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Archive for the ‘The Writer’s Bookshelf’ Category

I mentioned Self Editing for Fiction Writers in a past post, but I decided that it really needs a post all it’s own. I originally purchased this book because I heard it recommended by so many people, including many multi-published authors.

Quite simply, it is one of the most useful books about the craft of writing that I’ve read so far, and I’ve read many. I like to reread it about twice a year, just for a refresher.

To share a little tidbit, the authors offer a formula they call 1 + 1 = 1/2. The idea is that when you put in two words, two sentences, two paragraphs, two scenes, two chapters, or two anything that are both there to serve the same purpose, you diminish the effect. That advice alone is worth the price of the book.

If you aren’t pleased with your writing and don’t know why, chances are good that Renni Brown and Dave King can point you to the answer, or at least the start of one, in this book. I recommend it to even seasoned writers.

If you’re a beginner, it may be a bit much to take in at once. Read it anyway. Let it sink in some; write more, revise more, and come back to it. You’ll “get” more of it the second time through.

If you’re serious about getting published, this book needs to be on your shelf. Or better yet, on your desk, dog-eared, highlighted, and sticky-noted.

~Glenda

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One of the dilemmas that I am faced with as a writer is that of reading and recommending books about writing (although this can apply to any type of book). There are many excellent books out there to teach writers ways to improve their craft or increase their chances of publication, but many of them contain material that is offensive to me as a Christian–“filthiness”, “coarse jesting” (See Eph. 5:4), and the like. In some books, this is minimal, and can easily be filtered by the reader the same way we must filter speech we hear in our everyday lives. In other cases, however, this content is so pervasive, that it can make a book unreadable for a Christian.

This is a problem not only in the reading, but also in the recommending of certain books. I have read books that contain a wealth of good information, but were so full of bad language and offensive humor that I felt it was impossible to recommend them. Take for instance Anne Lamott’s classic, Bird by Bird. I confess, I love this book. I think Lamott offers exactly the kind of encouragement that most writers need. But if I recommend it to fellow writers, will they think I approve of the language she uses? One of her chapters is titled, “Shoddy First Drafts.” It has some really important things to say about letting yourself write really awful stuff, because you can fix it later. But it’s title doesn’t actually use the word “Shoddy.” It uses another word with a similar sound.

I could make a list as long as Rapunzel’s hair. James N. Frey’s How to Write a D*** Good Novel is full of useful advice, but even the title is problematic. Stephen King’s On Writing contains priceless knowledge, but is littered with the kind of language and base references you’d expect to find in, well, one of his novels. By endorsing these books, which contain profane material, I fear I could diminish my influence as a Christian and fail to glorify God properly.

So why not just dispense with such books, and stick only with the ones that are relatively clean? That is one good option. I could end the article here, and it would be sufficient. There are plenty of good books about writing that aren’t full of profanity. Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown and Dave King comes to mind. Rarely will you find such a useful tome, and while there is a smattering of unclean language, it does not dominate the text.

But I suppose I am stubborn, insistent on mining every resource for ore and discarding the slag. So here, in a nutshell, is how I handle otherwise valuable books that are overpowered by objectionable content:

  • Edit as I read. I read with a marker or correction pen and obliterate the undesirable text as I go. Since I’m not planning on selling or distributing my censored copy, I have no qualms about doing so. I know that most authors would rage against me and call me a communist for it, but when it’s my own, private copy, for my own private use, I will do with it as I see fit.
  • Recommend with a warning. If I feel compelled to point someone in the direction of one of my less-than-pristine favorites (perhaps because it addresses a particular problem they’re facing), I do so with a corollary. I let the person know what they’re getting into and make it clear that I don’t approve of the bad content.

This may not be a fully satisfactory way of dealing with these books, but it’s the best I can do for now.

What’s your policy, Christian? Leave a comment to share your suggestions.

~Glenda

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