Books about Writing: 101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists
I have a shelf or three in my library dedicated to the art and craft of writing. Now, books about writing always seemed like a drag to me – and in college I hated reading them. In retrospect, these cheeky “you can do it!” books are so much better than the dense times of literary theory that, frankly, I seldom finished. So I’ve decided to distill many of these books for fellow writers, new writers and students. Call it a book review – but I prefer an “assessment of potential knowledge transfer and the viability of that knowledge becoming useful.”
101 Habits of Highly Successful Novelists by Andrew McAleer
This is a nice looking book, – aptly named with a red and white cover. The sub title is “Insider Secrets from Top Writers.” Insider secrets? Take my money! I must find a coffee shop in which to peruse this intellectual trove of “how to write.”
The first thing that strikes me upon actually opening the book is the fact that it’s a collection of anecdotes and tips from other authors. I find myself asking, well, where did those chumps learn it? What is they’re wrong and their situation is unique? I read through the list of names – I recognize a few. Most I don’t, but I’m functionally illiterate when it comes to anything that’s not research. I’m going to take the editor on faith that these are real authors with real practical advice. Of course, we all know the value of free advice. Or in this case, condensed, distilled micro-snippets of advice from a hundred sources for $12.95USD.
Portrait of a Novelist
An obligatory “self check,” section confuses me a little bit. I’m reminded of the scene in Fight Club “is this what a writer is supposed to look like?” Regardless of the lack of originality, the chapter on creativity and originality is well assembled with sound advice. Be passionate, create and live in the world. Creative Writing 101. On page 37, there’s a snippet about being open to new experiences. I should say so. Imagine a romance author who’s never had a leg shaking kiss. It’d be a hard sell, right?
I’m always skeptical when I hear this sort of thing. After running a small publishing business for five years, it is my opinion that the secrets are common sense and unique to various agencies. But it’s worth a looksee or review just to brush up.
Also remember that the writing and publishing experience for everyone is very different. Some writers sit 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Some write in notebooks. It’s all, always different.
When these books address the creative process I always get a raw too – some people watch films. Some play video games. Some go for walks. Some listen to other people talk in restaurants. I like to go to toy stores. When other writers start to tell you about your creative process, take it with a grain of salt.
There’s a ton of practical advice in this book however for new(ish) authors. The tips cover deadlines, managing time, and most importantly, working with large chain book stores and publishers. The single most effective piece of advice I’ve seen so far is to join a writing group. You must immerse yourself in the culture of writing, competing with others, just a bit, relying on them to nag about your deadlines. Sharing your work and getting instant feedback. This why we write.
Not a bad book for the cost. It’s taken up a lot of space on my shelf over the years for just a collection of anecdotes, opinions and quotations. It’s a great book to browse while you’re waiting, or sitting somewhere. I’m going to store mine in the bathroom.