A few writing books have become must-reads for any aspiring English-language novelist: Stephen King’s On Writing, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Steering the Craft, William Zinsser’s On Writing Well. This year, Colum McCann‘s Letters to a Young Writer: Some Practical and Philosophical Advice joins that list. Consisting of 52 essays crammed with no-nonsense advice, Letters is a must-read for any Aspiring Writer.
In case you’re wondering who the eponymous Young Writer is, McCann himself asks that very question. Is a Young Writer any person who has never written before? Never published? Are they a person younger than 30? Younger than 50? Of course, anyone can be a Young Writer, provided they are green enough to need the advice McCann lays out. Unless they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’ll learn nothing from Letters to a Young Writer, every writer — Aspiring or Actual — should take the time to read it.
Early on in Letters to a Young Writer, McCann states that his book is not a writing guide. With all due respect to McCann, this reviewer must call him a liar. Granted, McCann means to say that his book — unlike The Elements of Style or the aforementioned On Writing Well — should not be used to style an Aspiring Writer’s work. Letters to a Young Writer doesn’t nitpick over sentence structure and word choice, and you’ll find no advice on the “Who vs. Whom” dilemma here. Even still, written in clipped sentences that read like Roy Peter Clark’s Writing Tools, Letters to a Young Writer is the best kind of writing guide: practical, informative, and motivating.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.
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