Like in a fantasy pub, you get lots of information and opinions here. No tavern brawls, unfortunately…
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Review: Writing Magic
I'm excited to share about "Writing Magic" by Gail Carson Levine, a well-known children's author. When I opend this book as a Christmas present, I admit I was a bit skeptical. A children's book on writing? What was I going to learn from that? I've been writing seriously for the last five years and sold my first novel last year. After reading scores of books on writing, I already have my favorite two books on craft, "Writing on Both Sides of the Brain" and "The First Five Pages". Add the classic Stunk and White "Elements of Style" for grammar and "Steering the Craft" by LeGuin for inspiration when floundering, and I figure I'm pretty well set. I check the same books out of the library constantly.
"I know you know everything in this book," my mother said as I stared at it. "She's just such a joy to read and I though you'd enjoy all her stories about rejection letters. I found them heartening."
After giving the book a try, I have to say that Levine's book is the best book for kids on writing that I've read and certainly worth any beginner in writing picking up. Her friendly narration and hopeful and encouraging tone are quite infective. Plus, she's just plain fun. What other books on writing encourage you to rewrite Little Red Ridinghood with everyone staying eaten at the end (the chapter about making your characters suffer) or encourages you to describe in detail what brushing your teeth is like (the chapter on description)? The writing exercises are as quirky and enticing as everything else.
No, I didn't learn anything I didn't know before, but I sure had fun being reminded about it.
"The best way to write better is to write more," Levine insists throughout the book and promptly gives you more than enough prompts to do immediately that. Every chapter prods the reader in this direction. Humor might be the vehicle, but Levine is also deadly serious with all her suggestions and right on target with what makes writing good. A short 161 pages with large type (but nicely indexed for reference), this book is brief but welcoming, and exactly what I wish could have existed back when I was ten or eleven and convinced writing was "too hard" for me. As an adult and a published author, I really do enjoy the warm and fuzzy feeling I get reading it, the feeling I could write anything, and just might, if only I'd sit down and try it.
And I'll happily take her writer's oath again before getting back to work on my projects.
Laurie is the Science Fantasy & Romance inclined of the group, and most of her work takes place on another planet, in space, or involves time travel or a paranormal element. You’re not destined to meet an elf, demon or vampire in any of her stories, but there might be a dragon—or a reasonable facsimile.
Laurie lives in New Mexico, but was raised in Michigan. She's a government analyst and a Thoroughbred breeder in her “alternate reality.”
She enjoys tormenting her(crazy)co-bloggers with tirades about the evil of the terrible -ly adverbs, and spends her days hunting them down and stamping out their existence.
Ardyth, aka The Dreaded Critter is a fanged, story-life blood sucking creature who loves to totally shred other people's plots, steal other people's characters and hold them for ransom, and generally manipulate her fellow authors. Severely addicted to stories but highly opinionated, Ardyth prefers fairy tales, slipstream, or fantasy with unusual elements. When she's not busy being evil, Ardyth hides her fangs, combs her golden locks, spreads sunscreen on her white as milk skin, and writes children's novels.
Skip is a Fantasy writer who often ends up writing Science Fiction accidentally. She can't seem to violate the laws of physics, just biology. Her characters would attest that she's an Evil Author, as they often suffer from traumatic pasts and psychological problems, which they are forced to relive and confront in the course of their novels. As a reader, skip enjoys overidentifying with angsty characters, reading between the lines too much, being suspicious of secondary characters, and inventing literary symbolism.
In real life, skip spends too much time with physics, computer science, and other geeky things such as reading about bees in Latin, rolling d20 dice, complaining about tautological arguments, and stabbing things with blunt objects (virtually, of course).
Merc is the resident tyrant and an Evil Author who delights in tormenting her characters for the good of the story. She writes in the fantasy and horror genres, with a smattering of sci-fi, all with either a dark or twisted or sarcastic edge. Merc is easily entertained, prone to excessive rants, an unashamed villain enthusiast, and adores her ferrets.
With the disguise as a friendly, polite and hard-working barista so convincing to the mundane world, Merc is pleased that no one has discovered the zombie armies she trains in her back yard in preparation for world domination.
A fantasy writer, Spartezda longs for the day science can give her antlers and retractable claws. In the meantime she stalks the night as a grammar guerrilla and spelling vigilante, her trail marked by bleeding pages and mauled cliches. She is easily fascinated and loves stories with wild imagination—the stranger, the better. No idea is safe from her gleeful irreverence. Should you encounter her in the wild, use a pair of earrings or other shiny objects to distract her attention while you flee.