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Book Review: Noble’s Book of Writing Blunders

writing blunders

Good tips, a bit obvious

I bought this when I’d finished the other books I purchased on how to self-edit (Self-editing for Fiction Writers, How to Write the D*** Good Novel). It’s summary had good ideas, things like Don’t write for your eighty-grade teacher, Don’t complicate the obvious, Don’t add adverbs and adjectives to prettify your prose. Common sense reminders of what I should know but sometimes forget in the flurry of my own prose. After spending an hour with it, I decided the best ideas were the list on the dustcover and beyond the title, there wasn’t much else to learn.

These sound good, don’t they:

  • Don’t Passify Your Verb Voice
  • Don’t Repeat Without Relevance
  • Don’t be Afraid to Make Your Own Rules

All writers who haven’t made a name for themselves, and with that name garnered the right to write as they please, must follow enough good writing rules that an agent will read their mss. I can add a few more to that list–Show not Tell, Beware the Gerund.

When I opened the book, I found that the other writing blunders in the Table of Contents weren’t as obvious from their title. Look at these:

  • Don’t be a slave to the grammar guru. The only time to ignore grammar is in dialogue.
  • Don’t write the perfect paragraph. I didn’t have to read that one to know where he was headed
  • Don’t sprinkle the poet’s urge over the narrator’s product. I get that one too–and I’ve abused it. But then, I grew into my writing, decided to leave poetry for others.

Here’s what I’m trying to say: The book has good tips, but Noble takes a long time to make them. I got them more succinctly in other books, long ago in my career. I don’t think that means I no longer need help. I think it means I need a different kind of help.

The best list of self-edit tips I’ve ever found is in the Marshall Plan. They’re brief, more like reminders than missives, and all very (very) important.

You can read the background on William Noble on his webpage. He seems a likeable, even charismatic man, with a long history of writing. I like that. I may even try one of his other books.


7 thoughts on “Book Review: Noble’s Book of Writing Blunders

  1. Pingback: When Do You Follow Writing Rules? « Jacqui Murray's WordDreams…

  2. Aye, aye captain, well said. I think we all fall victim to writing blunders/demons; especially when writing in a hurry. I’ve seen original manuscripts from some top writers and they make mistakes too but, the best writers also have the best editors. Paying attention to these tips, I love the Marshall Plan, is very important. However, one thing I always told my students is write first and edit later. Don’t be paralyzed by the fear of making mistakes as they can be corrected.
    I love getting your writing tips Jacqui.
    Thanks again for sharing!


    • You are so right, about writing first and editing later. If I correct as I go, I lose the pacing, the realness of the story. No matter how bad it sounds as it’s going down on paper, if I let it go, I get the rhythm right. And that’s so hard to edit into a piece. Good reminder for all of us.

      BTW–you are a Nanowrimo winner? I’m beyond impressed. I’ve never met one before. Glad to know you! What are you going to do with the mss?


  3. Hi, Jacqui. What I find most interesting is that his book is theoretically geared to self-editing, but what he’s writing about actually deals with the basic tools of writing rather than editing.

    Thanks again for all the great tips.



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