In writing, “The real question is: How do you effectively take [your] ideas and convert them to saleable manuscripts?” (xiii)
Kathi Macias, journalist, essayist, editor, poet, and author, delivers a simple and practical how-to book all about transforming ideas into manuscripts that effectively communicate an author’s message to his or her readers.
Building upon a straightforward metaphor, Macias takes the reader on an exciting journey in her “The Train-of-Thought Writing Method: Practical, User-Friendly Help for Beginning Writers” that provides a reasonable and memorable strategy for quite literally putting pen to paper. She begins with an emphasis on “laying the track”—having a clear purpose and vision for writing—and then moves from the cow-catcher to the locomotive, boxcars, and observation car before waving a final good-bye from the caboose. Every chapter is focused on a particular component of a train and a corresponding aspect of writing. From beginning to end the information in each chapter assists the reader through the process of writing a manuscript. Macias is particularly effective in illustrating and amplifying her techniques through the use of clear examples from both her own works and those of more universally recognized authors. Space is provided for the reader to jot down notes and ideas in response to the writing exercises suggested by Macias.
Macias’ book is broad enough that, with only a little creativity on the part of the reader, it can be applied to just about any writing genre—from the novel to newsletter article. Fiction and non-fiction writers alike will find helpful suggestions that will move them past the blank screen or page and into the details of their particular pieces. Taken as a whole, “Train-of-Thought” is a simple primer in writing and will be most helpful to a true beginner—regardless of his or her specific area of writing interest. The more seasoned writer may benefit from Macias’ examples and concise advice, which serve to break the inevitable writers’ blocks into manageable bits and pieces.
The strength of the book is its simplicity and its nearly universal applicability. I would recommend it to any beginning writer and to those who find themselves teaching a course on writing—from the homeschool family to the aspiring free-lance writer or blogger. Four stars for a practical book simply written.