31 August 2012

Review of Alone With All That Could Happen

Alone with All That Could Happen: Rethinking Conventional Wisdom about the Craft of FictionAlone with All That Could Happen: Rethinking Conventional Wisdom about the Craft of Fiction by David Jauss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished this; there is much to absorb, but for starters Jauss, as is hinted at in the subtitle, comes at writing from a different angle. At least one I haven't seen. There are several chapters dealing with many aspects of writing, but none of it is prescriptive: I loved that.

Not that I dislike prescriptive books on writing. They have their place. But, sometimes, you have to be reminded why you're doing this (beyond the "I just have to write" thing). Jauss shows some ways to make the connection between craft (which is necessary) and art (which is vital). Without art, fiction feels plastic: and I'm not talking about the good kind, i.e. flexibility. I'm talking about it feeling fake, lifeless. Art without craft makes for some tough, and let's be honest, boring reading on occasion. So, we need both, and Jauss helps.

It was refreshing to read a book about writing that isn't trying to make you sit down and write a set number of words everyday, or to write for a set number of hours. Jauss brings out different aspects that many beginning writers probably never even get around to thinking about. And I know some published writers haven't gotten around to them, either.

One of my favorite parts was the last chapter: in it Jauss argues that writers, in order to really be creative, must learn to think differently: they must learn to hold contradictions in their mind; they must learn to negate themselves in certain situations in order to spark the creativity.

That may sound weird, but I don't want to give away too much. If you are a writer, or are even interested in literature, this is an excellent read.

I'm going to read it again....

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