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Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew

(About Writing)

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  2,915 ratings  ·  341 reviews
Ursula K. Le Guin generously shares the accumulated wisdom of a lifetime's work.
Paperback, 173 pages
Published April 1st 1998 by The Eighth Mountain Press
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Dee Le Guin says in her introduction to the updated version: "All the material has been rethought, made clearer, more accurate, and more useful to writers…moreLe Guin says in her introduction to the updated version: "All the material has been rethought, made clearer, more accurate, and more useful to writers of the twenty-first century. The exercises profited from a great deal of feedback from users of the book... Peer group workshops are now so important to so many writers that I enlarged my discussion of them... and included more about online groups."

Hope this helps!(less)

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Mar 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm pretty skeptical of books on writing, if only because everyone seems to have written one. And so many of them come at you with flashy promises: "Sell Your Novel In Thirty Days!"

Prior to having read LeGuin's "Steering the Craft," I relied on three books, more or less:

1. Strunk and White - Elements of Style
2. Stephen King - On Writing
3. John Gardner - The Art of Fiction

In that order. Strunk and White covered the bare bones fundamentals; King's book covers the creative process and Gardner gets
Murat S. Dural
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ursula K. Le Guin okumak edebi anlamda dini bir metinle başbaşa kalmak gibi. Benim için öyle en azından. Hep Kitap'ın son dönemde bastığı yayınlar hem edebi hem de inceleme serileri açısından gayet başarılı. "Yazmak" üzerine bir seri adım adım çıkıyor. "Dümeni Yaratıcılığa Kırmak"ta bu serinin önemli bir ayağı. Fakat ilk sayfalarda bizi kendi ağzından şöyle bir cümle ile karşılıyor; "Öncelikle şunu söylemem gerek, bu kitap yeni başlayanlar için değil. Hedef kitlesi zaten yazdıkları üstünde yoğun ...more
May 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the first books I bought for myself when I decided to pursue fiction writing. It's also the only book from those early days that survived the recent culling of my writing book collection, because the exercises are well-suited to aspiring and seasoned writers alike. (The rest of those first books I picked up were very self-helpy. I liked some of them back then, but freewriting about your past only gets you so far, you know?)

Le Guin's focus with these exercises is wordsmithing. I'v
Aug 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
Why don't I have a review here? Hmm. A review: I did every exercise in this book. I am a better writer for it. The end.
Rebecca Renner
This is low-level nuts and bolts stuff. I think it might be useful for teaching high schoolers, but I teach more high brow stuff in my class, so who knows.
Aramızda okurdan çok yazarın olduğu bu renkli günlerde, yazarlığın öğrenilebilir ve öğretilebilir bir şey olup olmadığı konusunda çokça tartışma dönüyor. Yaratıcı yazarlık atölyeleri, çevrimiçi kurslar, "On Adımda Çok Satan Roman Yazma Rehberi" başlıklı sefil kitaplar arasında kaybolmuş bir nesil el yordamıyla yolunu bulmaya çalışırken, harcanan zaman ve para da cabası. Bu anlamda, yola koyulurken - Hemingway'in muazzam sadelikte cümlelerinin ardındaki işçiliğe burun kıvırıp, kendimizi cümle gör ...more
Nebudem hodnotiť, lebo pre kohokoľvek, kto nepíše po anglicky, má táto kniha nulovú výpovednú hodnotu. Všetky rady, ktoré Le Guinová dáva, sú až príliš naviazané na anglickú gramatiku, a príklady, ako správne vyzerá anglická syntax alebo použitie milióna minulých anglických časov, vám pri písaní v slovenčine nič nedajú.
Jun 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: writers
The structure of this book is quite simple but surprisingly useful. Each chapter covers a certain aspect of writing (point of view, description, dialogue, etc.), beginning with a brief overview, giving sample passages from other works, and ending with an exercise. The exercise comes with critiquing suggestions for those writing in groups and things to consider for those working alone. The occasional opinion essay comes up now and again, always labeled as such, so you know when you're learning a ...more
Jun 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book focuses more on style and playing with language than actually talking about plot. Each section contains some explanation about whatever point she's trying to make, some examples which she thinks exemplify that (and why), and then an exercise to try -- along with the suggestion to come back in a week and then think about a couple of points she raises afterwards. I both enjoyed and was challenged by the exercises, and though I don't think the results were the best things I've ever writte ...more
Ksenia Anske
Sep 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful book. Packed with examples and exercises that help you create your own writing workshop covering everything from repetition to punctuation to prose economy to POVs to exposition to critiquing. A book to buy and keep and study; and pull out and do exercises when hopelessly stuck.
Oct 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Most creative writing exercise books I've read collect idea exercises; Steering the Craft, as the name suggests, collects craft exercises. This is preferable to me as my best writing ideas come from within, from careful thinking, rather than "Your first sentence is 'She preferred the salad bar', and the piece must contain these three objects: a toothbrush, a zebra, and a lighthouse." I hate those. I really hate those. (I really, really hate those.) You don't learn anything from those types of ex ...more
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Ursula LeGuin said in her introduction to Steering the Craft: A Twenty-first-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story that it "is not a book for beginners. It’s meant for people who have already worked hard at their writing." I think LeGuin sold her book short. I am not a serious writer, even though I often spend hours many days writing. I certainly don't write fiction. Nonetheless, I learned a lot in the course of reading Steering the Craft, both about writing and teaching, as it is an opportu ...more
Sep 22, 2014 rated it liked it
While I prefer intimate one-on-one conversations with writers on how and why they write, Le Guin's Steering the Craft is as good as any when it comes to writing formalism.

