For the last ten years, I’ve heard this book on writing by the grand dame of fantasy and science fiction is the book every writer should have in his or her back pocket; however, I found it disappointing.
Perhaps if I’d read this book at the start of my writing journey, I’d have found it much more helpful. Plus, it’s largely a workbook with writing exercises on various elements such as punctuation, sentence length, syntax, and other rules of good writing which a beginning creative writer should be familiar with. These exercises were taken directly from workshops she conducted at universities before she died (in 2018).
They do not seem to reflect much of her own writing style. I love her fiction books and consider The Left Hand of Darkness to be one of the most original science fiction novels ever written. On the planet Gethen, genders are only specific during sexual awakening called kemmer, a few days every month. An Earthling has to deal with the lack of gender stereotypes and the Gethens’ gender swapping. Pretty incredible for 1969.
One of the things I particularly had problems with was her renaming of familiar terms. For example, while discussing point of view (first, second, third), she redefines omniscient viewpoint as “authorial narration.” The term is confusing enough without redefining and renaming it.
Again, I’d have enjoyed this writing how-to book more if it had more of Ursula’s personality and less of the lecture format. It may have been the philosopher’s stone of writing if I’d read it at the beginning of my writing career and not after I’d learned these lessons from other books and lecturers.
She is one of the best science fiction and fantasy writers of all time, but her formal lessons are authorial narration and not as helpful as I expected.
RIP, Ms. LeGuin,