The 52nd Book of the Year
Writing Stories by David L. Harrison was the 52nd book I read this year. As you can probably guess from the title, it's a book on writing.
Now, writing books tend to be really dull no matter who they're written for. Lately, I've preferred reading books on creativity, myself. But Writing Stories was shelved with the new children's books at my library, so I decided to give it a try.
The book is a mixed bag. Among the positive things I found in the book was an explanation of how a writer moves from a memory to a story that is close to my experience as a writer. The description of how journals can be used was good, too. I know I could never bring myself to keep a journal as a teenager because the idea of writing down what happened during my day seemed deadly. And my kids hated them as grade schoolers. But journals can be anything you want them to be, and Harrison describes all the many things that can go into them. I like the way he describes genre, too, explaining that the things that happen in a fantasy or science fiction novel must be believable within the world that the author has created in his book. (I'm going to take notes in my journal on some of what Harrison has to say about genre.) Revising is different from rewriting, according to Harrison, something that I'd never heard before, but he convinced me.
On the negative side, though, Harrison talks about 11 tools, 4 techniques, and 25 writing secrets. Perhaps I'm just overly sensitive because I'm still slogging my way through How to Read a Book, which is filled with detailed rules. However, I find so many tools, techniques, and secrets overwhelming. Some of Harrison's terminology doesn't conform to the standard elements of fiction taught in schools, either. There's probably nothing particularly wrong with using his own terminology, but I found it confusing. A child who had not yet learned the standard terminology might not be bothered by Harrison's, though.
I think a child would have to be extremely motivated to read this book. I can't imagine a child who struggles with writing sticking with it for very long. A teacher could find some useful help in here, though.
And Harrison ends his book with something I liked. "Only those who write become writers." That's something new writers of all ages often have trouble accepting.