Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor
Vision@sff.net

 Book Review

The Writer’s Digest Writing Clinic

Reviewed by
Sandra C. Durham
© 2004, Sandra C. Durham


 

Writing has been called many things – an art form, a craft, an expression of a storyteller.  Taken to its basic form, writing consists of two main parts – the creation of a story and the ability to tell that story in written form.

The Writer’s Digest Writing Clinic presents lessons in how to write.  This book is a compilation of manuscripts from beginning writers which are critiqued in detail for content, style, and grammar. Some of these manuscripts appeared in The Writer’s Digest Magazine.

The book is divided into sections –- Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, Query Letters, Novel Synopses, and Non-fiction Proposals.  In each section, there are multiple manuscripts which exemplify some of the more common problems involved in writing for that target market.

The largest section by far is for Fiction.  This section contains manuscripts focused on problems with point of view, scene transitions, narrative voice, opening hook, and others. 

I found this book an excellent reference both before and after writing my own stories.  It provides in one book not only the chance to learn about an issue (say, raising the tension in your story), but also a detailed review of a story in which a problem relating to the issue occurred.  I have used specific chapters in this book to highlight areas where my own writing needs help.

Each chapter is short – 4 or 5 pages, the bulk of which is the edited manuscript.  The book uses common editorial markings directly on the copy of the manuscript, much like an editor would red-ink a printed page.  While this is very convenient and eye-catching, it is the one drawback I found to this book.  I would have preferred it if they had reproduced the original manuscript on one page and the edited manuscript on another.  The clutter of having the original version highlighted, crossed out, and scribbled on is great for showing where the changes are, but it is difficult sometimes to follow the original flow of the story to learn how to recognize these mistakes in your own writing.

Each chapter dedicates a page to describing the general problem area covered.  It then provides the edited manuscript and a series of numbered items wherein the editor has described in more detail a problem area in the story.  The chapter ends with a few quick tips on how to look for and improve areas in your own writing related to this topic.

In most things, I personally learn by example.  My writing has improved most dramatically as a result of someone else’s detailed critique of my story.  This book provides examples of what goes wrong in a story and ways of correcting the things that do.  Unlike other books on writing, The Writer’s Digest Writing Clinic has actual examples to highlight problem areas, and the bulk of the book is these examples, rather than abstract discussion of writing issues.  While this isn’t the only book in my writer’s library, it is definitely one that I turn to and learn from far more than the others on my shelf.  If you learn by example, this book is a definite win.

The Writer’s Digest Writing Clinic, from Writers Digest Books.

Publisher: Writers Digest Books; ISBN: 1582972206