Writing Alchemy: How to Write Fast and Deep
by Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett



Knowledge Access Publishing, 2012. ISBN 978-0-984-12784-9.
Reviewed by Donna B. Russell
Posted on 08/26/2013

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Creative Life

In Writing Alchemy: How to Write Fast and Deep, co-authors Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett have come up with a unique, innovative, and practical approach to writing that will help authors learn effective skills and tools for telling a story that is compelling and relevant. As Bonnett points out,

Writing Alchemy reflects the organic, non-linear nature of writing. It adapts to the many ways individual writers choose to work... it's a reminder to slow down and collect your thoughts before starting to write. That is, after all, the secret to learning to show and not tell.

By following Butler and Bonnett's step-by-step deconstruction process, you will learn such valuable tips as how to handle dialogue well and how to deal with events that you may not accurately remember or weren't privy to, as well as understanding legal issues to be aware of when writing about real people. Also included are links to online tools such as scientific personality surveys, temperament tests, emotional quotient tests, and more that will help you develop believable, well-rounded characters with which your readers can identify. Exercises at the end of each step guide you through the writing process and provide a wealth of information from which to draw when it comes time to actually write your story. By using their method of deconstructing separately for each of the five elements of writing (character, emotion, dialogue, the five senses, and time and place), you will be better able to write a cohesive story and determine which events are best told using which of these elements.

Butler and Bonnett's examples from their own writing, as well as from other authors, illustrate each step in the process, making the book both instructive and entertaining. In addition to the links within the chapters, suggested resources are listed at the end of each section.

Although deconstruction may look like a lot of work, Butler says it's worth it. "You will save yourself a lot of time, considerable backing up, and months of rewriting if you spend the time now to thoroughly deconstruct each major person in your memoir." By doing so, you can sift the wheat from the chaff and choose only those elements and methods that will help you relate your story in the most interesting way. "This is your opportunity to take control of your writing and become a purposeful writer," Bonnett adds. In the final chapter, the authors show you how to use all of the material generated by your deconstructions to build a clear, detailed, strong, and relevant story.

I found Writing Alchemy to be much more than just another "how to" book. It's like having your own personal mentors guiding you in your writing process. I consider it a welcome and valuable addition to my library, and is the type of book I will refer back to time and again as I strive to become a better writer by perfecting my craft.


Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett are the award-winning authors of the collective memoir Rosie's Daughters: The "First Woman To" Generation Tells Its Story, as well as other books. Matilda is a psychologist, memoir coach and writing conference speaker, and lives in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Kendra is a marketing executive, author/ghost writer of nine books, speaker and memoir coach, and lives in Downeast Maine. Matilda and Kendra blog at WomensMemoirs.com.

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