Monday, July 11, 2022

Review of Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers by Carolyn See

This review was written by Eugene Kernes  

Book can be found in:
Genre = Writing
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“Sneak up on your material.  Don’t go crashing after it through the forest with a machete.  Sit down, be quiet, let the material catch up with you.” – Carolyn See, Chapter 2: What’s Your Material?, Page 19

“The implication was that there was a serious apprenticeship, even for reading, to say nothing of the one for writing, and that to pressure to write something down took an enormous leap of both faith and pride.” – Carolyn See, Chapter 6: Hang Out with People Who Support Your Work, Page 62

“When you have something in print, even if it’s a recipe for heirloom tomato aspic, you’ve bought a ticket in immortality’s lottery.  Part of you is floating in another universe, and until every last copy of whatever-it-is, is burned, smashed, and gone, you, are, because of that little scrap, not bound by the rules of time” – Carolyn See, Chapter 9: Getting Published, Part 1 Page 102

Writing is a major commitment.  Writing is a creative act, which tends to destabilize structure and norms.  Best to keep what is being written secret, at least until its ready for publication.  Otherwise, it might arouse suspicion or other unneeded feedback.  

Writing is about writing, and what it needs are words written down.  Its good practice to make it a habit to write close to everyday.  Not necessary write the whole day, but words need to go unto a page.  Writing needs the author to find the author’s own voice, and material.  Using mostly what is known, the experiences and people that are familiar, to shape the world within the book.  Knowing what ideas and thoughts to stay away from, is just as important.  After having written the book, to revise the book.  Seeing what is missing, and what can improve the flow of the writing.  

Even if the content is great, does not mean people will read it, or understand it.  Even after finishing the book, there is still more work to do to get people to read the book.  Before and after publishing, the author is required to market their own work.  Convincing people to read the book.  The people who the author can ask to read and review the book, is everyone.  Finding belonging with people who support the author’s writing is needed not just for morale, but also because those people would be more willing to read the book.  

The advice is mainly for fiction writing, which might not easily transfer to non-fiction writing.  Some of the advice that helped the author, may not help other authors.  Need to personalize the advice to make it useful.  Most of the advice is relevant no matter the era, but some of the advice is no longer relevant.
Language is explicit.  Which may provide humor, or can distract from the advice.  Another potential distraction are the personal references.  This book is filled with many personal references, mainly to make the case that the personal references are the sources that any author should use.  The references are sometimes useful to understanding the context, sometimes distracting.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•Why do people choose to write?
•Who should know about author’s writing?
•What writing practices should an author have?
•How does an author find the author’s voice?
•What use is revising in writing?
•Why do author’s need to market their own work?
•Who supports the author?

Book Details
Publisher:         Ballantine Books [Penguin Random House]
Edition ISBN:  0345440463
Pages to read:   264
Publication:     2002
1st Edition:      2002
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          3
Overall           3