Write Away is an excellent overview of the craft of writing, from the perspective of how one successful author creates her novels. She clearly is in the camp of those who plot more up front before starting to write, but that resonates with me. More planning up front does free your mind for the art, rather than the craft of writing, as she puts it.
I especially appreciated how much detail of her process she shared. This has given me much to think about, and many ideas I can adapt to my own writing. She even provides a step by step plan for creating a novel. While I may never follow her plan exactly, it does give me some direction as I work on the novel I’ve already started. The structure her plan provides will help me be certain I have addressed the key elements that all successful novels need.
Character development gets a lot of attention, and she offers a wealth of ideas for creating characters that readers will relate to, will cheer for, and most of all, believe. She also explains the value of research and how it contributes details that add to the credibility and richness of your book.
When discussing how to create settings readers feel are real, she demonstrates from her own novels how she researches places, and merges real ones together to suit her plot. Using details from her research, her settings ring true and do more than just provide a place for the characters to walk around in. They can function almost like another character.
Write Away also contains a thorough discussion of viewpoint, the multitude of point of view possibilities, and advantages and pitfalls of each. She’s honest about her preferences, but gives fair shake to the others. Voice, and how to create a distinct one for each character, is also covered. She suggests ways to write dialogue that sounds as though real humans, rather than artificial creations are talking. Even though that is exactly who is supposedly speaking, you don’t want your reader to think that.
The book is filled with lots of examples so you can see what she means. Many are from her own work, and some get rather long. A few times I got lost in the story, and forgot I was reading to learn how a certain element of the craft is executed well. I noticed that she used one excerpt in three different spots.
But these are minor quibbles with what is sure to be a valuable resource for me as I try to make the jump from writing non-fiction to fiction.
She sums it up by saying you need talent, passion and discipline. Talent and discipline or passion and discipline may get you published, but lacking the discipline of getting down to work, or as she puts it, using the bum glue to adhere yourself to whatever you sit in to write. The key is without discipline, it’s unlikely you’ll find success as a writer.
In short, Write Away is an excellent work on the craft of writing that delivers as much information as a textbook, but is entertaining to read and very practical, with some humor thrown in along the way.