Book Review: The Writer’s Book of Wisdom (Part 1)

That’s right, part 1. This whole puppy was about 40 pages on a Word document. I figured I’d separate them into easieer to read sections. I’ll post the review of about 15 “Rules”, two a day. That way you don’t get overwhelmed by the sheer awesomeness that is my review.

I was originally intending on reviewing Tamora Pierce’s “Song of the Lioness” series (which, by the way, is a really good series, and if you haven’t read it, do that now.), but I just started reading this book first, so here we go.

P.s. There are grammar and spelling mistakes here and there. Since this is just a simple review (and since it’s 40 frigging pages), I didn’t bother editing it. Sorry.

 

Overview: “The Writer’s Book of Wisdom” is a set of 101 “rules” for writing. Are there rules for writing good books? …kinda, yeah. You can’t just write a bunch of random words down and expect audiences to rave about how you put the words “peanut butter” and “apron” right next to each other. But are all of these “rules” ones I agree with? …well, no. While I do agree with some, the authors of this book took on a slightly… pompous voice, that people who aren’t super serious shouldn’t write, and I just don’t agree with that.

But without further ado, the review!

Rule 1: Learn the rules before you break them.

We need rules in life. They keep people in line and on the same page. Is murder wrong? According to the law, it is, so we see it as wrong. In writing, it is the same way. The way you punctuate a sentence or add dialogue should be in line with other authors.

So? Writing, like this will not be widely: accepted.

That’s an extreme example, sure. Now, maybe it’s just that I’m not fully grown up, but I don’t see any “rules” in writing, except make your plot make sense (Though, there is Kafka…), your characters interesting (Excepting Hemmingway, of course…), and use proper grammar/spelling/ect.

 

Rule 2: Writing is more craft that art.

 The main point of this rule is to write every day. Exercise your writing brain, so to speak.

I could not agree more. I personally (try to) write short drabbles every day for my fanfic “A Story for a Word” (https://www.fanfiction.net/s/9525445/1/A-Story-for-a-Word), just so I don’t get out of the habit of writing. You should try something similar!

 

Rule 3: Believe in yourself, even if no one else does.

      Words to live by. Hard words, of course, but words nevertheless. Writing is hard, tedious, and after hours and days and weeks and months and maybe even years of hard work, there will still be plenty of people who think that our works of art are stupid and shouldn’t see the light of day.

      You’ve got to have guts to stand up to them, snap your fingers in a z formation and stick your tongue out like a petulant child. Or the insanity. Whichever works…

 

Rule 4: True inspiration must be earned by writing.

Again, truer words were never spoken. To quote Chris Baty’s book, No Plot? No Problem! “I don’t wait for my muse to wander by, I go out and drag her home by the hair.”

That is pretty much what you gotta do.  Don’t know what happens next? Skip until you get to a part you *do* know, and write that. While you’re busy working on that, the unconscious part of your brain will start working on a problem, and once it gets done, it’ll usually alert you in one of those “Eureka!” moments. (Just don’t go running through the streets of Rome naked…)

If it doesn’t come, ask some like-minded friends. “How should this character get from here to here?” Listen to their suggestions. Even if you hate it, and least you’ll figure out how *not* to get them from one place to another.

 

Rule 5: Write to be great, not to be rich.

 I’m kinda on the fence with this one. I don’t want to be “great” (’cause I kinda want to have my own personal life), but I want to be known. I kinda want to be rich, and hope writing will take me close, but I kinda half-know that’s pretty unlikely.

Don’t feel bad if you don’t want greatness or riches: My grandpa wrote a really technical and scientific book on some wool-threading/loom weaving subject. Only about 100 copies were published, and they sell for, like $400 on ebay because they’re so rare, but my grandpa published a book. And he got money. Not a lot, but if you just want a book published, that’s perfectly okay.

 

Rule 6: Get used to despair.

Oh, despair, the blackest pit of woe. There always seem to be people who are more than willing to hate you for nothing at all, and tear apart your book, because they think it will be fun, and who cares about one author?

This book says that your friends will secretly hate you for being an author. They’ll be overly jealous, they’ll think you’re stupid.

…Excuse me? I happen to think that my friends (like any true friend) will be happy for my success. Will they be jealous at the attention I get? Of course! That’s human nature. But their jealousy will be overshadowed at their happiness that I finally published something!

 Caveat Emptor: This does not give you the right to act like a total prick. If you act noticably more pompous or regal, they *will* start to peel away. Of course, you get a good week or two to brag about the fact that you PUBLISHED AN EFFING *NOVEL* before you should tone your excitement down and start acting normal.

…or as normal as you usually do.

 

Rule 7: Fail.

Failure is the key to success. It just it. Once you fail at something, you never do it again. (It’s called aversive learning. It’s actually pretty interesting!) So keep failing, and soon, you’ll find very few things to fail at.

 

Rule 8: Keep your writing exercises in perspective.

This basically says follow your heart, though sometimes structure is good. I personally find structure a great starting point. Then I just take off and fly in a completely different direction. Some people like their whole story to be structured by someone. Is that bad? In short, no. But I’m a writer, so I use metaphors.

