Steering the Craft
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.

Steering the Craft Details

TitleSteering the Craft
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 1st, 2015
PublisherMariner Books
Rating
GenreLanguage, Writing, Nonfiction, Reference

Steering the Craft Review

  • Eveningstar2
    January 1, 1970
    I'm pretty skeptical of books on writing, if only because everyone seems to have written one. And so many of them come at you with flashy promises: "Sell Your Novel In Thirty Days!"Prior to having read LeGuin's "Steering the Craft," I relied on three books, more or less:1. Strunk and White - Elements of Style2. Stephen King - On Writing3. John Gardner - The Art of FictionIn that order. Strunk and White covered the bare bones fundamentals; King's book covers the creative process and Gardner gets I'm pretty skeptical of books on writing, if only because everyone seems to have written one. And so many of them come at you with flashy promises: "Sell Your Novel In Thirty Days!"Prior to having read LeGuin's "Steering the Craft," I relied on three books, more or less:1. Strunk and White - Elements of Style2. Stephen King - On Writing3. John Gardner - The Art of FictionIn that order. Strunk and White covered the bare bones fundamentals; King's book covers the creative process and Gardner gets into some of the more academic, abstract concepts like rhythm, sentence variation and syntax.LeGuin's book falls somewhere between King and Gardner. She has insight for the budding writer, but makes it clear that her book neither intends to promote writing as a form of therapy or help you get into a habit of productivity. Her advice is concise, terse and poignant, and she focuses entirely on craft.There's some fantastic advice here, including nuanced and thought-provoking arguments about passive vs. active voice, present vs. past tense. Her insights on crowding vs. leaping (how much do you leave out, and what do you leave in?) were especially useful. LeGuin covers everything King and Gardner either didn't cover or just touched upon. Her book feels like a valuable corollary, a good addition to a well-rounded reference. A short book, but precise in its advice, with a rare emphasis on those elements of creative writing that no one seems to talk about (voice, perspective, sentence structure, avoiding expository lumps, good use of punctuation).Don't read this book for advice on plot, dialogue, characterization or pacing. "On Writing" is probably more useful there. This is a book of techniques.
    more
  • Murat S. Dural
    January 1, 1970
    Ursula K. Le Guin okumak edebi anlamda dini bir metinle başbaşa kalmak gibi. Benim için öyle en azından. Hep Kitap'ın son dönemde bastığı yayınlar hem edebi hem de inceleme serileri açısından gayet başarılı. "Yazmak" üzerine bir seri adım adım çıkıyor. "Dümeni Yaratıcılığa Kırmak"ta bu serinin önemli bir ayağı. Fakat ilk sayfalarda bizi kendi ağzından şöyle bir cümle ile karşılıyor; "Öncelikle şunu söylemem gerek, bu kitap yeni başlayanlar için değil. Hedef kitlesi zaten yazdıkları üstünde yoğun Ursula K. Le Guin okumak edebi anlamda dini bir metinle başbaşa kalmak gibi. Benim için öyle en azından. Hep Kitap'ın son dönemde bastığı yayınlar hem edebi hem de inceleme serileri açısından gayet başarılı. "Yazmak" üzerine bir seri adım adım çıkıyor. "Dümeni Yaratıcılığa Kırmak"ta bu serinin önemli bir ayağı. Fakat ilk sayfalarda bizi kendi ağzından şöyle bir cümle ile karşılıyor; "Öncelikle şunu söylemem gerek, bu kitap yeni başlayanlar için değil. Hedef kitlesi zaten yazdıkları üstünde yoğun şekilde çalışan insanlar." Kitap son derece önemli bilgilerle dolu, ama Ursula Le Guin'in dediği gibi öncelikli hedef bu eserdeki bilgilere kafa yormak olmamlı. Eğer kurgularınızı örmeye, insanlara göstermeye başladıysanız geçebilirsiniz. Ben edinmenizden yanayım. Aslında öykünüze, romanınıza başlarken bakmak isteyebileceğiniz şeylere, yapmak isteyeceğiniz alıştırmalara sahip. Son sözler kitapta da yer alan bir alıntıyla gelsin; “Virginia Woolf, bir yazar arkadaşına gönderdiği mektupta bundan bahsetmiştir: Üslup aslında çok basit bir mesele, tamamen ritimle ilgili. Bir kere buna alıştığında, yanlış kelimeleri kullanmazsın. Öte yandan neredeyse bütün sabahı burada öylece oturarak geçirdim, tıka basa fikirlerle ve imgelemlerle doluyum: doğru ritmi bulamadığımdan, hiçbirini yerinden oynatamıyorum. Aslında ritmin kendisi oldukça yoğun ve kelimelerden daha derine ulaşabiliyor. Bir bakış ya da bir duygu, bunlara uyabilecek kelimeleri bulmadan çok önce zihninde bu dalgayı yaratıyor...” Ne kadar güzel anlatmış. Dalgayı duymamak, etkilenmemek mümkün mü?
