I recently read a new book about the craft of writing: Lessons From a Lifetime of Writing: A Novelist Looks at his Craft by David Morrell. Morrell, the author of such novels as First Blood, has written here a lively volume of writerly advice. Not all of it is new: I have yet to see a book on writing that doesn’t counsel a would-be writer to actually write and do so each and every day. Some lessons, though, bear repeating — especially with regard to writing, an activity where it is frightfully easy to allow a day or two to pass without once committing words to paper. The best sections, to me, were the sections on dialogue — like Stephen King, Morrell advises us to avoid adverbs like the plague, especially in dialogue attribution — and the section on voice, where Morrell analyzes some of the problems inherent in writing fiction in the first person.
The book’s later chapters address the life of a writer. Here we are told, of course, not to quit our day jobs; however, Morrell goes farther than that. He gives advice on money management for the writer, and in one particularly penetrating passage he describes the life of a writer who is on a book tour. This is in an attempt to disavow any aspiring writers of any illusions of fame or glamour that are to come with writerly success. Most interesting is his description of the book warehouse he toured that was heated by a giant furnace in which remaindered books were being burned. Ouch.
Morrell’s book is not as good as Stephen King’s On Writing (still the gold standard for writing books, as far as I am concerned), but it is still a worthwhile volume. I recommend it.