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Book Reports - Wendy Vander Velde (Relics of the Realm)


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The Art of Fiction

While rewriting my manuscript (from basically a clean slate), I've been more mindful of making my current draft publishable.  The learning curve in doing so has been necessary and useful, yet my progress on this draft (as opposed to my original) has unfortunately been much slower. John Gardner's advice not to sacrifice your writing's "delight" was helpful, as that's one of my motivating factors when writing (and one that is sometimes lost when I feel overwhelmed about strategically perfecting something as opposed to simply writing it). 

Gardner reiterated that good writing should shift in and out of various POV's, as opposed to limiting the narration to the thoughts of the primary character. This has been helpful to me.  His section on Common Errors is also very useful (although I need to comb my manuscript again to watch out for his cautionary oopsies).

Garnder's notion that "...the reader who loves great fiction is willing to put up with an opening as slow as that of Mann's Death in Venice" (Gardner, 78) seems somewhat contradictory to Algonkian's view that the first few moments of a sellable novel must be full of fireworks and verve (of some sort or another) right off.

 

Writing the Break Out Novel

I appreciate the way Maass explains a principle, then breaks it down (in his workbook) to become personally applicable to your novel. My subplots currently need better development. Maass's notion of plot vs. layers is insightful and should help me with that.

While this book is very useful, I honestly feel that most of its vital material is covered (in a slightly different fashion) in Algonkian's writing course modules.

 

Write Away

Chapter 13 "Knowledge Is Power, Technique is Glory," was a welcome read after concerns that my current novel is coming along far too slowly. My previous two manuscripts seemed to flow more effortlessly from a visceral place. The story and world of my current manuscript feel tangible and exciting to me, but the execution (of writing it) has been a much slower process. This chapter reassured me that being strategic (while sometimes laborious) will (hopefully) help craft a better novel.

George's advice is for the most part aligned with the workshop, but I feel her guidance could be more concisely distilled.

 

The Writing Life

I found this book (and its many analogies) somewhat tedious (and a little annoying), but the take-aways were helpful.

Dillard primarily reiterated the importance of trimming the fat of a novel, to get to its six-pack abs. Although I'm not fond of the following term, the concept of "killing your babies" is essential when editing. The book helpfully advises to retain (from previous drafts) only what vitally supports your best story and craft. That portion resonates, as I've already dropped much of the previous manuscript, while retaining key characters and the world the original story created. The opening of Chapter Six also resonates.

The instruction in this book (while very different in form) doesn't seem to conflict with the workshop modules. Regardless, the Algonkian modules were presented in clearer, more efficient manner (and they didn't irritate me, while this book kind of did).

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