Part IV in my series of book that have influenced me as a writer.
Delaney, Samuel. About Writing: Seven Essays, Four Letters, and Five Interviews. Middleton, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 2005. Print.
Delaney lays out his grandfatherly wisdom through his own branded style in this book. His style is honest (often, sharply so) and yet, prone to tangential runs. The heart of this book is a contrast between good writing and talented writing. He gives the rules for good writing (“Avoid passive voice,” etc.), but delivers a truth that some beginning writers shirk from: “Talented writing is, however, something else. You need talent to write fiction. Good writing is clear. Talented writing is energetic. Good writing avoid errors. Talented writing makes thing happen in the reader’s mind—vividly, forcefully—that good writing, which stops with clarity and logic, doesn’t.” (6) He constantly encourages the writer that it isn’t just rules and guidelines which make us great writers. Its hard work laced with passion and energy. And even then, he reminds us, that is no guarantee of success. This is a work that constantly reminds the writer that it will be a lot more difficult than we imagine and yet bolsters our confidence in the process. “If you’re going to stay in it, you must build up calluses against criticism—criticism from readers, from other writers, from reviewers, from editors, and from critics. Yes, praise is fine and fun. But one has to field, again and again—and again—someone telling you your work’s not very good.” (107) Delaney’s love of writing is evident in every chapter, but, it’s refreshing to read a book that is honest and up front with the difficult truths of writing. What he adds to the writer’s toolbox is a series of frank mentoring talks that reduce to “This is the writer’s life. Have I not scared you away, yet? Good. Let me show how to do it right!”