Thursday, July 16, 2009

This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley

The first thing you must know about writing is that it is something you must do every day-- every morning or every night, whatever time it is you have. Ideally, the time you decide on is also the time you do your best work.

This Year Write Your Novel was a wedding gift to me from Carlton, who was under the impression that this was a new, more abstract Easy Rawlins novel. After reading the book once and being completely confused about the plot, I tried again and realized that it works best as an instructional book rather than a traditional narrative.

The book exists in some writing netherworld between The Elements of Style and something like Bird by Bird, but is probably closer to the former then the latter. The bulk of the book, such as it is, is mostly concerned with fairly basic ideas, like “write every day” and “write honestly.” The instruction is clearly written and enjoyable to read, and Mosley has a distinctive voice even in this setting, coming across as a gruff, grandfatherly figure who's been around the block a few times.

There are pros and cons to Mosley's approach. On the one hand, the book is slim and quite readable, and it inspired me to begin a couple writing projects I've been putting off. On the other, there isn't much here that anyone who's read a couple other good writing books doesn't already know. Ultimately, This Year is most suited for brand new writers who have no idea where to start, or experienced writers who just need a kick in the pants. I'm the latter, so it was worth it for me.

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