Sol Stein and Renni Brown- Books on writing

Did I mention that I’m going to another boot camp for writers? I guess I like being a grunt and going back for more.The Basic Boot Camp, or BBC, took place in October 2010 and the one I’m taking in late March is an advanced BC ( cue the horn for a rousing blast of celebration). A couple of weeks before BBC we submitted ten pages of a manuscript in progress or from a completed manuscript.

During the three day critique and write fest we used two books, “Stein on Writing” and “Self Editing for Fiction Writers,” by Renni Browne and Dave King. I swear I read most of both books before we started BBC, but after the first critique I knew I was in the running for Poster Child of Brown’s Chapter 11: Sophistication. Now this sounds like a good thing-it is NOT.

In writing, a few stylistic tricks lend sophistication to your writing. Two of the big no-no’s if you want to appear ‘sophisticated,’ is the avoidance of the ‘as’ construction and ‘-ing’ additions:
    As she… and
    Pulling off her dress…
Chapter 11 also cautions the writer to avoid -ly adverbs and exclamation points. It might be permissible to have one adverb per page but only one exclamation point per novel.

Now I’ve seen these no-no’s used many times and that’s the point, they are overused, abused, and now no good for novice writers to use. Our BBC instructor cried out “Hack, hack, hack,” when she heard the grunts using these devices.
“But best selling author’s use them…” someone’s voice whimpered.
“Are you a best selling author?” was the response.
Good point.

That night, after BBC, I spent an hour on my ten pages, cleaning up my non-sophisticated ways and went to day 2. After the second critique, our instructor smiled and said I had a ‘point of view’ problem, didn’t I read Chapter 2 of Brown and Chapter 13 of Stein? I’m not easily frightened but I did laugh out of nervousness. She showed me where I moved out of one characters head and spoke out of another one’s body. Once it was pointed out I could see it (at that precise time, because I’ve submitted more work since then, and it has pov scribbled on several pages). Before the day was up each person wore the non-sophistication crown or was the POV queen. It was not all good.

One the third day we spent time on Chapter 2 of Brown’s book. A new phrase entered our writer’s language: RUE- Resist the Urge to Explain. This means when the writer describes a character’s emotion when he/she has already shown it by dialogue and action. The writer comes off as explaining too much to the reader as if he/she doesn’t get the point. If the emotion is shown, the explanation isn’t needed. Made sense.

My personal choice for best of the two is Stein on Writing, as my dogeared text can attest. It’s a large book but useful to have in your arsenal. The glossary of editor and writer terms in the back are handy and there is a chapter on “Triage-A Better way of Revising Fiction.”

It has been two hours since I sent in my 10 pages for the Advanced BC. I await the red line edits and brace myself for more critiques and comments. It’ll be fine, unless the instructors spring more books on writing on us. I can only wear so many crowns.



Categories: books on writing, Renni Brown, Sol Stein, Writing

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