    more
  • Suzanne
    January 1, 1970
    This was one of the first books I bought for myself when I decided to pursue fiction writing. It's also the only book from those early days that survived the recent culling of my writing book collection, because the exercises are well-suited to aspiring and seasoned writers alike. (The rest of those first books I picked up were very self-helpy. I liked some of them back then, but freewriting about your past only gets you so far, you know?)Le Guin's focus with these exercises is wordsmithing. I'v This was one of the first books I bought for myself when I decided to pursue fiction writing. It's also the only book from those early days that survived the recent culling of my writing book collection, because the exercises are well-suited to aspiring and seasoned writers alike. (The rest of those first books I picked up were very self-helpy. I liked some of them back then, but freewriting about your past only gets you so far, you know?)Le Guin's focus with these exercises is wordsmithing. I've read so many books lately on plot, character, and Big Picture elements that it was refreshing to consider working with my writing at this level again. If those others are about planning a work of art, making decisions about layout and color, this book is about mixing the paints and choosing the brushes.Since there's only a very brief description from Goodreads, here's a peek at what she covers:Chapter 1. The Sound of Your WritingExercise one: Being GorgeousChapter 2. PunctuationExercise two: I am Garcia MarquezChapter 3. Sentence Length and Complex SyntaxExercise three: Short and LongChapter 4. RepetitionExercise four: Again and Again and AgainChapter 5. Adjective and AdverbExercise five: ChastityChapter 6. Subject Pronoun and VerbExercise six: The Old WomanChapter 7. Point of View and VoiceExercise seven: POVChapter 8. Changing Point of ViewExercise eight: Changing VoicesChapter 9. Indirect Narration, or What TellsExercise nine: Telling it SlantChapter 10. Crowding and LeapingExercise ten: A Terrible Thing to DoFrom the start, I knew I was getting something special from these exercises. Not only did I love the writing it helped me produce, but the exercises sharpened my sense of how language can affect a reader. I found that very inspiring as an aspiring writer.These days, I also appreciate the emphasis on quality of language, word economy, and crafting a sentence you're damn proud of. As much as I like NaNoWriMo and understand that dwelling on each sentence is a realllllllly slow-going way to get a book written, I love that this book encourages you to slow down. Listen to the words you're choosing. Are they they best words? Do you need all of them? Is there a better way? Try another way to be sure. All of this experimentation with language can get you even closer to conveying your vision to the reader. That's the goal, right?Anyway, I'm getting ready to work through all these again with a friend. I'm hoping the actual process of working through these exercises is as enjoyable as I remember. I'll amend the review either way.
    more
  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    Why don't I have a review here? Hmm. A review: I did every exercise in this book. I am a better writer for it. The end.
  • Rebecca Renner
    January 1, 1970
    This is low-level nuts and bolts stuff. I think it might be useful for teaching high schoolers, but I teach more high brow stuff in my class, so who knows.
  • Luu
    January 1, 1970
    Nebudem hodnotiť, lebo pre kohokoľvek, kto nepíše po anglicky, má táto kniha nulovú výpovednú hodnotu. Všetky rady, ktoré Le Guinová dáva, sú až príliš naviazané na anglickú gramatiku, a príklady, ako správne vyzerá anglická syntax alebo použitie milióna minulých anglických časov, vám pri písaní v slovenčine nič nedajú.
    more
  • melydia
    January 1, 1970
    The structure of this book is quite simple but surprisingly useful. Each chapter covers a certain aspect of writing (point of view, description, dialogue, etc.), beginning with a brief overview, giving sample passages from other works, and ending with an exercise. The exercise comes with critiquing suggestions for those writing in groups and things to consider for those working alone. The occasional opinion essay comes up now and again, always labeled as such, so you know when you're learning a The structure of this book is quite simple but surprisingly useful. Each chapter covers a certain aspect of writing (point of view, description, dialogue, etc.), beginning with a brief overview, giving sample passages from other works, and ending with an exercise. The exercise comes with critiquing suggestions for those writing in groups and things to consider for those working alone. The occasional opinion essay comes up now and again, always labeled as such, so you know when you're learning a rule and when you're just getting another angle on the topic. I admit I didn't actually do any of the exercises, but they were interesting and worthy. Much better than your standard "describe your morning routine" exercises that show up in most writing books. I also felt like I was being treated like an adult. Le Guin is not taking you by the hand here; she is showing you the path. There is no talk of publication or rejection letters, nothing about recapturing your creativity or affirming your right to write. This book was clearly not written for people looking to write a bestselling novel or take up a brand new hobby. It is, in short, a book for people who enjoy writing and would like to do so better. Would that more writing books were of this calibre.
