The Fiction Writer's Handbook:
The definitive guide to McGuffins, red herrings, shaggy dogs, and other literary revelations from a master
Author: Shelly Lowenkopf
(Foreword by: Christopher Moore)
Publisher: White Whisker Books
Publication Date: October 16, 2012
If this format seems like it would be difficult to read cover-to-cover, that's because it is. It's not meant to be read cover-to-cover, nor is it meant to be read in one sitting. The idea is to skip around, read the entries that interest you, and use them to improve your writing or at least your editing. I almost think of it as a book of editing prompts.
Shelly Lowenkopf also includes a bibliography of suggested reading that includes not only other non-fiction titles about the writing process, but many fiction titles as well, because as he sees it, every serious writer must also be a serious reader. Amen to that.
Personally, I do a lot more reading than I do writing these days (you can tell by the awkwardness of this very sentence) so I found the book interesting for other reasons. I enjoyed reading about the techniques fiction writers employ and the common mistakes they make. It was nice to find the words to describe things I notice in books all the time, like the "information dump": (when the writer can't help throwing in ALL the things they learned in their research, whether the story needs it or not), "talking heads" (having characters engage in long passages of dialogue with little reaction, gestures, inflection or subtext) and "purple prose" (when the author's obvious "love of words" completely overtakes the story with excessive metaphor, romantic language and flowery description).
In other words, if I become a more astute critic of writers' foibles in my upcoming reviews, y'all have Shelly Lowenkopf to blame! In fact, forget about writers and readers; this book should be required reading for reviewers.
BONUS: Keep checking my other blog, COZY LITTLE BOOK JOURNAL, for an upcoming interview with Shelly Lowenkopf, plus a chance to WIN A COPY of THE FICTION WRITER'S HANDBOOK!
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