by Fairfax, John
In 1969 the poet John Fairfax and poet and novelist John Moat dreamt up the Arvon Foundation, a venture born out of their frustration that nowhere in Britain were there writing schools where young authors could enrol to learn their craft. The Way to Write is a distillation of their 30 years of involvement with Arvon, which now runs country-wide courses.
Fairfax and Moat hold forthright views on the exact use of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs--new vocabulary to anyone who passed through the English and Welsh secondary education systems in the 70s and 80s. They quite rightly claim that as these are the building blocks of sentences, held together by the mortar of punctuation, your carefully constructed literary edifice will come crashing down unless you have learned how to manipulate them to best effect. Their recipe for success? More concrete nouns, fewer adjectives.
The book's strength lies in the way Fairfax and Moat work through "before" and "after" examples culled from their students' and other poets' writing. They highlight exactly what they mean when they exhort you to choose precise nouns or edit out extraneous adjectives--you can read the difference for yourself.
Fairfax and Moat are very keen on the idea of writer as sorcerer, somebody who weaves spells with words, and this extended metaphor can wear thin over the course of 10 chapters. However, what advice they do give is so sensible that you can forgive them their occasional mystical flights of fancy. Now, go weave your own spell... --Amanda Cameron