    more
  • Nikki
    January 1, 1970
    This book focuses more on style and playing with language than actually talking about plot. Each section contains some explanation about whatever point she's trying to make, some examples which she thinks exemplify that (and why), and then an exercise to try -- along with the suggestion to come back in a week and then think about a couple of points she raises afterwards. I both enjoyed and was challenged by the exercises, and though I don't think the results were the best things I've ever writte This book focuses more on style and playing with language than actually talking about plot. Each section contains some explanation about whatever point she's trying to make, some examples which she thinks exemplify that (and why), and then an exercise to try -- along with the suggestion to come back in a week and then think about a couple of points she raises afterwards. I both enjoyed and was challenged by the exercises, and though I don't think the results were the best things I've ever written -- the rules of the exercise intentionally limit you in certain ways, or free you completely from normal conventions, so it can hardly be the best and most rounded thing you've ever written, but it makes its point -- people apparently did enjoy the result.I did read in an amazon review that there's "not enough material for the price" (£7 in the UK, $10 in the US) -- no personal experiences, no explanation of the difference between a short story and a novel, no attempt to explain the market. That's definitely not what this book is about: it's entirely about language, and about the reader getting stuck in and playing around. Much as I love Le Guin and would be interested in her observations of the genre, I think it's better this way.
    more
  • Ksenia Anske
    January 1, 1970
    A beautiful book. Packed with examples and exercises that help you create your own writing workshop covering everything from repetition to punctuation to prose economy to POVs to exposition to critiquing. A book to buy and keep and study; and pull out and do exercises when hopelessly stuck.
    more
  • Margaret
    January 1, 1970
    Most creative writing exercise books I've read collect idea exercises; Steering the Craft, as the name suggests, collects craft exercises. This is preferable to me as my best writing ideas come from within, from careful thinking, rather than "Your first sentence is 'She preferred the salad bar', and the piece must contain these three objects: a toothbrush, a zebra, and a lighthouse." I hate those. I really hate those. (I really, really hate those.) You don't learn anything from those types of ex Most creative writing exercise books I've read collect idea exercises; Steering the Craft, as the name suggests, collects craft exercises. This is preferable to me as my best writing ideas come from within, from careful thinking, rather than "Your first sentence is 'She preferred the salad bar', and the piece must contain these three objects: a toothbrush, a zebra, and a lighthouse." I hate those. I really hate those. (I really, really hate those.) You don't learn anything from those types of exercises, though if have trouble coming up with ideas, then I can see how they're useful. Instead, Le Guin presents 10 craft exercises in 10 chapters. These craft exercises help break down the elements of writing so the writer is more conscious of these elements as they're writing. For instance, sentence length. Exercise 3 has the writer write a paragraph of narrative using sentences of 7 words or fewer. Then you write an entire page of narrative that's a single sentence. Seems simple, right? But by doing this, it helped me explore the possibilities of particularly long sentence length. It also made me more aware of sentence length and the possible sentence combinations in my writing outside of these exercises. I did all 10 exercises, and feel more conscious of the physicality of my writing then I did before. Another plus to these exercises are that they can be done again and again. While you won't have a short story ready for submissions after reading this, you will have the skills (or improved skills) to write one.
    more
  • Jeanne
    January 1, 1970
    Ursula LeGuin said in her introduction to Steering the Craft: A Twenty-first-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story that it "is not a book for beginners. It’s meant for people who have already worked hard at their writing." I think LeGuin sold her book short. I am not a serious writer, even though I often spend hours many days writing. I certainly don't write fiction. Nonetheless, I learned a lot in the course of reading Steering the Craft, both about writing and teaching, as it is an opportu Ursula LeGuin said in her introduction to Steering the Craft: A Twenty-first-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story that it "is not a book for beginners. It’s meant for people who have already worked hard at their writing." I think LeGuin sold her book short. I am not a serious writer, even though I often spend hours many days writing. I certainly don't write fiction. Nonetheless, I learned a lot in the course of reading Steering the Craft, both about writing and teaching, as it is an opportunity to sit and listen to a masterful teacher – skilled in her craft and teaching both. Even people who are not writers or interested in strengthening their writing can read, enjoy, and profit from Steering the Craft. It is not only about writing well, but beautifully written. It is like spending the afternoon in your favorite coffee shop, eating a luscious, but not overdone dessert, with your coffee's aromas tickling your nose, and good people chattering and music playing in the background. Dessert is perhaps not the best metaphor, as it's not rich chocolate cake with dark chocolate icing, but ratatouille, deeply flavored, chock full of umami. I wanted to leave her words melting on my tongue so I could savor them longer.Each of LeGuin's ten short chapters is focused on a single idea (e.g., the sound of your writing, punctuation and grammar, point of view and voice, changing point of view). Chapters begin with a discussion of the focal concern and is followed by several prose examples (from Twain, Dickens, Neale Hurston, Woolf and others), then by one or more exercises and variations on these, and things to consider while critiquing. In the point of view chapter, for example, she retold the same story (150 words or so) from different perspectives: first person, limited third person, detached author, omniscient author, etc. Her examples make her points clearly and succinctly. For example: First: Tell your little story from a single POV, that of a participant in the event— an old man, a child, a cat, whatever you like. Use limited third person. Second: Retell the story from the POV of one of the other people involved in it. Again,use limited third person. (p. 72) She provided multiple iterations of each exercise, in effect, laying out breadcrumbs for the reader to follow to their goal. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is where LeGuin offered strategies for critiquing a writing exercise: In critiquing these exercises, you might talk about how well the shifts work, what’s gained (or lost?) by them, how the piece might have differed if told from one POV only. For a while afterward, when reading fiction, you might take a moment to consider what POV is being used, who the viewpoint character is, when the POV shifts, and so on. It’s interesting to see how different writers do it, and you can learn a great deal from watching great artists of narrative technique such as Woolf and Atwood. (p. 93) She is a gifted teacher and her workshops must have been masterful and exciting.I have read several books by LeGuin from different genres in the last year (and will probably read more). We lost a wise and witty guide this year. RIP, Ms. LeGuin. Thank you for leaving so much of yourself behind.
