Sunday, April 1, 2012

Two books by Sol Stein

Some of you know that I am finishing up writing my own book.  In the meantime I am researching everything I can on the writing and publishing process.  The following is the first of several reviews about the books I've been reading on this topic.

I bought this book because of another blog’s review of it. Here are my own thoughts on the quality and ultimate benefit this book would provide aspiring writers.

Sol Stein has been in the writing and publishing business for several years. He has personally edited many books that have gone on to be successfully published, including his own. What Stein attempts to provide in this book are lessons on how to effectively write a book, fiction or non fiction, and make it publish-ready.

In the first several chapters Stein explains how to create interest for the reader. How do you get a reader to continue reading your book? You make characters that are so interesting that the reader wants to keep finding out about them. You make a story that is broken down in sentences that make the reader want to read the next sentence and paragraphs that propels the reader to the next paragraph, next chapter, perhaps to the next book. Stein lists, according to him, effective strategies that accomplish all this. If you doubt him, he will remind you-throughout the book- that he is a hugely successful editor and novelist in his own right and name drop all over the place to verify his credentials.

I suppose that sounds a little sarcastic. I’ll admit that, while I found reading these chapters instructive and I plan to practically apply the general lessons to be had from them, I didn’t care for the examples he provided which seemed pretty much centered around sex and violence. That is not the type of literature I ever intend to write. Surely there’s a way to maintain reader interest without using those hackneyed formulas.

The other problem I had was that he used excerpts of his own books as models of the right way to grab a reader’s attention. Frankly, I wasn’t impressed with his writing. It seemed a little too self- conscious with its choice of vocabulary and in how it described action.

I will say that I found the remaining chapters, which deal with editing, how to keep sentences fast paced, cutting out all the unnecessary details (Liposuctioning Flab, chapter 21) and how to revise to be invaluable. At the back of his book he provides several websites on where to receive instruction and lessons. Some of these are his own classes but he offers them free if you mention that you bought this book.

So while I have a certain amount of criticism for Sol Stein on Writing, I still recommend it as one of-what should be- SEVERAL resources an aspiring writer should read and apply to his writing skills.

Sol Stein also has a reference book called: Sol Stein’s Reference book For Writers. Part 1: Writing; Part 2: Publishing. In each sections he lists in an A-Z format terms that writers need to know to inform themselves of the ends and outs of writing and publishing. Here are a few examples:

Action: an action in fiction is a forward movement of the story that doesn’t necessarily involve physical activity. In fiction a surprising or strongly worded or decisive thought can be an action….

Immediate Scene: In fiction, the action in a scene can be viewed by the reader. If the writer follows the injunction “Show, don’t’ tell” he will have created an immediate scene. On test: If you could film the scene, it is immediate…..

Editing: New writers sometimes confuse edition with copyediting (see Copyediting). To edit is to check, correct, improve, amend, polish, modify, revise, reword, rewrite, redraft, condense, cut, and abridge… an editor is not a writer…but a reader of other people’s writings, a reviser with specific aims ranging from questioning and correcting inaccuracies to improving the vocabulary or the rhythm of the drafted words…

Related links:
Sol Stein's website

Writing Classes

Daily Writings


Anthony Andres said...

Hi Sharon!
I am about to read Sol Stein's "On Writing" and have already read his "How to Grow a Novel" (which I found very helpful).

I love your quote from CS Lewis - I used that in a talk I recently gave at a homeschoolers' day at our local Barnes and Noble. So much fun to see the quote again here!

I also very much appreciate your offer to review books and your condition that they NOT have sex/language/violence/the occult.
I like your standards!

So I take it you're writing a novel?
Very exciting, me too!
I'm not on the internet all that much, but am looking forward to looking forward to reading more of your blog.

God bless you!
Suzie Andres
(author of A Little Way of Homeschooling
and Homeschooling with Gentleness)

Sharon Wilfong said...

Hi Suzie! Thanks so much for visiting my blog and the nice comments. I have written one book and am now learning about sending out query letters and proposals. I feel so blessed to have the joy of writing. I'm now writing another book that is more of the same. Simply put, my experiences as a public school teacher in East Texas in a high poverty school. Exciting and never boring!
This review is one of many reviews I'll be posting since I'm reading a lot of these kind of books. I hope others will benefit from my reading. Your books sound interesting. Let me know if you'd like me to review them. God bless!