Book Review: The Writer’s Book of Wisdom (Part 5)

The final review! In this review we go from Rule 79 all the way to 101 and the overall commentary

Rule 79: Avoid commentary: Let readers make their own deductions.

In less frivolous terms, Show, don’t tell.

Ah, showing versus telling. The bane of all writers everywhere. People want so much to shove their ideas into other people’s faces that they get too eager and go overboard.

This can go hand in hand with over describing something, but it can be hard to tell, especially by yourself.

There are whole lessons on showing versus telling, but the one I used (not sure if it’s the best or anything, but who knows?) is in The First Five Pages. You can choose your own, if you want.

Rule 80: Tell stories to keep them reading.

At this point, the author seems to be repeating ideas. When you strip this idea to its bare bones, it’s simply telling your story quickly (Rule 54) and entertaining the reader (Rule 53). SO I’m going to skip this section.

Rule 81: Reveal past events through exposition or flashback.

I went through this early in Rule 68. Not much else to say about it.

Rule 82: Shift focus often.

Don’t focus one thing too long, Steven Goldbury says.

That’s easy for action shots. Clashing noises, swords, words, it can get easy to shift focus in the middle of a battle, whether physical or verbal, but what about in everyday life?

That can be a bit harder, but life is always changing. Did you learn nothing from “Just Around the Riverbend”?

If your character is walking through a forest, have him notice a bug that lands on a flower, or have her kick a rock and follow it as it bounces off a tree root and follow its progress from there.

You might wonder, “What’s the point, if it doesn’t further the plot?” But as I have said before, sometimes, a quick break from the plot is good.

Rule 83: Know your theme.

I literally made up my theme in rule 61. No joke. It’s usually pretty obvious from your writing, and is based on your plot. If you want to do a Horatio Alger thing, then have a poor orphan gain riches. It’s that easy.

Again, the book goes on for two pages. But this is what it’s really saying: Know your theme. It’s that simple

Rule 84: Go with God, but write with the devil.

Or, just go with the devil. You know, whatever works.

Because seriously, Hell and evil is just so COOL. You know how Tess – I mean I – said that conflict makes a story more interesting? Well, a lot of conflict makes for a lot of interest. And guess where a lot of conflict comes from?

If you guessed evil, you’re correct!

Now as the father of evil, – I mean as a writer who writes about a lot of evil – I know that violence is so much fun to read. Because it’s so outside our normal circle.

Seriously. Find the depravities of humanity and use it to your advantage.

And no, this is not Lucifer again. Please stop asking, or I will send you to Hell. I do have that power.

Rule 85: Resolve all conflicts by the end of the story.

…By the end of the story arc. I’m ending my novel at a cliffhanger. If Rick Riordan can end Mark of Athena with Percy and Anabeth falling into the Pit of Tartarus, I think I’m at least slightly entitled to end my novel at a slight cliffhanger.

But do resolve all conflicts. It might not be happily ever after, (The manga Devilman is a good example of one that does not) but there must be some resolution.

Rule 86: Writing is the vehicle for writing the truth.


If you’re writing fantasy, it’s hard to be honest. If the book is talking about being true to yourself, I could understand, but it’s not. It goes from talking about the power of the story to honesty to making stories out of “hate and love”.


Rule 87: Maintain the trance of verisimilitude.

Verisimilitude is simply truthfulness. Basically, you want to keep your story in the right time period, with the right phrases.

Then Steven goes on to say that your vocab should be sixth to eighth grade level.

…excuse me? I have a rather advanced vocabulary for my age, and it gets boring to read books with the same words over and over and over and over and over again.

In general, I believe people should read books that are a level beyond them.

Unfortunately, all the books in the genre I like (YA fantasy) I like are rather simple, so I don’t learn much vocab. But he television shows I like are much different. Just listening to Data from Star Trek Next Generation gave me three different words (aphorism, oraface, jocular) in a span of about ten minutes.