    more
  • David
    January 1, 1970
    While I prefer intimate one-on-one conversations with writers on how and why they write, Le Guin's Steering the Craft is as good as any when it comes to writing formalism. The Point of View and Voice chapter is absolutely essential. If you have the heart, the mercurial soul of a story, the rest can be tinkered and bartered with in the editing room. But POV and voice comes first, if not hand-in-hand with the essence of what you want to write. Without the how (whether you decide to write in the th While I prefer intimate one-on-one conversations with writers on how and why they write, Le Guin's Steering the Craft is as good as any when it comes to writing formalism. The Point of View and Voice chapter is absolutely essential. If you have the heart, the mercurial soul of a story, the rest can be tinkered and bartered with in the editing room. But POV and voice comes first, if not hand-in-hand with the essence of what you want to write. Without the how (whether you decide to write in the third person limited or involved, omniscient author, for example), your wonderful ideas can easily top-size. Read this section five times, if you wish to take writing seriously. Appendix I: The Peer Group Workshop deals with all the stuffy group mannerisms that I'm not too fond of. Those strict parameters when it comes to lassoing in the wild writer. Great for workshoppers or peer-to-peer critiques in a formal setting, but for people like me, something to be feared. Just a short rant (trust me, it could've been longer): If I'm not being taught by a professor, I don't nor do I ever want to call what I'm doing peer-to-peer. Just the mere utterance of it echoes the strictness of laboratory work. At least for me, good writing often flourishes in chaos. If you want to chat up a storm on the several projects you got going (one of which you're certain will sell better than Harry Potter), that's fine, and I would at least meet your mutinous crew with the virility of your chosen elixir at your side, whether that be coffee, tea, water, or straight up vodka. Maybe even show up late; and when you do, there's no need to apologize. Talk about your life, your experiences over the previous day. Workshops shouldn't be frigid and closeted; you mean to tell me you wish to elucidate the secrets of the universe but can't talk about the stuff that's really pissing you off?! The ideal workshop should be comprised of friends, or potential friends, and maybe fellow intuitives. As a writer, the thought of a dozen similarly arrogant and passionate writers being cramped into one room under the strictest formalism scares the ever-loving shit out of me.Mostly a good to great introduction to the craft of story writing, with bendable exercises peppered throughout, and if you need them, strict workshop guidelines (my sole guideline for workshops/get-togethers with writers? A sign above the doorway that reads NO BULLSHIT). If you're looking for HOPE, or DESPAIR, this might not be the book for you. One reads Steering the Craft in the voice of a stern but loving grandmother. And I guess there's nothing wrong with that because her intentions are good.So then, some of her best intentions: But the basic function of the narrative sentence is to keep the story going and keep the reader going with it. Its rhythm is part of the rhythm of the whole piece; all its qualities are part of the quality and tone of the whole piece. As a narrative sentence, it isn't serving the story well if its rhythm is so unexpected, or its beauty so striking, or its similes or metaphors so dazzling that it stops the reader, even to say Ooh, Ah! Poetry can do that. Poetry can be visibly, immediately dazzling. In poetry a line, a few words, can make the reader's breath catch and her eyes fill with tears. But for the most part, prose sets its proper beauty and power deeper, hiding it in the work as a whole. Variety of sentence length: Teachers trying to get school kids to write clearly, and journalists with their weird rules of writing, have filled a lot of heads with the notion that the only good sentence is a short sentence. This is true for convicted criminals. On the present tense: I think the mere name, "present tense," leads some writers to assume that present-tense narration implies immediacy - a story-time close to the reader's present. Therefore they assume that use of the past tense implies a remoter time. This is naive. It doesn't work that way. I've read effective stories in which recent events were told in the past tense and the present tense was used for what happened a long time ago. The tenses have so little connotation of actual presentness or pastness that, in that respect, they're interchangeable. But they do have different implications regarding continuity. Dangers of the Expository Lump: If the information is poured out as a lecture, barely concealed by some stupid device - "Oh, Captain, do tell me how the antimatter dissimulator works!" and then he does, endlessly - we have what science fiction writers call an Expository Lump. Crafty writers (in any genre) don't allow Exposition to form Lumps. They break up the information, grind it fine, and make it into bricks to build the story with. And then the elements of story: Modernist manuals of writing often conflate story with conflict. This reductionism reflects a culture that inflates aggression and competition while cultivating ignorance of other behavioral options. No narrative of any complexity is one kind of behavior. There are others, equally important in any human life, such as relating, finding, losing, bearing, discovering, parting, changing.