The Point of View and Voice chapter is absolutely essential. If you have the heart, the mercurial soul of a story, the rest can be tinkered and bartered with in the editing room. But POV and voice comes first, if not hand-in-hand with the essence of what you want to write. Without the how (whether you decide to write in the th
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Most of what was in this book was not new for me, but it was still an enjoyable and educational read. Great for beginning writers. It also has group exercises for each chapter/section, so it's ideal for classes or writing groups.
Tanya Gold
Reading this book is like watching Ursula Le Guin teaching a workshop on crafting prose. And that in itself is kind of awesome.
Malcolm Everett
Jan 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, writing
Ursula K. Le Guin is a seminal science fiction author, but admittedly I have not read any of her fiction. In fact, Dispossessed was one of six required novels for my comparative studies class, and it was the only text I couldn’t get through.

Still, Le Guin has a wealth of insight on the craft and presents interesting arguments about why certain techniques are more effective. For example, she suggests that writers practice “psychological displacement” by having a viewpoint character that holds dr
Oct 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
The book that will make you wish you could take a writing workshop with Ursula K. LeGuin.
Ross Blocher
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
A book about writing by one of the best. Ursula K. Le Guin shares tips from decades of writing and working with small groups of authors to improve their craft. Pitfalls to avoid, exercises to develop your skills, and practical advice and commentary all along the way. I'll admit I didn't follow along with the exercises: I just thought briefly about what I would write if I were following the prompt, and then moved on. I'm sure I'll be tempted in the future to go back and do the assignments, when I ...more
Beth Cato
Oct 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, writing
I actually started working through this book with a small writing group. We made it to lesson 7 before stalling out, and I decided to finish reading the book solo without continuing the exercises.

I'm an experienced author with two series with a Big 5 publisher, a Nebula nomination, and a whole lot of publications with my byline. This book taught me something new in every chapter. For me, a great deal of writing is intuitive. I don't know all of the rules of grammar, and I still shudder at the t
Halley Sutton
Nov 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very practical, wonderfully snarky advice. Some of my favorite lines:

"Emoticons are dreary little excuses for a failure to communicate feelings and intentions in words."

"[Grammarians] declared that the pronoun 'he' includes both sexes, as in "If a person needs an abortion, he should be required to tell his parents." (With the proper context, this is more or less Ms. Le Guin telling misogynistic grammarians to GFTO, God bless her.)

