Steering the Craft

Steering the Craft

A Twenty-first- Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story

Book - 2015 | First Mariner Books edition.
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A revised and updated guide to the essentials of a writer's craft, presented by a brilliant practitioner of the art

Completely revised and rewritten to address the challenges and opportunities of the modern era, this handbook is a short, deceptively simple guide to the craft of writing. Le Guin lays out ten chapters that address the most fundamental components of narrative, from the sound of language to sentence construction to point of view. Each chapter combines illustrative examples from the global canon with Le Guin's own witty commentary and an exercise that the writer can do solo or in a group. She also offers a comprehensive guide to working in writing groups, both actual and online.

Masterly and concise, Steering the Craft deserves a place on every writer's shelf.
Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.
Edition: First Mariner Books edition.
Copyright Date: ©1998
ISBN: 9780544611610
Characteristics: 141 pages ; 21 cm


From the critics

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Oct 06, 2020

Definitely not over-written, friendly, patient, and helpful. The exercises are not too many nor too onerous. The best part, I find, is about points of view with a paragraph re-written for each.

multcolib_susannel Dec 02, 2018

Using the metaphor of a sailing ship, Le Guin covers the skills needed to turn a story into a novel or memoir. Each chapter has practice exercises and tips for using the book with a writer's group.

Jul 24, 2018

Profound insights on writing presented with grace, charm and wit.

Ursula Le Guin describes Steering the Craft, A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, as “A handbook for storytellers - writers of narrative prose and not for beginners.”
Indeed, it is not a book for beginners as much of what she addresses would be beyond the comprehension of novices. What it does concentrate on are those problems that challenge writers and impede the tone an flow of the narrative.
For example, she asks you to listen to the sound of your writing which involves diction and syntax.
Sophisticated consideration is given to verbs: person and tense, as well as point of view and changing point of view.
Indirection narration or what tells including avoiding expository lumps is discussed in depth.
There’s an excellent chapter entitled Crowding and Leaping which involves the necessity of focusing on some areas while leaping ahead in other parts while still following a fixed trajectory.
Steering the Craft is primarily a workbook with “exercise consciousness-raisers that aim to clarify and intensify your awareness of certain elements of prose writing and certain techniques and modes of storytelling."
These exercises are challenging but illuminating. I particularly benefitted from one called A Terrible Thing to Do that involved writing a narrative of about 500 words and then cutting it by half still keeping the narrative clear and not replacing specifics by generalities.
The book also includes the best advice I’ve read on running peer group writing workshops.
This slim volume has profound insights on writing and presents them with grace, charm an wit. The goal, according to the author, is to help you develop skills that free you to write want you to write.
Or as Le Guin puts it so that you’re “ready to let the story tell itself; having the skills, knowing the craft so that when the magic boat comes by, you can step into it and guide it where it wants to go, where it ought to go.”

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