I like Sol Steinís
Solutions for Writers.
Itís a chunky, absorbing book, full of fascinating detail and analysis
from an experienced writer, editor and publisher. So why a second book?
Why indeed, when we seem to be getting back into the same river.
Superficially, it looks like a prťcised version of the earlier book, but
focusing solely on fiction. However, reading it, Iíve come to the
conclusion that while it looks almost identical, Solutions for
Novelists is nevertheless still a useful book in its own right,
even if it does cover a lot of the same ground (and in some places rerun
some favourite Stein anecdotes) but aimed at the less experienced writer.
I rather wish this had been mentioned on the cover somewhere, but Iím
mentioning it now.
Steinís other book is a masterpiece of close
analysis, an approach Iím rather fond of, but when youíre just
starting out as a writer, that can be a very scary way of dealing with
your work. There you are, trying to get those first vital paragraphs on
the page, and already youíre worrying about the minutiae of structure.
Youíve been told to get the words down on the page, and now youíre not
sure which order to put them in. Panic is likely to ensue. Relax Ė in
this book, Sol Stein is painting with a broader brush. His concerns
are exactly the same, the exemplary approach is very much the same, but
the tone is a little less stringent, a lot more comforting. The river is a
stream, and itís flowing slow enough not to wash you away.
For Sol Stein, the important thing is to grip the
reader from the start. He sees readers as looking for an experience,
and itís the writerís job to provide that experience, and to provide a
good experience. The reader needs to be hooked from the very beginning,
by a good opening that poses questions the reader absolutely has to
answer, by creating memorable characters and intriguing conflicts.
Does this sound like a genre bestseller approach? Yes, it does, but Stein
argues powerfully in favour of all fiction being written well. He speaks
disparagingly of hackwork and urges consideration of literary values
always. Precision in word usage, being sparing with words, revising and
revising Ė these are all favourite Stein preoccupations, and attention to
those will stand the writer in good stead.
So, if youíre feeling intimidated by the thought of
going head to head over your manuscript with a top-flight editor, this is
perhaps the book for you. If youíve got a draft or two down on paper,
step right over to Solutions for Writers. Either way, I donít think
youíll be disappointed.