Reading all of Tamora Pierce’s “Song of the Lioness” series taught me about the same amount (petulant, rampant… and that’s all I can remember.) in four books.

Readers sometimes like to be challenged. If they don’t, they can read another book. But most people will read a book, even (And sometimes especially) if they don’t know a few words.

Caveat Emptor: Don’t use too many fancy words just for the sake of using them. If they fit, use them. If they don’t, don’t.

Rule 88: Writing offers hope.

Okay. We have officially reached “artsy fart” status. In plain, concrete English (oh, lordie, my English teacher finally got to me…. crap….) They say that while there should be a lot of conflict, there should be a small hope for the main characters.

You might actually have to read this rule. It’s really pretentious and actually kinda funny. But maybe I’m just being mean. Ah well.

Rule 89: Think about your readers.

This draws back connections to Rule 53, the need to entertain. But this goes further: The readers are the people who support you. Treat them really well. Want a great example of a person who’s really good with his fans?

Vic Mignogna.

Besides being a total sweetie, he takes time out of his own day to write back to every bit of fan mail he gets. He says that he’s up until 1 or 2 in the morning, writing back fan mail so everyone knows how grateful he is to them.

Now, especially if you’re a teenager/young adult, I wouldn’t suggest doing this, since that would mean you only get about four or five hours a sleep a night (assuming you get up at around 6:30 for school), which is not advisable. But take the time to make your story easy for your writers.

Rule 90: Revise with a critical eye and outside help.

Remember aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall the way in Rule 56 when I said that I would go more into outside editors?

Well, guess what?

Critical readers, outside editor, crap detector, call them what you want, they all have one purpose: To make you look as intelligent and novel-esque as possible.

As to where to find a good critical reader, the book says not to go to a friend or teacher. But sometimes those are the best people to go to.

People who aren’t overly critical (like my one friend who won’t stop asking me to let her read my stories(though she tends not to be a blind praiser)) are great, because they give you an idea for what the general populace will think of your book.

But picky readers are even better.

My English teacher is outstanding with prose and novels, as well as great at grammar. Once I finish editing my novel and have my friend read it through, I’m gonna and him the first ten or fifteen pages, and ask him if he would be willing to look them over and tell me what he thinks.

He doesn’t read a lot of YA fantasy (that I know of), so he won’t be too pulled in by the gimmicks, but he is good at picking apart a story, which is really good.

But if your editor’s desires conflict with your own, take a sabbatical and come back later. If you’re still unwilling to change, then don’t. It’s your story, after all.

Rule 91: Art shows up in the rewriting.

So, rule 19? Yeah. Rule 19.

Rule 92: Get distance from your work.

Which is very important. If possible, take about a month’s break from your story. At least two weeks. This will help you get over your illusion that your story is the best piece of literature ever.

Rule 93: Revise for speed.

Or, Rule 54. Tell your story quickly. (Advice which this author should be taking…)

Rule 94:Trust the Muse of Revision

She will lead you to possible serendipity. But the rules are starting to repeat themselves and get really boring.

Rule 95: If you can be misread, you will be.

And in this case, Steve is talking about innuendos.

…really? I mean, really? EVERYTHING can be misread. I don’t even want to know what goes on in some people’s dirty little heads. I don’t have time to be worried if they see every little thing I write as an innuendo. Sorry.

Rule 96: Ultimately, content matters more than crafts.

…which contradicts Rule 61, which claims that writing quality is more important than plot or characters. My head hurts. :/

Rule 97: Know how to sell it.

Be current in the publishing industry. Know how to craft a good pitch (No, not Rise of the Guardians Pitch. Writing-pitch.), who to write a good query letter, ect.

Here are some good suggestions for books to figure out what’s what.

The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. This one is mainly for revision purposes. It’s really good for learning the mistakes in your novel.

The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published – By Arielle Eekstut and David Henry Sterry. (This is really good for before and after publication. Not so much actual publication.)