I marked most of the writing exercises and know that I probably sh
Paula Cappa
Sep 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Craft enables art.” This book brings the deepest understanding of how craft enables writers to elevate their writing beyond the mechanics and execution. Yes, Le Guin addresses danglers and misplaced modifiers and point of view issues. But she also speaks to the sound and beauty of language (especially style and rhythm) and how good writing skills free the writer to find the joy in writing. Every grammar bully should read this book.
First Second Books
Tried and true, superb short (mostly short) writing exercises to be done in groups or alone. Beginning or seasoned writers can find gold here, year after year. One of my five favorite perennial books on writing.
Jun 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Well-known author Ursula K. Le Guin conducted a writer's workshop she turned into this book. Each chapter bears a theme with literary examples, mostly from works in the public domain, and exercises for aspiring writers to complete. She occasionally recommends other sources, such as Strunk and White, to fill a gap in the reader's writing process knowledge. Although individuals may wish to complete the exercises on their own, a writing group probably provides the greatest benefit by providing feed ...more
K.F. Silver
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: craft, non-fic
I feel this book in a case of an author who is better at showing her craft than teaching it. While there's some great information within these pages, I felt there were many times a technique was either given too much or too little time.

It was also not what I expected or wanted to read, based on the description, which doubtless affected how useful I found it.
Sue Brennan
Dec 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This has been a particularly helpful book and one I suspect I will return to. I like the format: focusing on a certain aspect of writing, illustrating it with examples (Virginia Woolf appears more than once), and then setting an exercise. A few of these exercises have served as great prompts for me for short stories.
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It should surprise no one that this is an excellent guide for writers.
Jun 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kitap bir yazı atölyesi kitabı. Başkalarının da okuması için yazmak istiyorsanız bir kılavuz niteliğinde. Kitap özel bir amaca yönelik olsa da Le Guin'in iç görüleri için de okunur.
Terrance Shaw
Nov 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
“Craft enables art” Ursula K. Le Guinn tells us in the introduction to her ‘Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story’. “There’s luck in art. And there’s the gift. You can’t earn that. But you can learn skill ... You can learn to deserve your gift.”

Overflowing with valuable insight and inspiration, 'Steering the Craft' is among the best single-volume works on writing I’ve ever read—and I’ve read a lot of them over the decades, positively devouring anything I can get my
Sarah Schantz
Aug 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This charming book on the craft of creative writing is a pure delight to read even as a now seasoned and published author and I only wish I'd encountered it earlier on when I was still a novice (although I recognized several bits of advice I've magpied from my mentors over the years who undoubtedly magpied it from Le Guin's, Steering the Craft). I sat down to read the book yesterday as it is the textbook for the fiction class I am gearing up to teach this semester at the community college where ...more
May 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've long admired Ursula Le Guin's writing, which manages to be simultaneously literary-not-pretentious and genre-not-cliched. So as part of my project of reading books on writing craft to improve my own writing, I picked up this little volume.

I'll admit that I have a bad habit of not doing the exercises, so I didn't get as much out of it as I perhaps could have. I applaud the general approach, though, of looking at the basic elements of writing (definitely including getting grammar and punctuat
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Ursula K. Le Guin published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many awards: Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, etc. Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, and The Wild Girls. She lived in Portland, Orego ...more

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About Writing (4 books)
  • Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places
  • The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader and the Imagination
  • Conversations with Ursula K. Le Guin (Literary Conversations)
“And here’s an example of deliberate violation of a Fake Rule:   Fake Rule: The generic pronoun in English is he. Violation: “Each one in turn reads their piece aloud.”   This is wrong, say the grammar bullies, because each one, each person is a singular noun and their is a plural pronoun. But Shakespeare used their with words such as everybody, anybody, a person, and so we all do when we’re talking. (“It’s enough to drive anyone out of their senses,” said George Bernard Shaw.) The grammarians started telling us it was incorrect along in the sixteenth or seventeenth century. That was when they also declared that the pronoun he includes both sexes, as in “If a person needs an abortion, he should be required to tell his parents.” My use of their is socially motivated and, if you like, politically correct: a deliberate response to the socially and politically significant banning of our genderless pronoun by language legislators enforcing the notion that the male sex is the only one that counts. I consistently break a rule I consider to be not only fake but pernicious. I know what I’m doing and why.” 12 likes
“To make something well is to give yourself to it, to seek wholeness, to follow spirit. To learn to make something well can take your whole life. It’s worth it.” 8 likes
More quotes…