A review of Write to Publish by Christopher Klim

For beginning writers, or young people wanting to take their work to the next level–including publication–Write to Publish will be helpful in both a practical sense, as well as inspirational, without suggesting that writers try to run before they can walk, or write sophisticated literary novels and superb queries before they can craft a good story. 

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Write to Publish: Essentials for the Modern Fiction & Memoir Market
By Christopher Klim
Hopewell Publications
June 2003, pb, 175pgs
ISBN 0-9726906-9-7
rrp usd$17.95

Think you know everything there is to know about writing and publishing fiction? If so, you probably don’t need Write to Publish. Author Christopher Klim has written a fairly basic and personable guide to the craft of storytelling. The book covers the essential components of a story, how to produce engaging openings, characterisation, point of view, setting or landscape, plotting, and revising. As Klim points out, inspiration may be inbuilt, but the elements of a story can certainly be mapped, and taught. The guidelines and working structure are so clear that even the most jaded fiction writers would probably benefit–albeit in a minor way–from using this matter-of-fact overview as a revision check. The real audience for Write to Publish, however, is the beginning fiction writer who needs a roadmap to creating a “cogent, fluid story” (15).

Each chapter covers one of the critical components of fiction writing, and uses examples primarily from Klim’s own work as well as popular and classic fiction, and then concludes with an exercise. The chapters are brief and use a familiar, colloquial style which won’t intimidate young or new writers. Experienced writers, especially writers of literary fiction, may take exception at a few of Klim’s maxims, such as “At all costs, avoid the extended interior monologue” (26)–James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, take note–or the simplistic overviews of characterisation and setting: “Watch people” (29). On the other hand, young writers will benefit from the no-nonsense sections on point of view, working out the setting, and above all, the chapters on plotting, which are well organised.

A good plot is the framework for all fiction, and Klim understands the craft of plotting well. His “scene-sequel” methodology is a good one, especially for longer fiction like novels, where it is easy to start with a bang and then fizzle out if you don’t have a good base structure mapped out in advance. The four questions for scene generation, and three parts of each scene’s sequel will help writers craft good dramatic plots, the basis for most commercial fiction.

The rest of the book is a mixture of tips on submitting a manuscript synopsis to a publisher, obtaining an agent, dealing with rejection, and stimulating creativity. The advice is all good, and, again, would probably appeal to a beginning writer with little experience querying and submitting work. There are some interesting points made, such as dealing with writer’s block by working out answers to plot questions, or using REM meditation to work out story problems, but like most of the book, both of these suggestions could benefit from more depth and detail. The book ends with one of Klim’s own short stories, and his preparation work for that — character sketches, a scene and sequel analysis, novel query letter and synopsis — which gives a good practical demonstration of the points he makes in the book.

For young or new writers, the “magic” of the written and especially published word can be intimidating. There is nothing intimidating about this guide, which is very quick and easy to read and full of some clear guidelines on story crafting. It has been designed as a kind of mini-workshop, and probably follows the lines of Klim’s own seminars. Experienced writers will find this book too short, light on detail, and too basic to be of use. Of course we can all use a reminder of the basics, but I would suggest that Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style is a good reference for an overview on point of view, stylistics, and revisioning. There are also much more detailed books on the market for querying such as Moira Allen’s The Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals. For characterisation, Noah Lukeman’s excellent The Plot Thickens is hard to beat. Neither Allen’s nor Lukeman’s books are for beginners, though (Lukeman’s is particularly demanding). For beginning writers, or young people wanting to take their work to the next level–including publication–Write to Publish will be helpful in both a practical sense, as well as inspirational, without suggesting that writers try to run before they can walk, or write sophisticated literary novels and superb queries before they can craft a good story.

For more information visit: www.writetopublish.com

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