Once upon a time, long before bookstores put out comfy chairs and adjoining coffee shops to tempt patrons into lingering even longer, there was the mall bookstore and it was staffed by the elderly wives of blood-thirsty trolls and horn-sprouting ogres–women whose sisters were no doubt employed by Hallmark card shops everywhere.
Today, ask for help in a bookstore, and you’ll likely get Condescending Hipster Douche At Your Service, but I will take that guy any day over Glaring Old Women Who Tail You Through Classic Literature and into Writer’s Reference Books.
I must have looked to them like She Who Might Steal D.H. Lawrence or Edith Wharton as I perused the “Most Important Books of English Lit.” I must have looked to them like Person of Ill Repute Who May Steal Writer’s Market 1985. WTH?
That being said, back then the Writer’s Reference Section took up maybe two shelves–including dictionaries–and usually all the way at the bottom of the bookcase. That way the lowly writer must get up close and personal with the dust bunnies on the industrial gray carpet.
Today, the Writer’s Reference Section takes up about two full bookcases–and that’s just in brick & mortar establishments. Online, the numbers of writing reference books is a mind-blow.
So here’s one that doesn’t suck. Not even a little bit.
The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience by Chuck Wendig. Writer’s Digest Books, Ohio. 278 pages.
Chuck Wendig–Where have you been all my life? Seriously. I think we were twins separated at birth.
Wendig has a wicked sense of humor. The kind that got me in trouble at work a few times.
His book is divided into thirds: THE FUNDAMENTALS; THE CRAFT; and PUBLISHING AND EARNING YOUR AUDIENCE.
Each section has a number of chapters covering the topic.
And each chapter is a collection of 25 Things You Should Know About ___________________________________________.
Brilliant stuff and easy to digest.
Especially easy to digest because Wendig talks to writers as casually as if he were sitting across from the reader in a bookstore cafe enjoying a double-I-love-to-pay-five-bucks-for-a-cup-of-foamy-caffeine-right-along-with-your-dumb-ass hot refreshment.
From this book, you will glean the fine nuances of “THEME and CHARACTER: CAR CRASH OR PUBIC BRAID? YOU DECIDE” and “TAKE THAT QUESTION MARK AND SHOVE IT” and “SOME AGENTS ARE TOTAL JERKPANTS” and “PLEASE DON’T LET YOUR COVER LOOK LIKE A THREE-FINGERED SMEAR OF DOG SHIT.” Heady stuff indeed.
The point here is, Wendig takes the dry writer’s textbook-speak and turns it on its naughty bits. This is highly informative and entertaining at the same time.
First of all, Wendig uses a special endearment for his writer-audience: PENMONKEYS.
I don’t know about you, but I think it’s groovy. Monkeys are playful creatures, interesting to watch, and also intelligent. And what writer doesn’t love a good pen?
Me? I like to type, but somehow Computer-Monkey or IBM Selectric-Monkey doesn’t have the same je ne sais quo.
So second, fellow penmonkeys, here are some primo examples of Wendig’s naughty-speak yet edifying instruction:
“…The storyteller works best when he’s a bit of a dick.” (24)
“Writing a novel isn’t hard… Same way that building a chair isn’t hard: I can duct tape a bunch of beer cans and chopsticks together and make a chair. It won’t look pretty. And it’s an insurance liability. (I’m suing you because I smell like beer, I have cuts on my legs, and I’ve got two chopsticks up my ass, perforating my colonic wall.”) But writing a good novel…” (44)
“The mind is the writer’s best weapon…If you treat your body like it’s the sticky concrete floor in a porno theater (pro tip: that’s not a spilled milkshake), then all you’re doing is dulling your most powerful weapon…” (56)
“…Creating powerful suspense takes you along on a journey, too…If the tension is as limp as a dead man’s no-no stick, you’ll feel it. And that means it’s time to find a dose of high-test narrative Viagra to stiffen everything up.” (156)
“Self-publishing is, well, duh, when you publish something yourself…It’s both easier and harder than you think. It’s easier because in the time it takes you to move your bowels, you could upload something, anything, to Amazon and put it in the Kindle Marketplace queue.” (201)
“Find different uses for different social media…Anything except LinkedIn. I mean, c’mon. LinkedIn is the scabby venereal disease of social media.” (242)
You know, speaking of scabby venereal disease, sometimes I wish those old ladies working at the Walden Books were still around.
(No big surprise Walden’s went out of business–lousy business model to presume every customer under the age of 30 is a thief.)
Anyway, I’d let those nasty old Walden’s ladies tail me back to the Writer’s Reference section of the bookstore, and then I’d whisper sweet nothings from Wendig’s books to them just to watch their blue-hair beehives cave into pools of abject horror.
From one Kick Ass Writer to another–read, write, grow, repeat.
Take no prisoners and write on, friends!
Susan J. Anderson
Foxy Writer Chick