A Review by Jean Matthew Hall of STEERING THE CRAFT: A TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY GUIDE TO SAILING THE SEA OF STORY by Ursula K. LeGuin
If the beauty of language thrills you;
If you love weaving words, sounds and silences as they move readers through a story;
If you admire and respect the power of sounds and rhythms, pauses and punctuation;
If you relish the challenge of threading the components of our language into a memorable story;
STEERING THE CRAFT: A TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY GUIDE TO SAILING THE SEA OF STORY by Ursula K. LeGuin is for you. It’s a handbook for storytellers—those who write narrative prose either fiction or nonfiction. At first glance the Table of Contents looks familiar—much like any other book for writers.
But wait until you start reading those chapters! LeGuin takes an approach to those ordinary topics that is new for me. Her thought processes are different from other books on writing that I have read. She focuses on the use of language itself—sounds, words, pauses, rhythms, devices—when she talks about:
- Sentence Length
Reading her explanations and suggestions was enlightening for me.
Each of the ten chapters of STEERING THE CRAFT includes her discussion of the topic, serious examples of it from literature, and exercises unlike those I’ve read in other books on craft. These are not just story starters, folks. Some of the exercises are great for writing/critique groups. They offer help avoiding common pitfalls, practice in exercising control with each skill, and opportunities to enjoy playing with the writing, with words—the basic commodity in which we writers deal.
STEERINIG THE CRAFT is essentially a workbook for the serious writer/reader. I purchased the Kindle version and found it so easy highlighting and making notes in each chapter.
LeGuin focuses on improving craft and reminding us that “Craft enables art.” Expertise in handling language frees authors to express their art. So, I must never stop pursuing expertise.
She also emphasizes reading your work aloud! I know this is great for picture books. But LeGuin insists it is equally important with novels. And, reading the examples she offered WAS both enjoyable and enlightening. Our language IS beautiful in skillful hands.
I’ve finished the book with a list of classics to revisit and read ALOUD to myself!
If the beauty and power of our language thrills you, do yourself a favor and read STEERING THE CRAFT: A TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY GUIDE TO SAILING THE SEA OF STORY by Ursula K. LeGuin.
You won’t regret it.