Wrede on Writing: Tips, Hints, and Opinions on Writing
Patricia C. Wrede
Published December 3rd 2013 by Diversion Books
ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Wrede on Writing is an excellent book for authors who are about to go on an adventure towards the world of writing. Wrede’s writing style is easy to follow and to take notes. This books pretty much clears the major aspects on writing. The only negative aspect I found was the lack of questions to actually guide the author. I tend to plot and create better if I am asked questions. Even if Wrede guidelines were clear and easy to follow, some questions for authors to reflect upon their own work would be perfect and worth the five stars.
The book itself is divided in four parts:
1) Getting started:
This is always the easiest part: what goes on before you actually start writing. Decisions, decisions… I like the way Wrede’s explains the more traditional way of plotting and the fact that the more you know about it, the more you can change and innovate.
Also kudos for: A setting is NOT a plot! (I have seen so many young writers make this mistake)
This second part is more theoretical – points of views, analogies with Legos, action scenes, dialogues – everything that is related to the writing itself. This part was the one that I felt less engaged. Mostly because I knew it all already and it didn’t help me where I mostly needed – the middles!
3) Not so basics:
Flashbacks/pacing – this one was especially helpful as an editor more than writer. Usually I follow the rule: no more than one/two flashbacks per novel. It helps me focus on the present and Wrede is right: flashbacks are the devil. It is already complicated to do something new in today’s literary world, now imagine juggle with past and present. Flashbacks require skills and, when done properly, are amazing tools, however use it but don’t abuse it!
Information and how to dump it – One of the main issues with Portuguese fiction is this. Mainly because we don’t really have books about writing and the ones we do are about “how to be inspired”.
Chapter’s End – I always tell authors that a good chapter’s ending is a great way to create tension, thinking of it as an episode of a series with a cliff-hanger sensation. A bad division of chapters may kill a novel easier than authors realise.
4) The business side:
This one can be sum up easily with: listen to your editor! As many authors fear the hand of an editor thinking they are butchering their work, it’s actually the opposite. Authors do not possess the distance necessary to evaluate their work in an impartial way. An editor always sees both sides of the question: how to keep the author’s voice while making some minor changes that will improve the novel. Don’t be afraid to erase things.
Unfortunately the rest of the section depends on the country where you’re living. I.e. Self-publishing can be a great way to find your way through success and traditional publishing, however in Portugal that is not the case. Also only the most famous authors have agents in Portugal, the “other” authors depend on luck. One of the biggest publishing houses in Porto receives up to 500 manuscripts per month and manages to publish one manuscript per year from those. Why? Well first Portuguese is a hard language to master and most manuscripts arrive with tons of mistakes.
Also there is not the notion of a “professional writer” – people write one book and send to the publisher, 90% of the time without sending it to beta-readers.
Last but not least authors still believe that reading books like Wrede on writing is a waste of time, because in order to write well you must have talent. Moreover there are no books on writing and most courses on creative writing are mostly writing exercises without teaching the person about the topics that Wrede presented.
Writing takes time, authors fear that their characters may get out of their hand or maybe their story is not really that interesting. Wrede sums it all pretty well in the end: Just write!