Always Willing to Learn

Writing the Novella by Sharon Oard Warner (2021. U of Mexico Press. ISBN 978-0-8263-6255-1)

I taught university courses for five years and I recognize that Ms. Warner is likely a very fine instructor. That having been said, when I bought this book, I was looking for something akin to Bird by Bird or On Writing: a more spiritual, pragmatic look at how to construct a novella. I wasn’t interested in reading a lesson plan for a college writing course. I am, as the title of this review suggests-as a self-taught writer-always willing to try new things, to learn from the masters, to stretch my abilities. But I am not interested in doing writing exercises or following a very rigid lesson plan to rework my creative craft. Maybe thirty years ago, this book would have been the key to me becoming a more successful author. Maybe if I had stuck to journalism at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, instead of bailing after a couple of quarters, I would be seeing my name in lights as a marquee author. I’m not sure. All I know is that, after slogging through this instructional tome, I came away slightly depressed and not really enlightened.

Ms. Warner uses three novellas as guideposts for the lessons she teaches. The constant reference to those three works as exemplars is helpful, for sure, as are the other examples given in the text. And the added quotations and insights from famous and not-so-famous authors regarding the size, format, and structure of novellas is welcome as well. But in the end, I was looking for, as I’ve said, a more cerebral, spiritual, organic look at writing. This book is not that.

2 and 1/2 stars out of 5.



About Mark

I'm a reformed lawyer and author.
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