Thursday, November 21, 2013

Book Review: Telling Details by Kat Duncan

By M. J. Joachim

It seems a bit ironic that Telling Details is an instructional book about writing. Blame it on the formatting, if you can get past the rhetoric. It’s not that Kat doesn’t offer a few sound tidbits on how to add detail to one’s manuscript. It’s that the way she does so, gave me the impression I was reading paragraphs that had been copied and pasted from somewhere else – perhaps one of her lectures to her students or something, which could have something to do with why the formatting was so poorly organized. (I’m just guessing here. Please don’t hold me to this speculation.)
Personally, I have a problem with CAPS and bold lettering randomly appearing throughout any manuscript, without logic or reason. However, I’ve never run into whole sections of a script being set in italics before, until I read Telling Details, that is. As an author presenting herself as an expert in writing, this didn’t sit well with me at all. Nor did the phrases passed off as complete sentences.

Many of the examples Kat provided to clarify meaning, only served to muddy the water even more. They were random, inconsistent and some of them didn’t make sense at all. Perhaps this is because she clearly offered more examples than explanations and instruction. Examples are good in how-to books, provided they are examples to the explanation of what and how readers are supposed to do something. Clearly there is an unnecessary imbalance in this department when reading Telling Details.

Another thing that sufficiently bothered me in this book were all the questions. Writers shouldn’t have to work that hard, analyzing and second-guessing every thought, word, character, scene and detail. We shouldn’t have to work that hard reading a how-to book about improving details in our stories either. I mean, if we have to micromanage our words to the extent suggested in Telling Details, we may as well quit writing before we start, because we’ll never be able to commit a single word to paper, without driving ourselves crazy about whether or not it conveys the desired message and meaning. 

To say I was disappointed with this book is an understatement. To suggest to my audience that it will benefit them in their goals to add details to their writing is a lie. My review for Telling Details will eventually find itself buried in the archives of this blog, never to grace the growing list of wonderful books in my Recommended Reading List

Thank you for visiting Writing Tips. My brief thought about adding detail to your writing today is, write what you want to see and experience, in a way that’s naturally clear to you and your readers. 

M. J. 

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