December 3, 2009

The Art of War for Writers ****

**** The Art of War for Writers, James Scott Bell, 2009

Hmm. The only other 4-star books I read this year were Story and Edgar Sawtelle. And now this one, making two writing books in the list. Interesting.

I'm a small-time conniseur of books on writing. I have two dozen on my shelf right now, not to mention the ones I gave away or otherwise discarded through the years.

The advantage that The Art of War for Writers has over Story is that it is much smaller. [23 cubic inches vs 93 cubic inches. Not that I rate books by their volume. I rate them by how large an insect or animal I can kill with them. So this is really a roach-killing book vs a mouse-killing book.] Why is that an advantage, you ask?

Story sat on my shelf for two years untouched because it was daunting to even think about having to wade through it. The Art of War for Writers, on the other hand, is small and inviting. And, even better, it's divided into 77 little topics of 2 to 4 pages of advice. I started reading it almost before I got it all the way out of the bag.

But there is one thing they have in common: Both are great books on writing. And another thing: Both are keepers - books you'll want to refer to in the future.

The book is divided into three sections:

  • Reconnaisance: advice on getting mentally, physicall, emotionally, practically ready for the life of writing and for sitting down to write
  • Tactics: advice on how to write well
  • Strategy: advice on how to sell your work and thrive in the post-publication world

There's not a false note anywhere in the book. The only fault I could find was the omission of my excellent advice for aspiring writers: Quit now and avoid the rush.

SPOILER ALERT! Instead, he ends the book with Onward. Keep fighting. Keep writing. Much more encouraging. Which is one reason why he's creating books on writing and I'm not.

Bell also writes best-selling novels (so he knows whereof which he speaks) and is an erstwhile fiction columnist for Writer's Digest. He's also a lawyer. And a ukulele player. [Or should that be an ukulele player? These things are so tricky.]

Note: Pursuant to full disclosure under FTC 16 CFR Part 255, I actually got a review copy of this book, which is my sole compensation for writing this review. However, if the book had sucked giant ostrich eggs, I would say so because that's the kind of frank, honest, forthright jerk that I am. So, don't send me anything to review. If I don't like it, I'll say so, politely and devastatingly. Your ego has been warned!

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