There are three commandments, James N Frey says, if you want to write dynamic prose:
- Be specific
- Appeal to all the senses
- Be a poet (but not too much of a poet!)
Frey’s How to Write a Damn Good Novel is one of my well-thumbed books on writing: ‘A Step-by-step no-nonsense guide to dramatic storytelling.’
You can read a short interview with Frey here.
And now I am off to transform a piece of dead weight prose with these wise commandments and to get ready for a heavy dose of poetry at CUISLE Limerick City International Poetry Festival later in the week.
Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande. Hard to believe this book was first published in 1934, such is its freshness. Brande believes ‘that becoming a writer is mainly a matter of cultivating a writer’s temperament’. She steps the reader through practical ways to build such a temperament.
Writing Short Stories, Alisa Cox. Not a rigid ‘this is the way to do it’, this book is about spinning a yarn in many different ways and the theme running through of the relationship between the cinema and the short story is fascinating.
How to Write a Damn Good Novel, James N Frey. The sub-title to this book tells it all: ‘A Step-by-stp no nonsense guide to dramatic storytelling’. Even if you’ve no interest in doing that novel, you will get great tips on producing dynamic prose. In summary, he says, ‘your prose should have time, color, textural density, convey a sense of motion, appeal to the senses…’
Writing Creative Nonfiction, eds Carolyn Forche and Philip Gerard. This book works by having a section on the art and craft of creative nonfiction and its various sub-genres followed by a selection of excerpts from a wide variety of contemporary writers. And the hairy chestnut of truthfulness in the genre is well covered.
The Making of a Poem by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland. If you’ve ever wrestled with poetic form in writing or reading poems, this book makes it all so simple. The approach is to take the form (Villanelle, Sestina, Ballad …..) and summarise it in a few bullet points, give a short bit of history and then show the form being used by contemporary poets.
Writing for Success, Patricia O’Reilly. A no-nonsense gallop through pages of practical advice on the publishing process across the spectrum of fiction, non-fiction, radio and print journalism. A great resource book to have to hand.
That’s my list then. I’ll pile all these books back on the shelf now and then get on with it – the writing, that is.