I love books that you can dip into, and I am always interested in what writers have to say about their craft. Jurgen Wolff’s Your Creative Writing Masterclass has proved to be highly rewarding on both counts.
The book is organised into 6 sections, each of which contains several chapters. The sections are Finding Inspiration, Characters Come To Life, Shaping the Story, Finding Your Style, The Process, and The Writing Life.
As someone who writes mainly non-fiction, I was unsure whether parts of the book what be relevant to my needs. In a sense, they aren’t, since I’m not concerned with things like developing characters. However, even those chapters can be useful for the non-fiction writer.
For example, if you are writing a profile of someone, you might consider taking Kurt Vonnegut’s advice to his creative writing classes students:
“… to make their characters want something right away – even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaningless of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.”
In a more general sense, I find that reading what the great writers have to say on all aspects of writing quite interesting. I am convinced that my writing will improve by reading their advice, perhaps by some process of osmosis, which the OED defines as:
“A process resembling osmosis, esp. the gradual and often unconscious assimilation or transfer of ideas, knowledge, influences, etc.”
Perhaps more directly useful are the chapters dealing with writer’s block, criticism and money.
As well as quotes aplenty, the book also contains a section at the end of each chapter called “From advice to action!”, in which the author suggests a few practical exercises or things to think about.
I’m extremely impressed at how much research has gone into the writing of this book. It features the advice of over 150 writers, both modern and not so modern.
An index of authors would have been useful, but there is a list of authors featured in each chapter.
I think that buying this book would be money well spent. If you’re a beginning writer you will be able to benefit from the wisdom of those who have trodden the path before you. If you are a seasoned writer, it may help you gain a different perspective, or perhaps remind you of a way of looking at an issue (eg bad reviews) that you might not have considered.