Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Art of Slow Writing by Louise DeSalvo

As an avid reader of fiction and nonfiction in about equal amounts, I also like to read about the craft of writing. This is November, the month when thousands of people commit to writing a novel in a month. Chris Baty is one of the originators of NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, and I did read his latest edition of No Plot? No Problem! Potential writers are encouraged to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Don't think about editing, just write.

How ironic, I thought, that I was, at the same time, reading The Art of Slow Writing by Louise DeSalvo. It is a book about writers and writing. DeSalvo draws from scores of books about writing, articles by authors, and her own experiences.

She advocates writing as a meditative act. One takes time to imagine the work and think about it. Then one writes, knowing there will be many opportunities to get it right. She helps writers work in stages, writing, revising, learning. She advocates fine tuning, going through the work sentence by sentence and word by word. Good writing takes time and thought.

She has a section on finding one's rhythm for writing and gives some deliberate practices. She suggests a writing partner and/or mentor. She thinks potential writers should always be carrying a notebook with them, jotting down ideas. She advocates writing a journal so who you were “then” will not be lost to you. As an instructor in writing memoirs, she teaches writing as discovery.

Always be writing. We are not born with talent, she says. We find it through deliberate practice. “No writing, to me, is a waste of time and every word a writer pens is potentially useful.” (101) In the end, “The writing process is still a mystery.” (234)

This is a good book for aspiring writers to understand how the writing process is viewed and accomplished by authors of a variety of genres. Besides getting some good writing tips, there is also a great deal of insightful thought about the art of writing. I think you'll be inspired.

What will you be writing today?

Louise DeSalvo is an award-winning teacher and writer. She is currently the Jenny Hunter Endowed Professor at Hunter College, where she started Hunter's MFA in Memoir program. She has published seventeen books and lives in Sag Harbor, New York, and Upper Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband. You can follow her blog at

St. Martin's Griffin, 306 pages.

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