    more
  • Grace
    January 1, 1970
    Most of what was in this book was not new for me, but it was still an enjoyable and educational read. Great for beginning writers. It also has group exercises for each chapter/section, so it's ideal for classes or writing groups.
  • Malcolm Everett
    January 1, 1970
    Ursula K. Le Guin is a seminal science fiction author, but admittedly I have not read any of her fiction. In fact, Dispossessed was one of six required novels for my comparative studies class, and it was the only text I couldn’t get through. Still, Le Guin has a wealth of insight on the craft and presents interesting arguments about why certain techniques are more effective. For example, she suggests that writers practice “psychological displacement” by having a viewpoint character that holds dr Ursula K. Le Guin is a seminal science fiction author, but admittedly I have not read any of her fiction. In fact, Dispossessed was one of six required novels for my comparative studies class, and it was the only text I couldn’t get through. Still, Le Guin has a wealth of insight on the craft and presents interesting arguments about why certain techniques are more effective. For example, she suggests that writers practice “psychological displacement” by having a viewpoint character that holds drastically different opinions from your own—the reason being that this prevents you from becoming a mouthpiece for your characters. Le Guin also covers a large span of topics in a short amount of time—from rhythm to tense to POV—and useful exercises are included at the end of each section. She also provides questions to guide critique for after you’ve completed the exercise. That aspect of the book makes this the perfect primer for creative writing instructors or critique groups.My one complaint is that I found the majority of the examples of “exemplary writing” to be dry and ugly, but that’s more due to my own lack of refinement. For me, most classic literature drags on and on with unnecessary description and repetition that does little to advance the story or characterization. My distaste for this type of writing (like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To the Lighthouse) is part of my own personal biases as a modern reader. Ultimately, Steering the Craft has heightened my awareness of how sentence-level choices can impact the reader’s experience.
    more
  • Wendy
    January 1, 1970
    The book that will make you wish you could take a writing workshop with Ursula K. LeGuin.
  • Beth Cato
    January 1, 1970
    I actually started working through this book with a small writing group. We made it to lesson 7 before stalling out, and I decided to finish reading the book solo without continuing the exercises. I'm an experienced author with two series with a Big 5 publisher, a Nebula nomination, and a whole lot of publications with my byline. This book taught me something new in every chapter. For me, a great deal of writing is intuitive. I don't know all of the rules of grammar, and I still shudder at the t I actually started working through this book with a small writing group. We made it to lesson 7 before stalling out, and I decided to finish reading the book solo without continuing the exercises. I'm an experienced author with two series with a Big 5 publisher, a Nebula nomination, and a whole lot of publications with my byline. This book taught me something new in every chapter. For me, a great deal of writing is intuitive. I don't know all of the rules of grammar, and I still shudder at the thought of the diagramming I did in 8th grade. Le Guin gently explains matters like pacing and points of view and shares fantastic examples, and she gives names to the techniques that I utilize in ignorance.This is a book that really should be done in a small writing group; there is a lot to be gained through sharing different approaches to the exercises and discussing why some of them are incredibly challenging. Highly recommend this to all writers who want to push themselves to learn more about their craft.
    more
  • Halley Sutton
    January 1, 1970
    Very practical, wonderfully snarky advice. Some of my favorite lines:"Emoticons are dreary little excuses for a failure to communicate feelings and intentions in words.""[Grammarians] declared that the pronoun 'he' includes both sexes, as in "If a person needs an abortion, he should be required to tell his parents." (With the proper context, this is more or less Ms. Le Guin telling misogynistic grammarians to GFTO, God bless her.)I marked most of the writing exercises and know that I probably sh Very practical, wonderfully snarky advice. Some of my favorite lines:"Emoticons are dreary little excuses for a failure to communicate feelings and intentions in words.""[Grammarians] declared that the pronoun 'he' includes both sexes, as in "If a person needs an abortion, he should be required to tell his parents." (With the proper context, this is more or less Ms. Le Guin telling misogynistic grammarians to GFTO, God bless her.)I marked most of the writing exercises and know that I probably should've done them as I was reading but eh, I'll get to 'em eventually (almost all very useful and interesting!).
