If you’re a writer who wants to take your work to the next level of professionalism and excellence, there are three things you really must do. First is reading as much fine prose as your time schedule allows. Second is to write, rewrite, and write some more. The third, and easiest, thing to do—in conjunction with the first two—is to get a copy of Elements of Active Prose: Writing Tips to Make Your Prose Shine by noted author and editor Tahlia Newland.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review, and now I’m waiting for it to come out in paperback so that I can buy a desk copy to keep near my computer as I write. Newland, an accomplished author and professional editor, peels away the mystery of prose writing. She begins by stating emphatically that this is NOT a book of rules; it’s a compendium of guidelines based upon her years as a writer and editor. But, and here I’ll paraphrase her, these are guidelines that have stood the test of time, and while they can be ignored, when it’s appropriate to do so, there are risks attendant upon doing so.
She takes the reader through the writing process in easily digestible chunks, covering such topics as the difference between active voice and active prose, how to write effective dialogue and descriptions, and how to choose the most effective point of view for your story.
This, though, is more than just a book about how to write more effectively. She also includes sections on how to effectively self-edit, and how to review the work of others; distinguishing, for instance, the difference between copy editing and line editing—something that I, as a frequent book reviewer, have often struggled with.
Assuming you’re already proficient in grammar and spelling, and you are familiar with the topic about which you wish to write, this is the most important reference book you could have in your writer’s library. Five stars only because i can’t give it six.