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    A practical, solid how-to manual

    There are a lot of writer 'how-to' manuals out there these days, some good, most only so-so, and a whole lot outright harmful, but this one ranks up there as one of the more practical ones. First of all, Victoria Mixon is a bona fide DEVELOPMENTAL EDITOR, so Art & Craft of Fiction approaches your writing the way that an editor would, starting with the spark of the story, and then drills down into first plot & pacing, then into finer and finer layers such as dialogue and some line-editing stuff. Secondly, Ms. Mixon has a pleasant, chatty voice which makes it feel as though you are sitting down, going through your manuscript over a cup of tea with a friend instead of getting red-inked in front of the entire classroom back in elementary school as many how-to books make you feel. Favorite Chapters: - Action - how much action do you need to keep your reader interested? How can you spiff up a scene that is starting to drag? How do you inject the impression of action into a genre novel that isn't, by nature, action-oriented (such as literary fiction)? I think I liked this section best because it explained, in a way that has fallen flat in most other writer how-to books, how to build 'action' into even the most passive genre. - Dialogue tags - goes far beyond the usual 'he said/she said' advice to give lots of practical examples of good and bad ways to use dialogue to convey the action and how (when) to use action-tags instead of 'said' without making it appear clunky. I found the comparison between good and bad examples especially helpful. Some of the 'bad action tags' made me giggle. - Plotting your way out of a paper bag (chapter) - this chapter was helpful for a pantser like me who hates to over-plot. - Revision - she uses zombie analogies :-) Need I say more? Anybody who has ever picked up their manuscript after it's 'gone cold' for a while and had to beat into submission knows what I'm talking about. Bra-a-a-i-i-n-sss... Critiques: good solid advice. My only critique would be that some of good/bad example references were best-selling literary fiction and I'm a trash-talking genre fiction reader and writer, so I wasn't familiar with all of the works referred to. I'm sure there were a few things that floated right over my head. If you are on a limited budget to buy writer how-to books, this one should be on your acquisition list because, unlike a lot of writer how-to books, it's focus is on how to improve the book you already wrote without squelching the voice you already possess, not on how to copy X-McAuthor's pre-existing writing style.
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