    more
  • Paula Cappa
    January 1, 1970
    “Craft enables art.” This book brings the deepest understanding of how craft enables writers to elevate their writing beyond the mechanics and execution. Yes, Le Guin addresses danglers and misplaced modifiers and point of view issues. But she also speaks to the sound and beauty of language (especially style and rhythm) and how good writing skills free the writer to find the joy in writing. Every grammar bully should read this book.
    more
  • First Second Books
    January 1, 1970
    Tried and true, superb short (mostly short) writing exercises to be done in groups or alone. Beginning or seasoned writers can find gold here, year after year. One of my five favorite perennial books on writing.
  • Ross Blocher
    January 1, 1970
    A book about writing by one of the best. Ursula K. Le Guin shares tips from decades of writing and working with small groups of authors to improve their craft. Pitfalls to avoid, exercises to develop your skills, and practical advice and commentary all along the way. I'll admit I didn't follow along with the exercises: I just thought briefly about what I would write if I were following the prompt, and then moved on. I'm sure I'll be tempted in the future to go back and do the assignments, when I A book about writing by one of the best. Ursula K. Le Guin shares tips from decades of writing and working with small groups of authors to improve their craft. Pitfalls to avoid, exercises to develop your skills, and practical advice and commentary all along the way. I'll admit I didn't follow along with the exercises: I just thought briefly about what I would write if I were following the prompt, and then moved on. I'm sure I'll be tempted in the future to go back and do the assignments, when I need them for inspiration. Here are some nuggets of wisdom:- ...Put it away and forbid yourself to look at it again for a while. One of the few things most writers agree on is that we can't trust our judgment on our own freshly written work.- The cult of originality led writing teachers to treat imitation as if it were despicable.- The chief duty of a narrative sentence is to lead to the next sentence - to keep the story going.- What [a story] has to do is move - end up in a different place from where it started. That's what narrative does. It goes. It moves. Story is change.- As for the stuff in your computer that pretends to correct your punctuation or grammar, disable it.- Tactically speaking, I'd say go ahead and crowd in the first draft - tell it all, blab, babble, put everything in. Then in revising consider what merely pads or repeats or slows or impedes your story, and cut and recombine till what's left is what counts. Leap boldly.- Conflict is one kind of behavior. There are others, equally important in any human life, such as relating, finding, losing, bearing, discovering, parting, changing.- ...Never use the word somehow.- This may well include some of your favorite, most beautiful and admirable sentences and passages. You are allowed to cry or moan softly while you cut them out.
    more
  • Lori
    January 1, 1970
    Well-known author Ursula K. Le Guin conducted a writer's workshop she turned into this book. Each chapter bears a theme with literary examples, mostly from works in the public domain, and exercises for aspiring writers to complete. She occasionally recommends other sources, such as Strunk and White, to fill a gap in the reader's writing process knowledge. Although individuals may wish to complete the exercises on their own, a writing group probably provides the greatest benefit by providing feed Well-known author Ursula K. Le Guin conducted a writer's workshop she turned into this book. Each chapter bears a theme with literary examples, mostly from works in the public domain, and exercises for aspiring writers to complete. She occasionally recommends other sources, such as Strunk and White, to fill a gap in the reader's writing process knowledge. Although individuals may wish to complete the exercises on their own, a writing group probably provides the greatest benefit by providing feedback from others. Le Guin includes helpful appendices on using the book in a peer group and on verb tenses. She also supplies a brief glossary. Some exercises could benefit from more detailed instructions as some did not seem clear to me as I read them. This review pertains to the 1998 edition of the book rather than the 2015 revision and update.
    more
  • K.F. Silver
    January 1, 1970
    I feel this book in a case of an author who is better at showing her craft than teaching it. While there's some great information within these pages, I felt there were many times a technique was either given too much or too little time.It was also not what I expected or wanted to read, based on the description, which doubtless affected how useful I found it.
    more
  • Rivqa
    January 1, 1970
    It should surprise no one that this is an excellent guide for writers.
  • Ebru
    January 1, 1970
    Kitap bir yazı atölyesi kitabı. Başkalarının da okuması için yazmak istiyorsanız bir kılavuz niteliğinde. Kitap özel bir amaca yönelik olsa da Le Guin'in iç görüleri için de okunur.
