By Kelly Bridgewater
Stein on Writing is one of my favorite writing instruction books. I first checked it out at the library, but I found I wanted to highlight a lot of things, so I had to purchase the book for myself. This book is different from a lot of writing instruction books because it is actually written by an editor. (I know; it has become a trend lately for editors to write instruction books, but in 1995, it wasn’t. I believe.) I really enjoyed getting down and paying attention to what Sol Stein had to instill in me. I want to become a better writer, so this book does exactly that.
From the first page in the first paragraph, Stein grips my attention. He says, “This is not a book of theory. It is a book of usable solutions—how to fix writing that is flawed, how to improve writing that is good, how to create interesting writing in the first place” (3). His book does exactly that. It teaches how to make the basic writer better and keep teaching those who have been published or who have been reading book after book for a while on how to be a better writer. The book doesn’t discriminate. There is something for everyone.
Stein has a huge chapter on creating interesting characters. You want to give a character a background that makes them interesting. Who really wants to read a story about a character that is good all the time and nothing bad happens to them? They don’t make bad choices. They marry the perfect guy and have the best behaved children. BORING!! So not real. Life has a bunch of bumps and bruises to it. So should your character. He breaks down tricks on how to breathe life into your character. What makes them stand out? What made Sherlock Holmes a household name? He solved crimes, but that isn’t the most rememberable characteristic of him. He was quirky and had social issues, but he was smart and saw things others didn’t see. Even the trained Scotland Yard officers. I want to create characters like that.
I really enjoyed the chapter entitled “How to Use All Six of Your Senses.” It is short, but there is a lot of information in those few pages that really help you draws the reader into the pages of your story. I’m still working on how to incorporate all six senses into my story. I have been studying Susan May Warren’s books to help improve my techniques on using my six senses since she is good at inviting her readers into their surroundings.
In conclusion, there is a lot of important information in Stein on Writing, that this blog post doesn’t do the book justice. Take my advice. It is a good book to have and read over a period of time to improve your writing.
What is an area of your writing that you are still working on to improve? Is there a book that jumps out at you that has helped improve this area for you? Have you studied an author who is a master at your point of weakness?