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Excellent new book for our Georgetown faculty writing list

September 26th, 2013

When I choose a book for our faculty writing list, it’s a momentous event. Very few “how to write” books make the cut, in part because I’m highly selective, and also in part because many fine books simply do not address the unique issues our faculty authors face. We’re supposed to be as scholarly as possible in journals, but more narrative in books. We’re expected to speak to a penumbra or two of scholars outside of our fields, while still remaining essential for scholars within our fields. It is a nimble and challenging balance, and few books speak to scholars’ interests in a way that works for us. Also, as a practical matter, most “how to write” books are for beginning writers, and almost by definition most faculty members I work with are accomplished and published. The short list of books we have found useful includes How to Write a Lot by Paul Silvia (APA Press), Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks by Wendy Belcher (Sage), Stylish Academic Writing by Helen Sword (Harvard), and now this gem, The Elements of Story by Francis Flaherty (Harper).

Professor Dan Byman recommended this book to me after it was suggested to him by his editor. He is already enormously well-published, so I had hope that this book would add value to the efforts of the accomplished author rather than speaking solely to the needs of beginners. It does! Soon I will blog about why I particularly admire it, but for now I hope it is enough to say that if you want to craft effective, narrative nonfiction, you should read this book.

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