Thursday, February 03, 2011

Flogging the Quill

I'm not quite done with this book yet, but since I'm almost at the end, I'm going to talk about it.

Some of you may be familiar with the Flogging the Quill blog, where Ray Rhamey critiques novel openings. (He reviewed one of mine last year.) In Flogging the Quill: Crafting a Novel that Sells, he discusses what makes for a compelling book opening and how to keep readers interested. Although tension, conflict, and story questions are important, there are other aspects of the writing craft that make for compelling stories, such as dialogue and word choice. Rhamey not only discusses the principles that make compelling stories; he illustrates them with examples and provides writing exercises and worksheets to reinforce the lessons. The chapters are short and direct. (He's posted some of them on his blog, such as this sample.)The information is presented clearly, but there's so much of it that it may take a while to absorb all of it. Rhamey is very good at catching subtle problems, such as when two actions are described as being simultaneous when they actually can't be. I tried some of his exercises at the end of the book, where he comments on book openings, but he is more astute at critiquing them than I am.

There was one aspect of the book I didn't like: its physical size. It's 8.5 by 11 inches, which makes it difficult to read while exercising on the treadmill (these days, that's one of the best places for me to read for an uninterrupted period of time). Although it would fit in a computer bag, when I'm away from home, I'm more likely to either work on my laptop or take my Kindle with me if I want to read. I think the size is intended to make it easier for people to fill in the worksheets, but it did make it a little harder for me to start reading. However, it certainly is a book worth getting and reading, and I recommend it for all writers who want to improve their writing.

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