HarperCollins, March, 2004.
Hardcover, 272 pages.
A high school English teacher who became a bestselling novelist has written a book on writing fiction. This is cause to celebrate. Write Away is a textbook on how to write fiction, written by someone who actually knows how to write fiction. The result is a down to earth, honest and immensely practical guide on how to do it with plans, examples, summaries and the encouragement that a master teacher always gives.
Elizabeth George is a teacher who will patiently take the would be novelist, or the person who teaches writing, through the process. She never rhapsodizes about writing a great novel or how inspiration can drive one to a work of genius. Instead, she demands that the would be writer understand that writing is a craft requiring self-discipline, tools of the trade (not word processors but plans, lists, notes, outlines and other practical if not often inspiring devices.) This book could be titled How to Build a Novel.
Elizabeth George states repeatedly that to be a writer one must have three qualities: talent, passion and discipline. If, she asserts, you have only the first two qualities and lack the third, you will not be published. To reinforce this concept she has titled chapter 16 "Bum Glue" which is defined is the ability to sit oneself down in front of the typewriter or computer and not get up until a certain amount of pages of work have been accomplished. She is honest enough to share her own feelings of inadequacy and depression that go with the very hard work of being a writer. Nevertheless, she observes, for a writer there is no other real choice.
Since Write Away is a handbook on how to write a novel, it is divided into the elements of storytelling. Part I is an overview of the craft with chapters on the expected character, setting, landscape, and plot. It is followed by sections on the basics, technique, process, examples, and guides. This is to be expected. What is a pleasant surprise is that the author's style and well chosen, if rather long examples, never bore. One is forced to look at examples of technique that please while they teach. As a teacher of creative writing courses, Elizabeth George cannot close the class without a final summary, aptly named "The Process in a Nutshell." Write Away is full of techniques such as character charts, step outlines, the hook, as well as stream of consciousness writing.
A minor annoyance that runs through Write Away is the author's constant use of the feminine pronouns "her" and "she" when discussing what a writer should do to produce good writing. It makes the writing sound as if it were written for a creative writing class at a women's college. Yet the author consistently uses examples of male writers for which she has great admiration. Perhaps this is just a stylistic device, but it does seem to serve no positive purpose.
Write Away will be very helpful for any aspiring writer of novels, but it will also be very helpful for teachers who teach writing . Best of all, Write Away is a very interesting book to read just get an insight into what a writer really goes through to provide us with a book we are going to enjoy.
--Sarah Reaves White
Write Away is available for purchase on Amazon.com
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This review was published in the July-August, 2004 of The Internet Writing Journal.
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