Craft Book Recommendation: Writing the Other

By Cynthia Ward and Nisi Shawl

Publication Date: November 1, 2011

No one intends to be ‘that person’ who writes a story with an element offensive to a marginalized group. But it happens. Many people with the ability to have a story published have written from a position of privilege in some form. That privilege creates unexamined weaknesses in a work; biases the writer is unaware of. When we write, we are creating with intention. Intent means examining every aspect of a work, including othering.

Writing the Other is a tool for helping writers interrogate their biases.

Written by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward, Writing the Other shows how unintended othering creeps into what we write, and provides ways of recognizing and eradicating it. One strength of this book is when Cynthia shares her experiences as a white, cis, writer. This is helpful for those along the same spectrum. The book is never preachy or judgemental. Everyone makes mistakes, and perhaps the most valuable tool provided is how to respond when you’ve unintentionally done a harmful thing with your writing.

The most important lesson of the book is not to avoid writing the other, but how to do it and what to avoid when doing it. This is in direct response to those who suggest not offending by never writing the other. All that does is continue to erase diversity from our stories.

Book Recommendation: Steering the Craft

Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story
by Ursula K. Le Guin
ISBN: 978-0544611610
Mariner Books; Reprint Edition 2015, trade paper

Ursula K. Le Guin was a master of the craft of writing speculative literature. She was also a master of writing about speculative literature through her collected essays.

In Steering the Craft, she is again a master; this time on writing advice. She gives aspiring and professional writers useful advice through instructional essays followed by exercises. She used many of the essays and exercises in classes she taught and workshops she led.

This is almost a writer’s workshop contained in a single book. Her chapters on Point of View and Indirect Narration are some of the best and clearest writing advice in any book on writing.

Steering the Craft is written for writers of any genre. But for speculative writers, Le Guin’s celebration of imagination comes through. It should be a tool in the toolbox of every writer.