Confession time: lining the dustier shelves of my workspace are largely unread books with titles like "Practical Tips for Writing Popular Fiction" and "How to Tell a Story." These were acquired in various weak moments--generally after receiving yet another rejection slip--when doubting my abilities. Always, after skimming the first few chapters, I would chastise myself for wasting another $20.00 or so, and swear never to be enticed by another such title.
So when the review copy of "Fiction Writing Demystified" hit my desk I was, to say the least, skeptical. After all, the subtitle promises "Techniques That Will Make You a More Successful Writer." Thoroughly convinced I was wasting my time, I nevertheless opened to the Preface and began reading. Quite literally, I couldn't put it down: all 195 pages (back and front matter comprise the balance) were devoured in one sitting, leaving me hungry for more.
Beginning with the first page, Mr. Sawyer offers a bounty of reasonable and specific advice, useful not only for the novice but for the accomplished writer as well. Drawing upon his years of experience as a creative writing teacher, screenwriter and novelist, he presents practical techniques for crafting a tight, gripping story with powerful characters and unique, exceptional dialogue.
This is not to imply that only fiction writers will benefit from Mr. Sawyer's book. Indeed, a better title might have been "Creative Writing Demystified," as much of what he has to say can be applied by creative writers of all stripes. The historian, the self-help guru, even the cookbook writer all must engage their readers, or "...they'll stop reading or watching or paying attention to whatever it is we're trying to say."
Perhaps the great strength of this book lies in Mr. Sawyer's ability to convey his knowledge and experience in clear, concise language, and an easy to read, conversational format. Certainly some of what Mr. Sawyer writes will seem rudimentary to the experienced writer. But it is basic in a forehead-slapping, "Of course!" way--and a little blatancy is to be expected in a book with so broad a target audience. Still, given some of the fiction I've read--and, to my chagrin, written--lately, many of us would do well to heed much of that fundamental wisdom.