If you are a writer, new or seasoned, you know exactly how many different kinds of books are out there to help you with craft. Not only that, but then there are all the books by different authors telling you how they write.
“So, what is special about this book?” I hear you say.
There is a lot that is special about it. First, it is a primer for the experience of a MFA program. Which makes sense as it is a product of the Seton Hill University Writing Popular Fiction program. Every essay is written by either published alums, current or former mentors and teachers of the program, and special guests that visited during a Residency. You can see a whole list of the contributors at the book’s website. As you read each of them, you realize that, while you have a succinct essay, the depth of knowledge and understanding in them can in many cases be deeper than whole books written on that same subject. I would almost consider them the teachers notes to a complete course.
Second, while it comes from a genre fiction background, it’s a book that any writer will find helpful. The title states this to the reader. The first section of the book is about the craft of writing. No matter what you write, this unifies writers of every ilk. Each essay always goes that small step further than any other on the subjects of style, characters, setting, plot, etc., if not completely original. One such essay of the later is “Don’t Be a Bobble-Head, and Other Bits of Guidance” by Timons Esaias. Just reading it over not only will strengthen your own writing, but see how frequently even the best writers of any field make simple mistakes.
The last section of the book is all about the life of the writer. I think this is the most important section of the book, because no one tells you it actually like to be a writer. What you have to do, what you have to think of each day. Most people see writing simply as an art. It is that, but it is also a profession. Just about every other field will teach you consciously or unconsciously teach you about that profession in conjunction with education in that field. A trade mark of the Seton Hill WPF program of teaching it studies about the publishing industry is branded into this book by doing the same for its reader. Tips for promotion, getting an agent, getting reviewed (and dealing with it), finding time to write, and more will help every kind of writer know how to make sure there work gets the attention it deserves in every stage: from idea to published text.
Finally, even it genre section is useful to even those who feel they write “literary” or “contemporary” fiction. Both informative and instructive, each essay explains conventions of all the genres. They are not “how-to write X genre” essays, but even deeper craft essays. Mary SanGiovanni’s essay, “Dark and Story Nights: Mood and Atmosphere in Horror,” while a terrific treatise on atmosphere key role in horror fiction, can be used in situations outside of horror. Albert Wendland’s “Description on the Edge: The Sublime in Science Fiction” can be a key text for any writer on understanding how to describe in a story that feels natural, like the reader feels like they are in the story. Even writers of contemporary fiction have to describe things, places, and more that their readers don’t know. They have to be just as effective a science fiction and fantasy writers describing what doesn’t exist.
At a time where not everyone can afford numerous books to help there writing, there is a need for an all purpose book. This is it and probably the best one out there. But it is also something else. It is a testament to the fact that no genre is better, more special, or more worthy than any other. Literature is literature and it’s practitioners must have all the same skills to be successful and entertaining to the world audience.