31 May 2013

On Becoming A Novelist, A Review

I apologize for the late post, regular scheduling will resume tomorrow.

For the genre novelist, On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardner is a hard resource to swallow.  Gardner doesn't mince words over storytelling, and as with his The Art of Fiction, he compares pornographers and thriller writers, but the fact is in modern publishing, Gardner has incredibly useful advice whether one is just beginning one's career or mid-career (as most novelists are throughout their lives.  Writers don't retire - except heels first).

The most important lessons in On Becoming a Novelist are 1) that even the best advice can be detrimental to one's own voice and style, and 2) that writing one great story is better and more worthy than writing one hundred bad ones.

The  possible hang up with this second bit of advice is that in writing, as Harlan Coben says, "quantity inevitably produces quality."  So, when you query - make damn sure it's your best and most worthy story, but don't let the fear of failing in a story keep you from writing.

Besides these bits of advice are reminders of the lessons we learned in Egri's The Art of Dramatic Writing. Review is always useful.  Also, Gardner shares insights into his own process and schedule which may stretch your own habits or at least make you aware of other available tools.  And what is a craft without tools?

Overall, I'd rate this title highly as a resource for any author, and while it might not make a terrific teaching text, it would be an excellent companion to any Creative Writing course.

As always, thanks for reading.

"What I learned from [Lennis Dunlap], in short, is that a writer must take infinite pains -- if he writes only one great story in his life, that is better than writing a hundred bad ones -- and that finally the pains the writer takes must be his own." (Gardner, On Becoming a Novelist, 19)
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