By Cunning & Craft: Sound Advice and Practical Wisdom for Fiction Writers by Peter Seigin

Let’s set the records straight: I have read many books on how to write. I love writing, but sadly the ability to plunk my ass into the chair and just do it escapes me most days.

Blame it on the ADD, baby.


I try to gather as much information about the craft as I can, because not only will it make me a better writer, but it’s also a handy procrastination tool. Hey, I’m reading something about writing–I must be accomplishing something! 

Unfortunately, most books on writing are EXTREMELY BORING and very technical. Enter: Peter Seigin’s By Cunning and Craft. A small orange book, it looks extremely like something Harry Potter would use to cook up something mischievous, and that’s why it caught my eye. The book’s physical style greatly compliments its content, and the content is really well written. I don’t know who Peter Seigin is, but he’s a great writer, and I’d love to stumble onto some more of his work.

Seigin uses examples from popular classic novels to demonstrate his point and help budding authors really hone in on what good writing looks like and what bad writing looks like. The way he chooses his words makes the book read intelligently (you’ll feel smart reading it) but it isn’t hard to understand or pretentious. The writing is clear, concise, and the point and its definitely one of the best guides I’ve found that covers the joy and madness that is being an author. Quotes from famous authors are also included and give a nice touch.

Recently I slogged through Writing YA Fiction for Dummies by Deborah Halverson, and that was a difficult read towards the end. Halverson gives very necessary and practical advice, but (maybe because it was a “Dummies” book) it just didn’t have the same smooth flow as Seigin’s book did. I greatly benefited from reading both, but By Cunning and Craft was a far more bite-sized and easily swallowed hunk of information.

If you are looking to start writing, better your current writing techniques, and/or potentially get published someday, please read this book first. It will save you a lot of the time and misery that the other “craft” books will dole out, and you’ll learn something new in the process.

A win for sure.

4 of 5 stars

About Chelsea McDonald

As an avid reader since I was big enough to hold a book, I continue to enjoy losing myself in the thrall of a good story on a daily basis. Since many of my cohorts do not share the same passion, Cracking Spines will be the perfect outlet to express my adulation or frustration concerning the books that cross my path. In this way, my loyal followers will be able to enjoy the stories that are worthwhile and avoid the duds altogether. I also have a Shelfari account at View all posts by Chelsea McDonald

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