book review: The Elements of Active Prose by Tahlia Newland
At a length of about 30,000 words, The Elements of Active Prose is a book every beginning writer should own as well as seasoned writers who have not considered evaluating weakness in their writing. Tahlia Newland’s attitude toward helping authors to improve their writing is objective and realistic. She recognizes how important it is for authors to understand which rules should be followed the majority of the time and which rules are flexible, depending upon which part of a novel they relate to. There is nothing condescending in her advice. She’s an author and knows what it’s like to be sensitive about your writing. Still, she offers the kind of sound advice authors need to get beyond that sensitivity and back on track to publishing a better book. Her tips on making your prose active will inspire you to go right to your draft and start improving it.
She recommends Browne and King’s Self-editing for Fiction Writers. Having read and reviewed their book, I suggest reading her book first. Browne’s book has some good information, but it also offers too many absolutes that can cause authors to cripple their stories. Tahlia’s book provides tests and suggestions to help authors avoid extreme rule-following, while still creating a well-written reader’s experience.
Take a look at the Table of Contents of this manual. Each one of those chapters contains concise, clear guidance based on the author’s own experience. Having read several books and much blog content that address some of the problem areas listed, I know the value of having a single book that points out all these troubled areas.
This book is not the only book you’ll need to edit your manuscript, but it definitely tells you what you need to know to fix it. If the discussion or examples don’t provide enough details, you can do further research on a specific area of concern because you’ll know exactly what to research.
As both an editor and author, I recommend this book to other editors and to authors who need a handy, succinct guideline for improving their manuscripts.