The Kite and the String by Alice Mattison: Book Review

The Kite and the String: How to Write with Spontaneity and Control--and Live to Tell the Tale

Obtained: Penguin Random House Canada, ARC
Pages: 256
Publish date: August 16, 2016
Rating: ★★★

The book’s full title is what got me interested – The Kite and the String: How to Write with Spontaneity and Control, and Live to Tell the Tale. I consider myself a writer because I think in writing. I see something happen and imagine how it would be described in a book. I capture moments in words as they settle in my mind. But it’s been quite a while since I’ve put pen to paper and written fiction. As a NaNoWriMo participant a couple of years ago, I got to stretch that skill, but recently, it’s been slipping through my fingers. Enter Alice Mattison and her book about helping writers to perfect their craft.

Firstly, Mattison begins by explaining that this book isn’t for people who want to learn how to write; it’s a book for writers who want to learn further technique – which I appreciated. She gives quite a lot of great tips that I have taken note of in my phone for now to explore as I write this year’s NaNoWriMo novel.

She explains that when building a character, the writer shouldn’t base them off of a person they know entirely. It’s best to stretch the imagination and create completely new characters and let them drive the plot (no, they’re not two separate things). She also brought up a lot of issues that I find myself stumbling into as a writer of fiction and how to overcome them, such as describing the fact that a character is thinking of something (unnecessary), or giving the okay to write sentences that are informative (they’re not boring if they’re about something you’d want to know).

One thing Mattison wrote that I didn’t agree with was that breaking chronology of the story distracts from the story itself and focuses too much on the writer and the medium of the book. As a reader, I don’t find myself getting distracted from a story because it isn’t told in a straight narrative from beginning to end. I quite like a style that isn’t too linear. I don’t write that way typically, but I really appreciate the writers that do.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this book. I got a lot of quality tips from it that I can use in my writing, and now I’m super motivated to write a great book for NaNoWriMo, avoiding all of the bad writing traps I often fall into.

The Kite and the String is available online at Chapters Indigo, Book Depository, and Kobo.


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