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Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone
J.K. Rowling
The Skillful Teacher: Building Your Teaching Skills
Jon Saphier, Robert Gower
Dan Simmons
How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling - James N. Frey There seem to be about two broad categories of writing book. Some are inspirational/visionary/literary. Others focus on reader interest and organising your writing so that it might sell commercially. I like both kinds and expected this one to fall into the second category, which it did.

When I pick up a book about writing, I don't necessarily expect anything earth-shattering because I've read a fair number of them. What I expect is an opportunity to reencounter ideas in a fresh way that for some reason makes them resonate anew. Intellectual understanding is not enough to further my writing, so I hope a writing book will give me further insight, even if the change is not exactly measurable. I'm not even begging for insights necessarily. A few glimpses over the horizon is often enough.

This book covered a lot of the familiar bases: character, conflict, viewpoint, flashback, etc., but I've just seen it done better or more in depth. He used a few familiar books for his examples, like Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea, but the execution was perfunctory. His simplistic presentation of premise or theme and its controlling influence struck me as possibly incorrect. I prefer Stephen King's advise in On Writing, which was to revise for theme after the first draft.

One line on p. 162 almost made the whole book worth it: "Being an unpublished novelist has about as much social acceptability as being a shopping bag lady."