It’s the third Sunday of October and you know what that means…Guest Book Reviews! Today’s review comes from dedicated NaNoer, Roselyn, better known as August Wyssman. She reminds us that rules are flexible things during NaNo.
Spunk & Bite: A Writer’s Guide to Bold, Contemporary Style
It is often said that rules are made to be broken.
Spunk & Bite, a cutesy play on the authors of the legendary writer’s guide The Elements of Style (Strunk and White), wants you to know that, before you go breaking all the rules, it’s important you understand them first.
Bestselling author Arthur Plotnik (say that five times fast!) has ruffled more than a few literary feathers with his suggestion that Strunk and White are not the end-all-be-all of writing manuals.
One of my favorite chapters in Spunk & Bite revolves around foreign language in English novels. Plotnik explains both why so many writers enjoy using foreign sounding words, and why it so often fails.
Rule 20 in The Elements of Style simply tries to banish all foreign words from a writer’s mind, (“Some writers…from sheer exuberance or a desire to show off, sprinkle their work liberally with foreign expressions, with no regard for the reader’s comfort. It is a bad habit. Write in English.”)
Plotnik takes this rule a step in the other direction and makes you think by giving you a choice: Use the word unencumbered by a translation and hope the reader understands, use the term but also provide a translation or a hint within the context to explain the word, or simply leave it out.
In regards to Rule 20, Plotnik wants you to question why you want to use that particular word. Are you looking to express something that simply can’t be expressed in English? Do you want to spice up some dialogue and give it an international flare? Or are you simply leaning on another language to give your story something when English (and a proper edit) would do the same just fine?
It is this flexibility with the rules that makes for such an interesting read. Instead of just forbidding things without an explanation, Plotnik gives you reasons why Strunk and White’s rules were established, while also showing you alternatives.
Spunk & Bite is for aspiring novelists, for sure, but it’s also a valuable read for those just wishing to tighten up their writing style. Journalists, bloggers, even casual readers of the above forms of communication can benefit from picking up this book.
When not writing with her group “…And Then What Happened”, August works for Head Start and chases after her very active daughter, a NaNo baby who’s now 2yrs old. You can find Ms. Wyssman on Facebook, NaNoWriMo, and her blog, “Sweetness & Light”.