Roller coasters (for most people) are exciting. They take you through ups and downs and all around. But they’re the same track, and it’s the same no matter how many times you ride it. So what’s exciting about a roller coaster? It’s speed. Lazy rivers are fun because you can just lay in the sun while you’re dragged along by a current. Top Thrill Dragster is so fun because it goes so fast in so short a time. So as long as you keep the style and pacing your own, it will be exciting. (Okay, not a perfect metaphor, but whatever…)

 

Rule 9: Prepare to face your demons.

I have very low self-esteem. I am a half-perfectionist, in and of that *everything* I do has to be perfect. So when I write something, it has to be perfect. When it isn’t, I feel depressed and sad. But I have to work through that.

Maybe your family or friends aren’t too keen on you writing a novel, and every time they catch you scribbling away, they either get mad at you or they laugh at you. You have to deal with that.

Maybe you’re from China or the Phillippeans, or Uganda, and you only speak broken English, but you want to write a book in English. Every time you write, you second-guess your spelling, grammar, and punctuation. You have to deal with that.

No matter what it is, we all have demons, and we all must deal with them.  ‘Cause you can’t run away from them forever, and anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you something. (If you know what that’s from, you’re awesome)

 

Rule 10: Stay out of sight.

 I could not agree less with this rule. I suppose it is a matter of opinion, but especially if you’re a new writer, you’ve got to let people know you exist. That’s the whole reason I started this blog: to let people know I exist.

While you are a conduit for your story, as the book says, you also need to support that story and make sure it gets the press it deserves. Don’t let it rot on the shelves. Please.

 So start a blog, twitter, facebook, email, or whatever and message all of your friends. Let them know you are writing a story, and talk about it a lot. Give people the inside scoop on your story. People *love* the inside scoop. (A book I suggest for this it “The Essential Guide to Getting Published”)

 

Rule 11: Work in an inspiring environment.

I agree…ish. I wrote most of my novel in loud coffee shops and less noisy libraries, surround by other people. I listened to music while writing, but I wasn’t in my writing corner. Only the last few days of novelling was done there.

So novel away where you want to. But always have a little hidey hole to slip away to, whether it’s the bathroom or a walk in linen closet, make sure you are comfortable and inspired there.

 

Rule 12: Think of writing sessions as entertainment.

Definitely. If you consider writing a thing you “have” to do (excluding the odd few says when you’re just not feeling it. Goodness knows that has happened to me…), you won’t enjoy it, and that will come through to your audience. And as the book says, while you have to entertain your readers, you also have to entertain yourself.

 

Rule 13: Electronic voices destroy inspiration.

I politely and emphatically disagree. One of the novels I’m working on was inspired by the episode of Merlin (great BBC show, btw), The Poisoned Chalice. Now it has a life of its own, and only generalizations can be drawn from it to its source material.

Especially for teenagers and young adults, television is a portal to a different world, where product placement is commonplace, and people in the background can walk across a camera’s viewing angle more than once!

Personally, I find television more inspiring than books (le gasp!), since I enjoy writing about emotion, which is hard to imagine in a book, but shown through television really well. The way people stand, the way they act, their facial expressions, and their motives, these are easier to understand in television.

Now, I’m not saying that books are bad. Another book I wrote was inspired by Tamora Pierce’s book, “Alanna: The First Adventure”, and I have incorporated her style and her knowledge into my books (It’s surprisingly hard to draw a sword from a sheath quickly).

Just know where you get inspiration from, and run with it.

Though a good point this book makes is that writing while listening to radio or something similar (Like Welcome to Night Vale) will tear your concentration away. And that’s a valid point.

Then they broaden the category to music, and I (again) politely and emphatically disagree.

 

Rule 14: Return to the basics.

Writing by hand. Now most of my younger audience has fled in terror. But writing by hand is beneficial. You are writing slower, and have more time to think about what you’re writing. You’ll be less likely to write something stupid.

Plus it just feels cool to be writing something in school of work and have someone lean over and ask “What’cha writing?” and watch the impressed look on their face when you say, “A Novel.” like it’s no biggie. I personally write fanfiction in a special notebook just for that purpose. Plus, I just like doing it!

 

Rule 15: Generate text.

In other words, write. The book has this really funny anecdote: Sinclair Lewis, the first literature Nobel laureate was invited to speak at Harvard. Like any good writer worth his salt (or words), he turned up drunk, marched on the stage, and asked who wanted to be a writer. When everyone raised their hand, he barked, “Then why the hell aren’t you home writing?” And then he walked (stumbled drunkenly) away.

Moral of the story: you will write crap at every stage of your life. Don’t think that if you start at age 35, you’ll be better at writing than you were at age 15 and you didn’t practice writing.

Writing is just like learning an instrument. You don’t just become a famous musician by *wishing* it. You gotta practice, and you *will* get better.

 

Rule 16: Take a break from your labors.

DO NOT OVERWORK YOURSELF. It is NOT cool. You will get sick, and you will be unable to write for a week or two, as opposed to those five or six hours you wrote when you should have been eating and/or sleeping and/or showering. If you put too much pressure on yourself, you won’t grow to be very old.

Practice proper hygiene. Don’t live off of Twinkies and Dove chocolates, and please, for the love of crap, WASH YOUR DAMN CLOTHES. And your damn body. And use deodorant. Please.

 

Rule 17: Stop reading this book.

 Write.

That is literally written in the book. And I agree. Why are you reading this? Write. NOW!

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