  • Terrance Shaw
    January 1, 1970
    “Craft enables art” Ursula K. Le Guinn tells us in the introduction to her ‘Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story’. “There’s luck in art. And there’s the gift. You can’t earn that. But you can learn skill ... You can learn to deserve your gift.”Overflowing with valuable insight and inspiration, 'Steering the Craft' is among the best single-volume works on writing I’ve ever read—and I’ve read a lot of them over the decades, positively devouring anything I can get my “Craft enables art” Ursula K. Le Guinn tells us in the introduction to her ‘Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story’. “There’s luck in art. And there’s the gift. You can’t earn that. But you can learn skill ... You can learn to deserve your gift.”Overflowing with valuable insight and inspiration, 'Steering the Craft' is among the best single-volume works on writing I’ve ever read—and I’ve read a lot of them over the decades, positively devouring anything I can get my hands on. If Stephen King’s wonderful ‘On Writing’ is a helpful and encouraging introduction to the subject—call it Writing 101—Le Guinn offers a more advanced and rigorously focused 200-level course that will be most helpful to those already-experienced writers in search of self-improvement and a more acute understanding of how story works. There is a difference, Le Guinn tells us, between the kind of straightforward expository prose we all learned to write in school, and the language of effective fiction—a distinction far too many aspiring storytellers have yet to grasp. The important thing for a writer, she says, “…is to know what you’re doing with your language and why.” She then proceeds to enlighten us in the most pleasing of ways, gently but firmly, never dogmatic, often with humor, stressing fundamentals without coming off as a snob or a “correctness bully”. “To break a rule you have to know the rule,” she says. “A blunder is not a revolution.”Le Guinn challenges received and conventional wisdom at every turn. For instance, where Stephen King tells us that “the road to hell is paved with adverbs,” Le Guinn gently insists that adjectives and adverbs “add color, life, and immediacy … They cause obesity in prose only when used lazily or overused.” And again, she points out, “It’s a myth that short-sentence prose is ‘more like the way we speak’ … The marvelously supple connections of complex syntax are like the muscles and sinews of a long-distance runner’s body, ready to set up a good pace and keep going.” And there were so many more wonderful, refreshing observations throughout the book, I found myself obsessively marking and underlining to a point where my copy could never be resold—not that I would ever part with it!I very much appreciate the way Le Guinn draws parallels between music and prose, stressing the essential importance of rhythm and the physical sound of language: “The similarity of … incremental repetition of word, phrase, image, and event in prose to recapitulation and development in musical structure is real and deep.” Elsewhere, punctuation is brilliantly demystified as it is likened to the use of rests in a musical score. The volume is designed as a workbook, and includes a number of skill-enhancing exercises, with copious examples of the various concepts discussed, drawn from classic works from the Bronte sisters to Dickens, Hardy and Virginia Wolfe, always with fascinating, trenchant commentary from Le Guinn. ‘Steering the Craft’ is a treasure! Enthusiastically recommended.
    more
  • Sarah Schantz
    January 1, 1970
    This charming book on the craft of creative writing is a pure delight to read even as a now seasoned and published author and I only wish I'd encountered it earlier on when I was still a novice (although I recognized several bits of advice I've magpied from my mentors over the years who undoubtedly magpied it from Le Guin's, Steering the Craft). I sat down to read the book yesterday as it is the textbook for the fiction class I am gearing up to teach this semester at the community college where This charming book on the craft of creative writing is a pure delight to read even as a now seasoned and published author and I only wish I'd encountered it earlier on when I was still a novice (although I recognized several bits of advice I've magpied from my mentors over the years who undoubtedly magpied it from Le Guin's, Steering the Craft). I sat down to read the book yesterday as it is the textbook for the fiction class I am gearing up to teach this semester at the community college where I am currently employed, and not only did I devour it, I am already finding uses for the text for other workshops I facilitate, as well as for private writers I work with one-on-one. While it probably is more geared toward the beginner writer, I believe certain chapters will nonetheless appeal to and inform those writers who have been writing for a while as we all have our weaknesses as artists we should forever be striving to remedy. Generally I am cautious when it comes to books on craft but every once in a while I am surprised by how good some are, and Steering the Craft definitely is one of them, and a text I will proudly teach from as I teach from other treasures such as Stephen King's On Writing, Natalie Goldberg's, Writing Down the Bones, Helene Cixous's, Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing, David Lodge's, The Art of Fiction, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and finally, The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard. This collection of beloved writing books is not an easy one to join as I guard its doors as ferociously as any three-headed beast should. Aside for the solid advice, exquisite examples from classics such as Jane Eyre, Huck Finn, or the various excerpts from Virginia Woolf books, I not only found the writing easy to read and to follow, I found it hilarious and witty as Le Guin often writes each section in such a way as to show us what not to do and why. Humor is valuable in the often snobbish world of writers. My only *negative* critique would be to say that while Le Guin says this book is for all narrative writers, including those working in memoir, I'm not sure this is entirely true. I think the book could be useful to CNF writers working on polishing up the art of storytelling that is absolutely necessary to their genre, but all in all, what Le Guin really seems to be saying is to not only make stuff up, but to let the writing take over and make it all up for you.
