I was lucky enough to get an early review copy of Sacha Black's new nonfiction writing craft book, 'The Anatomy of Prose', and today I'm going to tell you my thoughts about the book.
And in case you missed it, I'm linking a chat that I had with Sacha that I just posted on Monday, so be sure to check that out after this review.
Sacha Black is a self-published author who has written a series of young adult fantasy books. She's also published two other nonfiction writing craft books, including '13 Steps to Evil', which is all about crafting villains and '10 Steps to Hero', which you guessed it is all about your hero or protagonist. She also has two podcasts, The Rebel Author podcast, and Next Level Authors.
I have been following Sacha for some time now, and I was so excited to join her street team to get a chance to read 'The Anatomy of Prose' early. Now this book is not for the faint of heart. It comes in at over 350-pages chock full of resources and advice on how to work on your line-level prose.
'The Anatomy of Prose' was such a fun book to read. It was probably the most fun I've ever had reading a writing craft book. Sacha's voice is so strong, and it comes through so well in how she writes her nonfiction. She is funny, sarcastic, and she does swear in the book, so if that does offend you, I did want to warn you, but it's such a fun way of reading about writing craft. I felt like I was sitting with a friend, chatting about writing, or listening to one of her podcasts. It was such a great experience overall.
Even though I've published thirteen books so far, I found so much information in this novel that I marked up my copy quite a bit. While there was information I already knew, for instance, about not filtering our prose, clichés, and adverbs. Sacha dug deeper in a way that made this process sound refreshing and a reminder to look out for all these things in my writing. I did take a lot out of this book, but I wanted to highlight three sections that stuck out to me and have changed the way that I think about my writing and what I will reference moving forward.
1. Sensory description
Description has always been a bit of a downfall for me in the first draft, and I have to work intentionally to beef it up in my later drafts, and most of the time I tend to focus on visuals. Sacha writes about how it's important to use all five senses in our writing, which help bring out different emotions in the character and thus, the reader. She has practical exercises for a writer to become more aware of words associated with all five senses.
I particularly connected with the smell sense section of this chapter. I lack a good sense of smell. I really can't smell a lot of things, and I tend to not describe it as much as I could within my books because of my own lack of the sense. When I do find a particular point in my book that I want to describe smell, I usually have to interview other people in my life and ask them what things smell like. I know it's a little weird, but that's what I do. Sacha and Meg Latorre from iWriterly chatted specifically on sensory descriptions I asked her this question because I was interested in them to talk about senses during this chat. And she (Sacha) suggested that I should seek out other books where authors do this well and sort of study how someone would do this.
And that brings me to number two:
2. Reading intentionally
In 'The Anatomy of Prose', Sacha references the misconception around Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours quote in that it wouldn't take 10,000 hours of passively reading or writing to up your craft, but 10,000 hours of intentional reading and writing to gain mastery. As I'm reviewing craft books this year on my channel and going through at least one of them a month, I have been annotating and tabbing them up with things I want to remember. But then once I'm done reading the book, and I've finished the review, I don't do much with the information. Now I could pick out less than a handful of books off my shelf that I would want to reference over and over again in full. So using this idea of reading intentionally, I've made a point to study what I have highlighted in these books in one place so I can reference them quickly when I am looking for a bit of advice or inspiration. This process is still new for me. I have created a Scrivener document around it.
If you would like to see more and see how I'm using it, let me know in the comments below, and maybe I'll make a video on it.
My intent is also to do this with my fiction reading as well. Sacha did reference that she takes little pieces, little snippets of dialogue and characterization in books she reads, and she is able to study them as well. In this practical way, I hope to hone my craft even more.
Which brings us into the third takeaway from this book:
3. The editing checklist
In the interview with Sacha, she mentioned that using the principles in 'The Anatomy of Prose', you would basically get a developmental edit on your book if you put into practice everything throughout her book, outside of plot. (I'm more focused on prose here since the book is 'The Anatomy of Prose'.) The sections of this book outline what a developmental editor would look for while they work on a novel, which I thought was pretty amazing, and she even INCLUDES an editing checklist with this book.
You know how much I love checklists.
Throughout this book, Sacha continued to surprise me with more information on improving on a prose level.
If you hadn't guessed it already, I would highly recommend this book.
These three takeaways are in no way a comprehensive list of everything that I took away from 'The Anatomy of Prose' because telling you everything would take hours. Now in terms of who this book is for, I believe this book is for writers in many different stages of their careers. Now, this might not be a book for someone who has never written a novel before because it may seem overwhelming, but definitely for anyone who has completed maybe a short story, flash fiction, novella, novel, etc. This is a way for them to improve upon what you have already written.
This book will be available on May 29th, 2020, and it will come in hardback ($19.99), paperback ($12.99), and ebook* ($6.99). There's also a workbook and a forthcoming course as well.
Now do I think you should buy it? If you haven't guessed it already, I would say yes. I have already pre-ordered my own copy because I do enjoy having these books in physical form, and this is a book that I will reference in the future, and I think it's a helpful resource for any writer looking to dig deeper into prose.
*pricing currently reflected on Amazon.com at the time of this posting.
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