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Yours to Tell: Dialogues on the Art &…

Yours to Tell: Dialogues on the Art & Practice of Writing

by Steve Rasnic Tem

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Written by a husband and wife team, both experienced writers, Yours to Tell presents a series of what could be called "discussion essays" -- chapters on various aspects of the craft of writing, offered in the form of a dialogue between the two Tems. (The introduction explains that the content developed from actual dialogues they presented at a writers' workshop.)

For me, at least, this approach hurt the book. Most of the content is easy to imagine as spoken word, an actual conversation between two people. I don't think, though, that that necessarily translates well into a written book. A genuine dialogue is less organized than a written essay; its structure is more spontaneous, and the discussants will naturally go off on tangential thoughts or related ideas. This may be quite interesting for someone seeking to learn about the *art* of writing (the subtitle is "Dialogues on the Art & Practice of Writing", after all), but I was left wanting more about the *practice* -- or maybe the practicals. I'd say that this content really is better suited for the writers' workshop than the writers' guidebook. ( )
  baroquem | Sep 5, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The format of this book is a little strange. It’s written as an obviously structured, edited conversation between two people. The content is quite compelling, but I do find myself wondering if it would have landed a little better if recorded as a podcast or presentation. The information given does cover a lot of ground, so this book is good for new writers, and people with a few stories under their belt.
With that said, it still feels like they’ve tried to keep a conversational tone, but with large paragraphs of discussion that have clearly been very shaped into an extended dot-point list of what they wanted to cover.
I think it hits that unfortunate line that the advice is so reasonable that people looking for a dot point action list are going to be turned off. But if you're someone constantly looking to add to a global conversation about writing and how to approach it, it’s definitely an interesting resource, but because the information has been formed more by what the authors wanted to talk about rather than organic questions that a writer might have, it feels a little thin in some places.

This is going to make me sound like a bit of a hippy, and I promise you that I’m not, but this is a hot button issue that it’s worth making a comment on. The downside of a discussion between two people who obviously spend a lot of time together is that they can form an echo chamber. The brief discussion on sharing the myths of a local indigenous people, and how they feel they should be able to tell whatever stories they want, grated a little, as in Australia great care is taken with Aboriginal myths to ensure that only the people those stories belong to tell them. I didn’t feel that outright disrespect for the wishes of a people seemed like a good thing to be preaching (and I’m surprised their editor let that through!).
The same lack of external perspective kind of carries through the book, and while that’s the point of two people close to each other writing a book, I think that it speaks with an air of authority that is closing doors rather than opening them.

The writing varies from very accessible to sometimes a little theory-heavy, often quite quickly. If you’re familiar with the subject matter, it turns an otherwise light read into something relatively dense, but if you’re not familiar, it’s just going to read like jargon. I think a decision about the experience level of the expected reader would have benefited this book, as it drags for writers with experience in some places, but would completely lose new writers in other places.

With all that said, the sections about all of the writing-adjacent things, like managing work/life balance and marketing is actually very solid. These are two people who have helped each other to find their writing niche and style, and been together a long time doing so. They talk about what has worked for them, or what hasn’t worked for them, and I think it’s a good look into something that’s very individual, especially when you see how two people who have raised a family together work so differently.

If you want to read more about writing but you’re looking for a general refresher or overview rather than anything in particular, I think this book is pretty interesting. I do think it would have been better presented as a less-scripted podcast rather than a clearly edited book, but the information and suggestions are helpful, even if they’re just a slice of the overall available writing pie. I don’t know that I could recommend the entire book to someone, but there are certainly some sections with food for thought, and if I was more familiar with their bodies of work, some of the examples might have meant a little more to me, but it was a worthwhile read.

3.5 stars ( )
1 vote NotaTurnip | Aug 26, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Steve Rasnic and Melanie Tem have managed to compile a really great assortment of advice from various authors. Anyone who is looking to further their art, or maybe needs that burst of inspiration should look to this book. Even if you're not a writer yourself, it is well worth looking into as a point of interest into people's particular processes. ( )
  thessaly | Jul 15, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
As a writer who doesn't write nearly as much as I might like, there were moments this book had promise. Hearing from two successful authors who have made it work between marriage, parenting, working, and dealing with other stressers - well, it gave me hope.

That said, I had to pick and choose what pieces of the book were going to speak to me the most, given its somewhat rambling style of transcribed audio files.

The book also felt to be a way to highlight the successes of the two authors, and when I got to the section on marketing, I could see why.

If nothing else, I was grateful for the reading lists at the end of the text, with shining examples of authors who succeed in various capacities in the writing world (plot, characterization, voice, theme, etc). ( )
1 vote HippieLunatic | Jul 14, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I read this more for the the fascinating peek into the mental process of authors I admire than for the chance to perk up my writing skills, but I still really enjoyed the chance to read this. The Tems taught a writing workshop and basically transcribed it for this book, and the result is a wonderful chance to sit-in on the lesson. Writing workshops, especially the major ones, always offer only a limited number of spots, and it's the rare interested applicant who has the time and money resources to make this sort of education investment. Authors publishing books like this is the next best thing. Four stars.
  MyriadBooks | Jun 23, 2017 |
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