Book Review "Steering the Craft, A 21st Century guide to Sailing the Sea of Story

Book Review "Steering the Craft, A 21st Century guide to Sailing the Sea of Story

March 19, 2018

I, and I mean within the past 3 minutes, just finished “Steering the Craft, A 21st Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story”.  Yes, that is a mouthful and a bit to type out too I might add.  It is a book as you can guess on writing by Ursula K. Le Quin.  You might or may recall her as being the author of the “The Wizard of Earthsea” and many other titles.  I happen to remember her from my early reading career and admittedly hadn’t given a lot of thought to her since then.  I recall that they turned “The Wizard of Earthsea” into a movie or a short series on I the SyFy channel?  I might recall the channel wrong, but I do recall that it was on television, or been NBC.  Does it matter?  Not in the least.

I learned about this book on the podcast Writing Excuses.  I will stop to say  if you haven’t heard of this podcast, you really should stop and give them a listen.  It is hosted by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Howard Taylor.  It is a weekly podcast and has many guest hosts fill in for one of the four as well as guests who bring their own insights.  It is on Season 13, so it has some legs as well.

Anyway, Writing Excuses mentioned Ms. Le Guin’s book got me to recall I did enjoy her three books which I had read by her and I was looking for a guide of some sort to jump start my brain a bit, so off to the library I went and happily the book was on the shelf.  I was hooked on the first chapter.  Does a book speak to you?  That is exactly my thought about this one.  It wasn’t set up for you to write your Great American Novel, it was, to me, set up to get you to consider to ponder your writing and to have you practice short, essays?  That might be the word, essay, to get you to practice.

The thing I got the most out of, and I got many things, but the thing I got hammered into my pea brain was Point of View.  There is a very good exercise/chapter where Le Guin explains about Point of View; (POV) for those of you that like jargon/lingo.  She has the reader/writer write a story, and then re write it a LOT, but using all different types of POV.  First Person, Third Person, Indirect… I must have rewritten the same scene six or nine times.  Each time I found myself wondering about it, making sure that I didn’t leave anything out from the previous scene and still making it interesting.  I very much enjoyed myself.

There is only one thing I really didn’t like about the book.  It ended.  I realize she could have wrote about how to make a laundry list entertaining to read and I would’ve used her exercises to see if I could make that list sing.  She provides a way to use the book as a workshop which is amazing too.  A nice glossary in case you aren’t familiar with some or all of the terms she uses.  I admit I am curious and considering about suggesting about using this to one of the Meetup Groups I am involved with.  The ONLY thing holding me back is the knowledge that I would be the one running that meeting.

I do want to make sure that I mention that the chapters are short, which I liked because they present you with a bit of information and then she gives you a bare bones suggestion that you can fun with.  So many times, books on writing say something like; “Take something you have written and make it better.”  Yeah, if I knew what I wanted to make better, I would not be using your book!  She gave examples of a car accident, a grocery store, running out of gas and I could use them as a jumping off point and I REALLY appreciated that type of prompt.

I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone that is a writer that wants to hone their skills, someone just starting on their writing path and wants to know what it feels like to be a writer.  I am not sure if I got more out of it having written a bit or if I would have gotten more out of it had it been the first book I picked up on writing.  I don’t think you can go wrong either way.  Now as the people at Writing Excuses say at the end of every podcast “You’re out of excuses, now go write!”

As a side note?  I suggest you look in your local library to see if this book speaks to you the way it spoke to me.  I am all about saving money and using local libraries.

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