How to Publish Your Novel – By Ken Atchity – This is pretty much your guide to the ins and outs of publication. Read it. Live it. Just don’t bathe in it.


Rule 98: Study the board.

Make sure you know the market. If you’re publishing in adult comedy, know the publishers that mainly deal with adult comedy. If you’re writing a children’s mystery book, make sure you know the publishers involved in the production of such books.

Then the book stops, leaving many people screaming at the sky, “But HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwww?”

Well, my dear Watson, the answer is elementary: Go to your bookstore and/or library. Find books that fit your genre. Look at all the publishers. Notice if there are books from the same publication house and see if you can figure out what kind of books they publish.

Even if they don’t publish your kind of novel, if/when another publication house interviews you for a chance to get your book published and they ask why you chose their house, it would be impressive if you could say, “House A publishes more of a modern fantasy, while House B publishes more of a paranormal romance genre. I found your house’s typical genre of Medieval/other worldly fantasy to fit my novel well.”

This tells publishers that you’re not just an average Joe off the street, and that you’re willing to work hard.

Plus, it’s just nice to know someone took the time.

Rule 99: Submit a professional manuscript.

Don’t do anything fancy. Don’t make the writing too big or (definitely) too small. Make it a conventional font. (No, Wingdings is not okay.) Make it look professional, even if you’re not.

But aside from that, the book has no other concrete advice to offer.

I personally have only one thing to add: When you’re re-submitting a manuscript to another publisher, whether you’re shopping around or have been rejected, (heck, even if this is your first time submitting it) make sure it looks like it hasn’t seen the light of day.

I copped this straight from The First Five Pages, but apparently, editors deliberately look for signs of use: ruffled or creased pages, smudges of coffee stains, a small ink stain someone had on their hand that smudged onto the paper, anything.

They will take it as a sign that another editor read it and thus, rejected it.

Then they will reject it, no questions asked, nothing further read. All because you couldn’t bother to print out another manuscript.

Rule 100: Aspire to reach a universal audience.

I respectfully disagree. While I’m not saying that writing for a universal audience is bad, it makes the book less personable to your intended audience.

I don’t think Avatar aspired to be as great a cartoon as it is. DiMartino and Konietzko simply wanted to tell a great story for their kids. They wanted to keep it free of the stupidity that unfortunately plagues most children’s cartoons.

And they created a gem.

The lesson? By aspiring to be the best in your category (say, children’s, or young adults), you reach other audiences.

Rule 101: Embrace the wisdom of opposing views.

Pick and choose how these rules affect you. Too what extent will you “trust your own voice” and to what extent will you “imitate others”?

Writing is a very… loosy-goosy art. There’s no rules for how to hold your hands, how to read music, how to paint. You type up a story you want to type up and go on from there!

So that was the review. Yeah, it was a little long, it’s REALLY late, and I’m positively exhausted. You can probably tell that from the fact that the length of the reviews started shortening little by little…

But: My thoughts.

It’s full of interesting information, and the book itself is very pretty. Its sentences are concise and well written.


I personally feel the writer is a bit pretentious. He means well, but he can come off arrogant and self-important at times. Maybe you might appreciate the way he builds up the writing profession, since so many people bring it down, but I just find it a bit… unpleasant.

The rules can be taken a few ways. The descriptions , especially near the end of the book, often didn’t correspond with the rules, which was confusing. And the writer repeated the same rules once or twice, instead of just shortening the number of rules and lengthening the number of pages devoted to each rule.

And I didn’t like how they were called “rules”. Nothing in writing needs to be followed. But that’s just a personal complaint.


It’s twenty bucks. Unless you can get it for about 5 or under, I’d suggest getting it from the library or reading it at your local bookstore. It’s definitely not a bad book, and does deserve at least one look through.

It just doesn’t deserve twenty bucks.

Has anyone else read this book? What were your thoughts?


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