I admire people who seemingly have an instinct for the exact right present for friends and family. For instance, a friend brought me a book from a trip to England called The Jane Austen Writers’ Club. The book, filled with good writer advice based on Jane’s work, uses excerpts from it to illustrate the points. The author, a writer and writing teacher herself, is a five-times-great niece of Jane’s which she says is nice but no claim to fame. Now, I devour good words about writing, and I have a love of Austen from high school days. How could anyone not love Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet? Perfect gift
Interesting tidbits of advice randomly float through the book, such as, the ideal size of a fiction community is 150 people. I was glad to find that I had already done some of the things she suggested as emulations of Jane. She advocates starting small with magazine submissions before taking on a novel. Jane was persistent and had been writing for twenty years before she experienced something like success. She knew that writing itself was a lonely business but she was helpful to and helped by other writer friends. She found her head at times full of mutton and rhubarb but didn’t wait to get back “in the mood” but wrote anyway or at least read a book. Her house was dustier than other people’s and the piles of books and papers made her look like a hoarder. (I do this last one the best.)
Writing exercises the author offers are based on Jane Austen’s habits and might actually be fun to do instead of the pointless drudgery I often feel with such suggestions. Some of them might wind up in this blog now and then. One I found particularly intriguing starts with answering a series of questions about a found object and then inventing a character to whom it belongs and writing a story to go with it.
Like I said at the outset, it was a perfect book for me, but also for any Austen fan or writer who would like to see how she did her work. There is one warning I feel compelled to offer. It may bring on an urge to read or reread all of Jane Austen’s books. I’ve downloaded Emma(free on Kindle) to get started.