Who better to provide good writing advice than Jane Austen herself? Smith (Jane Austen’s Guide to Modern Life Dilemmas), Austen’s great-great-great-great-grandniece, deploys the master author’s novels, letters, juvenilia, and even a late poem as lessons in the creative process. Various sections focus on point of view, irony, characterization, central images, dialogue, travel, building suspense, “the writer as sadist” (to her characters), and more. Smith quotes extensively from Austen to illustrate her points. For Austen lovers, the book will be a treat, a chance to luxuriate in some of her best prose. Moreover, the chosen passages aptly support Smith’s points about writing, which she supplements with a solid set of exercises. Smith understands Austen as both a stylist and satirist, and she appreciates the challenges she faced as a “lady” writer, not dissimilar to modern authors who often have to shoehorn their creative work into distracted lives. If there’s a quibble, it’s that Smith uses very long passages from Austen at the expense of shorter but equally cogent snippets. All in all, however, this easy-to-follow book offers sensible advice and is a fine writer’s guide. (Sept.)
A spirited and useful guide for writers with tips and tricks from Jane Austen, whose novels stand the test of time, by her great great great great grand niece.
Pretty much anything anyone needs to know about writing can be learned from Jane Austen. While creative writing manuals tend to use examples from twentieth- and twenty-first-century writers, The Jane Austen Writers' Club is the first to look at the methods and devices used by the world’s most beloved novelist. Austen was a creator of immortal characters and a pioneer in her use of language and point of view; her advice continues to be relevant two centuries after her death.
Here Rebecca Smith examines the major aspects of writing fictionplotting, characterization, openings and endings, dialogue, settings, and writing methodssharing the advice Austen gave in letters to her aspiring novelist nieces and nephew, and providing many and varied exercises for writers to try, using examples from Austen’s work.
*Show your character doing the thing he or she most loves doing. In the opening scene of Persuasion, Sir Walter Elliot looks himself up in the Baronetage, which is the Regency equivalent of Googling oneself. That single scene gives us a clear understanding of the kind of man he is and sets up the plot.
* Use Jane Austen’s first attempts at stories to get yourself started. Write a very short story inspired by "The Beautifull Cassandra," a work of eighteenth-century flash fiction.
The Jane Austen Writers' Club is a fresh primer on writing that features utterly timeless advice.
"Pleasurable . . . solid and thoughtful . . . fill[s] a niche for readers and writers who are as interested in experiencing the journey to better writing as arriving at the destination." - Library Journal
"[A] valuable compendium of advice . . . Smith's research, literary perspicacity, and the use of excerpts make the book a unique tutorial and delicious read . . . A worthy companion for writers and readers that entertains and enlightens." - Kirkus Reviews
"A treat, a chance to luxuriate in some of [Austen’s] best prose . . . This easy-to-follow book offers sensible advice and is a fine writer’s guide." - Publishers Weekly
"[Smith's] method of deconstruction is a great teaching tool, providing intimate insights into Austen's life and work, which will hold great appeal to writers seeking to dig deeper and improve their own craft." - Shelf Awareness
"A great guide not just for aspiring writers, but also for all Austen lovers who want to delve deeper into her layered novels." - Booklist
"Smith gives Janeites the perfect excuse to revisit Austen's work and analyze all that makes it great . . . Not only does she offer up advice, she delves into the author’s background, bringing lesser known but still intriguing information to light. There’s a lot to be learned, both about Austen and writing." - Bustle
"A fun read for aspiring writers and just plain Jane-ites . . . Smith stirs the urge to revisit those rich, romantic stories and leaves writers and readers alike with Austen's sage advice: 'Let us not desert one another.'" - Minneapolis Star Tribune
"This book channels Jane Austen so convincingly I wasn't at all surprised to learn that Rebecca Smith is her five-time great niece. Smith doesn’t just use Austen's writing to illustrate important points in creating fiction, but offers letters where Jane advised aspiring writers on their craft. She even has a few saucy tricks up her sleeve that are surprisingly modernsuch as torturing your darlings." - Book Trib
"An Austen-lover's dream . . . As close as Austen-ites can get to mentorship by Austen herself. Not only is the advice contained within still relevant, but it is highly readable and has a wide array of writing exercises and anecdotes, making this a fantastic resource for writers." - Manhattan Book Review
Using excerpts from Jane Austen's letters and enduringly popular novels along with advice from her own creative writing classes, Smith (creative writing, Univ. of Southampton; Jane Austen's Guide to Modern Dilemmas) guides readers on the study and practice of Austen-inspired techniques of plotting a novel, developing characters, and formulating dialog. Those familiar with Austen's fiction will find Smith's ample examples by other authors all the more pleasurable. Modern works are occasionally mentioned (usually only by title) to demonstrate further specific literary methods. About half of the book comprises passages from Austen's works, while the other half supplies explanation, commentary, and exercises from Smith. The suggestions are solid and thoughtful, though probably not news to most serious writers: build a believable world (whether in Devonshire or on Mars), allow readers to discover the characters, dialog should ring true, a healthy dose of wit never hurts. Above all, the author advises to edit, edit, edit. VERDICT This guide steers away from lists of how-tos, filling a niche for readers and writers who are as interested in experiencing the journey to better writing as arriving at the destination.—Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley Sch., Fort Worth, TX
Jane Austen’s “five-times-great-niece” draws inspiration and instruction from her ancestor’s novels and letters in this valuable compendium of advice.In a letter to her niece Caroline, an aspiring writer, Austen, a longtime member of the Chawton Book Society, stressed, “if she wanted to be a writer, she had to be a reader.” It’s common enough advice for writers, but it’s worth reiterating in an era when reading material is becoming increasingly truncated. Smith (Creative Writing/Univ. of Southampton; Jane Austen’s Guide to Modern Life’s Dilemmas, 2012, etc.), who had the “immense good fortune to be the writer-in-residence at Jane Austen’s House Museum,” knows the value of this directive firsthand. After reading and rereading Austen’s works, she led writing workshops based on what she learned. She structures this guide, which grew out of that effort, around the essential components of good storytelling: plot, character, sense of place, point of view, dialogue, and a number of devices—suspense, irony, and pacing, for example—writers can employ. Much of this material is standard fare for a book on writing, but Smith’s research, literary perspicacity, and the use of excerpts make the book a unique tutorial and delicious read. She uses passages to demonstrate elements of writing, such as the “sparkling” dialogue in the conversation when Lady Catherine demands that Elizabeth promise she will never marry Mr. Darcy. A scene from Emma, when the protagonist tries “to engineer an opportunity for Mr. Elton to declare his love for Harriet Smith,” is a prime example of a subjective point of view. Those struggling with the writing life will find a sympathetic voice reaching out from more than two centuries ago. Among the gems is this basic advice written in inimitable Austen style: “It may be your head is full of joints of mutton (ugh!) and doses of rhubarb, but if you do have time to sit down and work, you can often still get things done.” A worthy companion for writers and readers that entertains and enlightens.
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