    more
  • Mike
    January 1, 1970
    I've long admired Ursula Le Guin's writing, which manages to be simultaneously literary-not-pretentious and genre-not-cliched. So as part of my project of reading books on writing craft to improve my own writing, I picked up this little volume.I'll admit that I have a bad habit of not doing the exercises, so I didn't get as much out of it as I perhaps could have. I applaud the general approach, though, of looking at the basic elements of writing (definitely including getting grammar and punctuat I've long admired Ursula Le Guin's writing, which manages to be simultaneously literary-not-pretentious and genre-not-cliched. So as part of my project of reading books on writing craft to improve my own writing, I picked up this little volume.I'll admit that I have a bad habit of not doing the exercises, so I didn't get as much out of it as I perhaps could have. I applaud the general approach, though, of looking at the basic elements of writing (definitely including getting grammar and punctuation correct), isolating them, and working through exercises to see what the effect is. Only by understanding our tools and the effects they produce do we become capable craftspeople. I also appreciated the acknowledgement that plot is not the only way to get a story, and conflict is not the only way to get a plot. Here's Ms Le Guin:"I define story as a narrative of events (external or psychological) which moves through time or implies the passage of time, and which involves change."I define plot as a form of story which uses action as its mode, usually in the form of conflict, and which closely and intricately connects one act to another, usually through a causal chain, ending in a climax. "Climax is one kind of pleasure; plot is one kind of story. A strong, shapely plot is a pleasure in itself. It can be reused generation after generation. It provides an armature for narrative that beginning writers may find invaluable."But most serious modern fictions can't be reduced to a plot, or retold without fatal loss except in their own words."Did I learn a great deal from this book, as an intermediate writer trying to reach the next level? No. But I'm glad I read it, because it helped me think through (again) some important ideas about writing, and I would definitely recommend it.
    more
  • sarah gilbert
    January 1, 1970
    This book does so many things for me I may have to read over, and over, and over, bits and pieces all of the time. It is first a very practical book for a writer who needs practice. Indeed: exercises from this book sparked me into fiction writing, when I before had said that creative nonfiction was my only oeuvre. It is second a beautiful book full of bright and sunny and thundering bits of Le Guin's personality. Much like Lamott's book, I feel that I am actually learning from her rather than ju This book does so many things for me I may have to read over, and over, and over, bits and pieces all of the time. It is first a very practical book for a writer who needs practice. Indeed: exercises from this book sparked me into fiction writing, when I before had said that creative nonfiction was my only oeuvre. It is second a beautiful book full of bright and sunny and thundering bits of Le Guin's personality. Much like Lamott's book, I feel that I am actually learning from her rather than just being preached to. And I am sharing in her favorite, favorites -- passages and quotes and literary devices.It is third a very useful glossary of literary terms, only the ones Le Guin uses most often a few she makes up on her own, with the addition of an extremely practical grammar tutorial.And it is fourth a book list, a reading guide, a key to appreciating great literature. I will be putting this down and picking up Thomas Hardy and Woolf's Jacob's Room and re-reading the middle of Jane Eyre and any number of other things. Chekov surely. And Le Guin!
    more
  • Kris - My Novelesque Life
    January 1, 1970
    STEERING THE CRAFT: A TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY GUIDE TO SAILING THE SEA OF STORYWritten by Ursula K. Le Guin1998 (2015 Reissue), 180 PagesGenre: writing, nonfiction★★★★ 1/2Ursula K. Le Guin is an author of many books, essays and collections and now shares her advice to writers and readers on the art of writing. I enjoyed this book about writing as Le Guin provides examples as well as exercises. I would recommend this book to writers, readers and those interested in the craft of writing. k (My Novele STEERING THE CRAFT: A TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY GUIDE TO SAILING THE SEA OF STORYWritten by Ursula K. Le Guin1998 (2015 Reissue), 180 PagesGenre: writing, nonfiction★★★★ 1/2Ursula K. Le Guin is an author of many books, essays and collections and now shares her advice to writers and readers on the art of writing. I enjoyed this book about writing as Le Guin provides examples as well as exercises. I would recommend this book to writers, readers and those interested in the craft of writing. k (My Novelesque Life)
    more
  • Quiver
    January 1, 1970
    Interesting little book; chock-full of worthy exercises. Its greatest strength are Chapters 7 and 8 on point of view, where Le Guin rewrites the same paragraph from all of the different viewpoints.Feels shallow in places when compared to some of the other popular writing books.Excellent starting point for (advanced) beginners, but not a definitive guide.
    more
Write a review