The Creative Compass:
Writing Your Way from Inspiration to Publication

by Dan Millman and Sierra Prasada

H J Kramer & New World Library, 2013. ISBN 978-1-932-07365-2.
Reviewed by Mary Ann Moore
Posted on 03/05/2014

Nonfiction: Creative Life

Father and daughter writers, Dan Millman and Sierra Prasada, have collaborated on The Creative Compass, a book about the writing life. Their approach is adaptable to any creative project through, what they call, "a cycle of five universal stages: Dream, Draft, Develop, Refine, and Share."

Their process was to draft chapters individually and then edit each other's work to create "a single voice." Some chapters are personal narratives about their own approaches to writing and how they have evolved. For instance, Prasada has included a chapter entitled "How to Listen" and Millman includes "The Will to Write."

The book is set out in a linear and logical fashion, although some pages of questions at the beginning of it can lead you to answers that are especially relevant for you right now.

At first I thought that one doesn't think about the future at the Dream stage. But with further reflection I realized yes, that first idea does have me thinking of the finished book, the marketing of it and the celebration. At the Dream stage the authors say you need a "sticky idea." That's one that calls you on a quest and as the quest can be a challenging one, it had better be an idea that sustains your enthusiasm and passion.

Beginning a journal is a good idea and as the authors say "can channel the deluge of your life's events into a more manageable and meaningful story form."

It was at the Dream stage that the authors devised and fine-tuned a "What If" for their book: "What if we could demystify the writing process with five universal stages to help you reach your creative goals in writing and life?"

The authors include quotes from many other writers throughout the book: Toni Morrison, John Steinbeck and Henry David Thoreau are among them.

At the Draft age you form your first draft with its first lines letting you know who will tell the tale. Questions will prompt writers to consider who is telling the story and whether it will be written in first, second or third person.

At the Develop stage, you restructure and rewrite draft after draft. Several questions will help writers assess their work.

At the Refine stage, cut out the parts you have doubts about. It's time to look for comments from early readers. The authors have provided a list of specific questions to help focus the readers' attention and help them translate their impressions "into fruitful commentary." An early reader could be a freelance editor.

At the Share stage, you as the writer should be able to "summarize the dramatic core of your story by describing your book in brief." That way you can approach agents, editors and others as you near publication. Writers may opt to self-publish or approach a traditional publisher. There's a chapter on the nine-sale gauntlet (from "selling" the book to yourself through to selling it to readers) and even a chapter on handling rejection.

Many writers received copious rejections before going on to publish and win awards. The authors include Madeleine L'Engle as an example. She received twenty-six rejections for A Wrinkle in Time before it was published and won the Newbery Medal in 1963.

Sometimes beginning writers get ahead of themselves and don't realize the many steps it takes to see a book through from dreaming it to seeing it in the world. The Creative Compass outlines all the stages, offers practical advice and prompts to see you through, and encourages readers to embrace the "stories you tell and the stories you live."

Sierra Prasada is a freelance journalist, editor, and teacher. The author of Creative Lives and the founder of the 20th Century Project, she lives in Washington, DC. Visit her website. Dan Millman is the author of seventeen books, including Way of the Peaceful Warrior, read by millions of people in twenty-nine languages. He teaches worldwide and lives in Northern California. Visit his website.

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