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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
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****Write Away

One Novelist's Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life

by Elizabeth George

Reviewed April 20, 2004.
HarperCollins, New York, 2004.  272 pages.

Here is an excellent book on the craft of writing.  Elizabeth George believes that there are two parts to the writing process:  art and craft.  Although art cannot be taught, craft certainly can.  This book is her way of passing on what she knows about the writing craft, and it’s a wonderful gift to writers.

Elizabeth George never claims that everyone should write a novel the same way she does.  But she does show her own process of writing a novel so others can learn from her techniques.

One of the sections that I found particularly helpful is her approach to setting.  Since she is an American who sets her books in England, she must carefully research her setting before beginning a novel.  She gives us an inside look at that process, including some pictures she took of places that ended up being used in her books.  I can learn much from her approach.

This wasn’t the only valuable section.  She has good things to say about character, plot, dialogue, voice, and the whole process of crafting a story.  I liked her section on viewpoint, since it put into words a discussion I was having with another writer about the omniscient viewpoint.  Elizabeth George feels that if you use this viewpoint, there should be a definite storyteller’s voice, and you shouldn’t slide willy-nilly from one person’s head to another.

There’s lots of good advice and information and ideas packed into this book.  My favorite part was in her last chapter, “Final Words.”

“Here’s what I tell my students on the first day when I teach one of my creative writing courses:

“You will be published if you possess three qualities—talent, passion, and discipline.

“You will probably be published if you possess two of the three qualities in either combination—either talent and discipline, or passion and discipline.

“You will likely be published if you possess neither talent nor passion but still have discipline.  Just go to the bookstore and pick up a few ‘notable’ titles and you’ll see what I mean.

“But if all you possess is talent or passion, if all you possess is talent and passion, you will not be published.  The likelihood is you will never be published.  And if by some miracle you are published, it will probably never happen again.”

Words like that inspire me to prove that I do have discipline, to stick it out, to not give up, and to sit down in my chair and keep writing.

Review of another book by Elizabeth George:
A Moment on the Edge

Copyright © 2004 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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