Progressive Book Club has been on hiatus since summer while our fearless leader, M. L. Swift, dealt with life. Now we're back, with a new format!
I have chosen to continue to use the PBC as a place to talk about writing books, and this month I'm featuring the book I'm currently reading (I"m not done with it, and indeed it's the sort of book you mark and return to while writing and editing). With a warning that this one's for the adult writers, I present:
The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience, by Chuck Wendig.
Published by Writers Digest books, 2013. 278 pages.
Note: this is a discussion, not a review. I may review the book when I finish it, but for now, I'm just going to talk about it. Though that may be a distinction without a difference.
Half instruction manual and half inspiration, the book follows Wendig's famous (well, to those of us who follow his blog) model of lists of 25. There are 32 lists of 25 things you should know about different aspects of writing, which by the way is only 800 tips, plus one in the intro. I am not sure if there are another 200 tips in the Coda, or if Wendig cheated us. I'll be taking that up with him.
Wendig divides the book into three larger parts: The Fundamentals, The Craft, and Publishing & Earning Your Audience. I've been working my way through the first two, reading bits, marking them, and running back to my MS to put them into action. I'm going to give you a few of my favorite bits, sort of randomly and with my own comments when I feel like it (reading Wendig can cause randomness. Also potty-mouth).
Quit quitting. That one doesn't need any discussion. As he says elsewhere, writers write.
Nobody sees themselves as a supporting character. I liked this, because it was a reminder that even the minor characters are still people. Keep in mind that they have a story and a life, even when it doesn't enter into the story you're telling. Keeping this in mind might help me make all my characters more real.
The worst crime you can commit is to create a boring protagonist. Wendig follows that one up a few paragraphs later with, "I don't care if he's a ninja, a lawyer, a detective, a doctor, a boat captain, or Captain Doctor Detective Stormshadow, Esquire--I want to know he is in some way capable." Then he reminds us that "capable" and even "remarkable" aren't the same as "perfect." Okay, I especially like this one because I suddenly really want to write a story about Captain Doctor Detective Stormshadow, Esquire.
And a final bit, that makes a lot of sense to me where I am in my editing right now, about scenes:
Every scene's existence must be justified.
On the one hand, this list approach (each header gets one 5-10 line paragraph to explicate it) is limited. But for me, quite frankly, that's part of what makes it work. Little, highly concentrated, bits of advice that I can take in and cope with and mark and come back to. I have a short attention span these days. Or a limited memory. Whatever; it works for me.
Oh, and the thing's funny. I keep reading bits to my boys, just because I want to share the laugh.
Is that a review after all? I can't do that! I haven't finished the book!
Just in case this really was a review:
Full Disclosure: I purchased The Kick-Ass Writer at my own expense, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."