A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story

Steering the Craft cover
Mariner Books
September 1, 2015
Now available at Powell’s Bookstore


PW-reviews-star-19bOriginally written in 1998 and based on Le Guin’s workshop of the same name, the book has been revised by her based on reader feedback and on the vast changes that have occurred in publishing over the years. But some issues remain constant, and Le Guin explores them in a familiar, breezy style that is admirably direct, and as entertaining as it is enlightening. . . . This book is a star by which to set one’s course. —Publishers Weekly [full review]

The book’s title emphasizes the author’s belief that writing is essentially a craft that can be learned, practiced, and improved through attention and self-discipline. “Forced to weigh your words,” she writes, “you find out which are the Styrofoam and which are the heavy gold.” A succinct, clear, and encouraging companion for aspiring writers. — Kirkus [full review]

From the Introduction

Steering the Craft was published in 1998. This is a complete revision of the book, updated and rewritten. Some exercises have been improved or replaced, many topics deleted, added, or rethought.

Every year our schools teach less of an essential and once common knowledge, the technical language of speech and writing, the vocabulary of grammar. Words such as subject, predicate, object, or adjective and adverb, or past tense and past perfect tense, are half-understood or wholly unfamiliar to many. Yet these are the names of the writer’s tools. You can’t say what’s wrong or right in a sentence without the words to describe it. A writer who doesn’t know them is like a carpenter who doesn’t know a hammer from a screwdriver. (“Hey, Pat, if I use that whatsit there with the kinda pointy end, will it get this thing into this piece of wood?”) In revising this book, though I can’t do a crash course in English grammar and usage, I tried to encourage my writer-readers to consider the value of the marvelous tools their language provides, and to get familiar with them to the point that they can play with them freely.

Updating the book also meant bringing it more fully into the age of electronic communication. In the years since the millennium, writing itself has begun to be differently understood in many ways, while publishing is sailing through a storm of overwhelming change.

There’s no sea-chart for a boat in a hurricane. But there are still some basic ways to make her seaworthy and keep her from capsizing, going to pieces, or hitting an iceberg.

Navigating the Ocean of Story, Session Two

More questions from writers, answered by UKL.

Navigating the Ocean of Story, an experiment by UKL.

“...I miss being in touch with serious prentice writers. So in hope of regaining some of the pleasures of teaching and talking about writing fiction with people who do, I’m going to try an experiment: a kind of open consultation or informal ongoing workshop in Fictional Navigation, at Book View Café...”

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