This is basically the one writing book you need on your shelf. You can learn all those rules about style and grammar on the internet. This book delves deep into all the other stuff you didn’t even realize was interesting or important until you hear Delany’s opinion on it.
I got through the intro and thought, “Wow. How can the rest of this be this good?” Then thought the same thing at the end of the essays. Then thought the same thing at the end of the letters. Each section somehow kept getting better.
He discusses everything from his ideas on the misuse of flashbacks to establishing reputation/joining the “canon” (and what the heck this amorphous, ever-changing canon is). He talks about his own struggles and breakthroughs and doesn’t sugar coat anything. I recall something along the lines of “It isn’t even that most writers don’t make it. Most great writers don’t make it.” He included himself among those who didn’t make it.
He discusses talent and his ideas about teaching people to write at writing workshops. The importance of reading and what types of things to read. The use and abuse of experimental writing. The failings of Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. The politics of identity (black, gay, etc) on writing. Genre and its historical bonds and how sci-fi fits into the literary world at large.
On and on it goes. I’m tempted to start right over and do a complete read-through again. No book about writing comes close to this. Only in the Appendix does he finally get around to that stuff other “writing” books spend the whole time on. Get this now if you have any interest.
This is the book all people should use in constructing an organic an compelling story. This teaches the essential elements without using a strict formula like other methods that follow the hero’s journey a bit closer.
I still think story grid-ing is going to be the way to get out of holes and slow moments and global arc issues, but Truby’s method is the way to go for the original construction of a story.
This short book will give you a set of easy to apply rules to improve the sound of your writing.