The Way of the Writer
by Charles Johnson

Simon & Schuster

Writing well is thinking well. That’s a favourite obser­vation of black American writer Charles Johnson, who taught creative writing at the University of Washington for 33 years only to realise that he had left no record for those decades of pedagogy. This volume is that record. After an opening chapter telling of his bookish childhood, Johnson recalls how journalism trained him to create copy quickly and to write for a broad audience. Which explains his portfolio of novels, short stories, essays and screenplays. Those wondering about the usefulness of writing courses should find especially interesting Johnson’s descriptions of his boot camp for creative writing: one of his assignments for students was to describe a character using mostly long vowels and soft consonants, to learn the effect of each. Johnson runs through the importance of everything from rhythm in sentences, to voca­bulary, metaphor and rewriting (the “real fun begins with the third draft”). The Way of the Writer may be targeted at authors, but readers will also find it instructive.