Breakin’ the law, breakin’ the law….

Bad review, bad review, whatchagonnado?  Whatchagonnado when you post one, too?

You know I’m cheesed off if I take the time to write anything less than a four-star review anywhere.  I just posted the following to Amazon regarding The Art of Fiction:  Notes on Craft for the Young Writer. Below is the text of my review.

I make it a habit never to post a review that would be less than four stars, mostly because if it’s not worth four or five, it’s not worth my time.  In this case, I’m irritated enough to make an exception.  I am blessed enough to have received an academic background that allows me to be familiar with a majority of the works Gardner held up as examples, so my displeasure is not for lack of previous reading.  However, once one removes the dated language, pompous complaints, and other assorted bombast, all that remains is enough material to fill out a few articles that might get picked up by Writer’s Digest. Might.  The two stars are for the fact that there *is* some good advice in here, but by the time one has finished reading even half of the writers Gardner references as successful or (far more frequently) as failures, one would hope that the reader has long since intuited those points and brought them to bear in her writing.  I would caution any writer who receives the advice to read this book:  the advisor in this case probably is trying to make you think he/she is as smart as Gardner wants you to think he is.

I am so glad I did not come across this as a wide-eyed undergrad, because I probably would have felt compelled to agree with both Gardner and whatever self-important professor handed it to me as writing advice.  I do agree with Gardner on one thing, and that is the concept of mastery:  you won’t improve your writing except through the slow process of reading good fiction, writing bad fiction, reading more good fiction, then writing better fiction than you wrote the last time.  Mastery also will give you a type of confidence that books on writing and writing conferences cannot do (though I promote the use of both of those things); mastery will give you the experience to sniff out when a writer is giving you the generous gift of his experience and when, less fortunately, the writer is trying to impress you with how much you don’t yet know.

Do you have a book on writing that has helped you improve as a writer?  What was it, and what gift did you receive from it?   How have you seen your writing grow through networking, conferences, writing advice sources, or just plain old practice?  


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