So, number 2 book in my 100+ Book Challenge for 2010 was John Marsden’s “Everything I Know About Writing”…
This is a guide to writing, written by a top-selling and much-loved (particularly by me!) Australian author.
The blurb claims that “Everything I Know About Writing” is “as readable as a novel”…and it really is.
Throughout, Marsden gives tips about what makes good and bad writing, using his deep and wide knowledge of literature and language. He doesn’t just list tips on what’s good or bad – he uses a range of really apt examples to drive these points home. While a lot of what is covered in this book is either common writing sense, or something I’ve learned before, Marsden still presents these points in entertaining and clear ways, and I appreciate having so many useful things written in one place as a handy future reference.
Although this book was first originally published in 1993, the examples used in it are so timeless and sound that the book has aged very little in 17 years. Using a mixture of timeless texts taught in most high schools, and great Australian writing, Marsden’s crossover between teaching and writing is obviously one he’s been making the most of for some time now.
As someone who mainly writes young adult fiction, Marsden’s writing guide is an insightful guide for teenagers, simply and clearly spoken – however, it still stands as a helpful and fun guide for writers of all ages. Even if you know most of the stuff that’s being covered, it’s presented in such an entertaining and simple way that it’s still interesting.
A wide range of conventions and problems are dealt with here – how it’s essential to deal with sex and death in writing, how psychology affects characters as much as writers, the rules of reality and how they must apply to writing… One particularly interesting chapter deals with “banality”, where Marsden challenges the connections we automatically make between certain words, particularly in similes and metaphors (eg, “feather” and “light”).
In the “new and revised edition” (which I believe happened around ’98), a new chapter has been included – “600 Writing Ideas”… these range from ideas for personal stories, starters for short stories, “quickies” (“What is your favorite kitchen appliance, and why?”)… These are perhaps one of the most helpful things about this book. If ever there’s a day where I have nowhere to start, these ideas give me a starting point, which then usually leads on to something else and turns into a story I love… or hate.
The most resounding advice Mr Marsden leaves us with is this; “You’re God when you’re writing: you can do anything. The only unforgivable sin is to be boring”…
“Everything I Know About Writing” is a clear and helpful bundle of tricks to stop your writing from becoming boring.
30/04/2010 at 2:33 am
I agree, excellent book! I just picked it up at the library. Devoured it in a few hours. Nice to see that Marsden says something different to most “how-to” books.
30/04/2010 at 5:34 am
It is nice. I think I like it so much because it’s a constant reference guide, especially the quick writing ideas, but also because I owned a copy when I was much younger and I still got heaps out of it. So it’s a really accessible writing guide. So many are either so simple they’re offensive or so self-important they cannot be understood. He’s written a solid writing guide.