Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Still Writing: A Review

Last week, I had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Still Writing by Dani Shapiro. I love a good book about writing, especially when I like the writer. I read a novel by Dani years ago and it was very good. I just shipped off a set of rewrites to my agent and, while I wait for him to read, I figured it was a good time to refresh my writer-spirit.

I adored this book. Some writing books are too instructive and some are pretty out there, but this was a good balance of memoir (Dani has led a very interesting life) and advice. Usable advice.

Sometimes, I would think, "No, that's not true," but then Dani would explain herself and I would get it. It may or may not be true for how and why I write, but it did make sense and it gave me a new way to look at my own habits and mindsets.

While reading, I felt inspired to retry an old story idea. I toyed with it and thought about the things Dani said in her book. I started writing by hand, at her suggestion, though I normally compose directly into Scrivener. For the first time in years, I was able to do so without constant hand-cramps. It's a different feeling, not watching my word count with every tap of the keys. It's a free-er writing experience, and I am enjoying it. A week later, I am still writing longhand and typing the result into Scrivener every couple of days. That gives me a chance to constantly look over my writing and stay grounded in the scenes that came before.

I highly recommend this book to those of you who are new to the writing life and to the veterans. On that spectrum, I fall somewhere in between, I suppose. I've been writing and publishing short pieces in some form for more than a decade, but it's only in the last few years I've taken the plunge into long fiction and acquired an agent. I found Dani's book both delightful and helpful, a lovely combination.

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