings, narratives, essays, accuracy, style, and the challenge of editing and being edited. While the book is aimed at those who write non-fiction, the topics and advice will help fiction writers as well.

In reading this, one cannot help but feel that Kidder and Todd have both been blessed in their friendship and their working relationship. Their writer-editor relationship is amazing. As a writer, I can only wish that I had someone willing to work with me from inception to completion the way Todd works with Kidder. Yet, even those of us who have not been so fortunate can learn much from the way they do things: the methods that they employ, their willingness to write, and rewrite, and edit, and rewrite some more. 

“Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction” is a great writing book, inspiring as well as informative. They offer concrete writing advice for writers to utilize from the moment they read “Great Prose” as well as a compelling story of their own experience. It should be on every writer’s reading list.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Next Writing Adventure

I'm still finishing up my third draft of "The Rose Ring," but I've already started working on my next book.

My boys (who are in 6th and 5th grade) have been asking me for a while to put aside the romance and write an adventure story that they would enjoy. Totally not my genre and I've been declining. But, then, I thought about it. What do I really have to lose? At the very least, I will have written something for them and they will appreciate the effort if nothing else. The best case scenario - I write something that's actually good.

I let them know that as soon as I was finished with my story, I'd start work on theirs. Even though I'm not technically "finished" we have gotten started. At first, they wanted something with lots of things blowing up, but I let them know I was more interested in writing a Harry Potter/Percy Jackson sort of story with an actual plot and character development as opposed to the annihilation of the western world. They agreed to that and are helping me come up with characters and ideas.

So far, we have written three chapters and I have to say, they aren't horrible! I have some good ideas for the story and am finding it fairly easy to write in a middle-school voice, seeing as I spend about 80% of my life surrounded by my sons and their friends. I'm also getting to spend some quality time with my boys.These are all good things.

The one challenge I'm having so far is getting the research done to support the story. It has some historical elements, and I like my facts to have at least some basis in truth. The boys are all about "Let's write this" and while I don't want to squelch their enthusiasm, I'm more about "I need to look that up and then we can write!"

In any event, this writing project is an adventure in more ways than one, but it is one that I am enjoying. I'll keep you posted. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Reason to Celebrate

I finished typing/editing my second draft today and sent it off to Staples to be printed. The final total of words was a little under 45,000. Here is a photo of the story in my binder. It is always exciting to see something you have created take shape and become a "book." There is still work to be done, but for today, this is a reason to celebrate!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Great Art Requires Great Bravery

Today I was reading the December 2012 issue of Artist's Magazine and came across this quote by artist Candice Bohannon. It applies to writing as much to visual art:

Allow yourself the time you need to create the art you dream of. Push past the fear that what you're making may never be as great as you hoped it would be, and give it your all; give it your everything. Great art requires great bravery.