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Andrew Cratsley - Book reports

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The art of fiction


This book does a great job of inspiring the creative spark with its built in lessons, and its a perfect starting place for new writers for this reason. John Gardner's respect for writing as an art form is appreciated, because he stresses the importance of writing not being clearly defined by "do's" and "do not's", or complex mathematical equations.


I like the reminder that every subtle detail must be relevant in the story, and that unimportant facts need to become so or simply discarded. This is an easy mistake to make, and the book helps to teach how destructive it can be. It is certainly something I keep a keen eye out for in my revisions. The other lesson I agree is essential is his teaching that lessons should vary in length and rhythm, so that monotony can never take root. He also uses the needed "show don't tell" method taught within the program, and avoiding the accompanying of explanation on description.


The lessons taught in this novel seem to coincide with this course.


Writing the breakthrough novel


I like how this one spends time pointing out how books/authors fail, even successful ones. I compare these lessons to restaurants that go bankrupt: its probably the food, or in this case, the writing. These are great lessons to remember well after launching a successful career to avoid being lulled into false security. Of course the information provided on the evolving market is also essential.


The strongest point I feel Maas makes in this book is the importance of sympathy with the characters (even maybe with the antagonist). That emotional link with the reader is essential, and it ultimately pads the bottom line in the end if outstanding characters are created, provided a worthy story accompanies them of course. People may scoff at Harry Potter, but I had a tear in my eye when Dobbie died, though I may deny this fact in public. He also stresses that need for tension on the page, which we have heard from the start. Rising tension with lovable characters who can relate to the average reader will draw a lot of attention. This books also explains the stakes involved with the characters. Even if they are not catastrophic they can feel so if the author has done a great job of creating characters the reader may connect with.


I can think nothing that conflicts. I can see these book assignments were selected carefully, as their lessons have been integrated well into the program.



Write Away


This is another great lesson on emotions and linking the character to the reader, fundamental to a story. Elizabeth George begins with characters as I also agree is the most important part of the story. She certainly caught my attention as a sympethetic reader, who shares her values on creating memorable characters. She also mentions the importance of writing about your passions, as did Donald Maas.


Creating memorable characters also means creating ones with flaws, like in the real world. This author understands that "perfect characters" not only defy nature, but also the human psyche, meaning the reader will not finish the book. Her views on the flow of a novel are clearly laid out: characters, setting, then story. George also mentions continually "opening the story" or as others may say, going deeper into the rabbit hole. I believe in creating a rich and complicated world, like our own, nothing cut and dry.


Nothing comes to mind. This book covers a small scope of the entire program in my opinion, but a most crucial part, the characters who carry the story.


Write Life


I like how in her opening pages how she mentions the fear of throwing away bad work, or work that just doesn't meet a high enough standard. This is something I can relate to well as I have thrown away my book and rewritten 3 times now. The first occasion was after it collected dust for years, because I stubbornly defended it as she mentioned. One day I opened it and realized what needed to be done. This part of the writing process is both painful and essential, letting go of what doesn't work.


The metaphors on the writing process itself is nice imagery that got my attention. It droned on a bit, but the point was clear. I like how she points out how a great book isn't great because of how difficult it was to write with the photographer's argument about having to climb a mountain for a bad photo. Another good point this author makes is not holding onto a plot point that sounds good at a later date and trying to force the story in that direction. I have found that I'm guilty of that habit also, and I've found it only steers you into walls or straying away from the story in ways that no longer makes sense.


I see no conflicts and at first glance its peculiar why this book was selected for the program, since its focus is on the psyche of the author. My guess is that agents often battle the egos of authors who try to retain snippets of work that just "doesn't work". I feel this book was meant to prepare us for the critique and and reality checks at the end of this road.

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